AYF experience surpasses expectations

November 16, 2021 | 13:56
Ken Tran, a passionate entrepreneur in the waste upcycling business, and Tracy Nguyen, the first Vietnamese and youngest ever to undertake a department manager role for KPMG Singapore’s Technology Advisory practice, are the two proud Vietnamese young leaders making their voices heard at the 2021 ASEAN Youth Fellowship (AYF).
AYF experience surpasses expectations
Four young Vietnamese leaders attending the 2021 ASEAN Youth Fellowship (AYF) in Singapore in October

Nominated as outstanding youth leaders of ASEAN, what is “leadership” in your opinion, and how is your current work or business shaping your leadership mindset and style?

Ken: My passion is not only to grow the business but also to build a sustainable one. That is why I have been dedicated to environmental projects including waste-to-energy, food waste upcycling, and alternative protein production.

For me, teamwork is crucial in building a thriving sustainable business. I love to see everyone learn, grow, and celebrate our achievements together. In leading teams, I learned that one of the most important factors is communication. Being open and transparent will certainly improve team performance.

Tracy: I was lucky enough to be mentored by great business leaders right at the start of my career, whose unwavering support and trust empowered me to challenge myself and break my limits. The journey I have been through taught me that “You don’t need to be a ‘leader’ to lead others effectively”. Those experiences have also shaped my leadership style as a people leader who empowers others, be it for men or women, by advocating and building a culture of mentorship and self-leadership at work and any other places. In that respect, leadership goes beyond the organisational setting, just like how other AYF fellows have demonstrated, to lead changes in our communities, countries, region, and beyond.

AYF experience surpasses expectations

How will the experiences at AYF 2021 help underline your future goals and plans, especially in terms of sustainable projects of both national and regional scale?

Ken: The programme was far better than I expected. I’ve made friends with outstanding youth leaders, gained insights from high-level policymakers, and broadened my perspective.

Right after the programme, us fellows are already planning for projects and initiatives to work together in Singapore and other ASEAN countries, following key regional themes such as climate change, food security, digitalisation, as well as COVID-19 recovery and resilience. With diverse backgrounds and experiences, I have no doubt that fellows can collaborate and create genuine impact on communities across ASEAN.

Tracy: The AYF has gone way beyond my expectations. I appreciated the engaging dialogues with high-level policy makers and prominent industry thought leaders, which was a golden opportunity for us to voice our concerns and better understand the thought process behind the policies and leadership decisions. I also admired the entrepreneurial spirit of the social enterprise founders we met. Their passion for sustainability education, e-waste solutions and the circular economy also inspired me to act on e-waste, food waste issues, and circulate ideas with others.

What are the most valuable messages you are taking home from the AYF 2021? Do you have any specific plans for home-based projects in Vietnam?

Ken: I will definitely carry forward the spirit of this programme, as I am m now proudly one of the ASEAN Youth Fellows who will strengthen the ASEAN Identity and build a sustainable future. In my opinion, there are many best practices in our region that, once we share and learn, can be applied back in our own countries and drive business success and sustainability. Vietnam is in my expansion plan. I am thrilled to bring home my food tech and recycling projects, which I am currently collaborating with Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and other research institutes in Singapore.

Tracy: I learned much about the value of trusted partnerships, youth empowerment, and digital innovation for a sustainable future. These are really useful for my current work in supporting environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives through technology alliances and solutions. More importantly, I was inspired by how gracious, enterprising, and impactful my fellow delegates are. We all share the "ASEAN identity", nurture cross-border friendship, and look to work together for the good of others.

I am looking to collaborate with other AYF fellows for community projects in Vietnam, empowering youth through talk shows, webinars, individual-mentoring, and cross-sharing with social enterprises. Vietnam will be among the first places to test our regional initiatives.

More than 30 young ASEAN leaders gathered in Singapore from October 27 to 31 to exchange ideas, discuss issues, and explore opportunities to collaborate for sustainable partnerships at the third run of the AYF programme. The leadership development programme, jointly organised by the Singapore International Foundation (SIF) and National Youth Council Singapore (NYC), now boasts an alumni network of more than 100 highly capable youth leaders committed to deliver positive social impact across the region.

The AYF experience has gone beyond our expectations
Tracy (Nguyen Thuy Trang) and Ken (Tran Trung Kien)

Ken (Tran Trung Kien) and Tracy (Nguyen Thuy Trang) are the two outstanding representatives of Vietnam who have joined the latest cohort of AYF Fellows. Both residing in Singapore and pursuing serious careers as well as sustainable leadership missions, Ken and Tracy have been nominated to take part in the programme and found the experience extraordinarily rewarding.

Ken is the co-founder of a new startup Reneumat, which aims to turn renewable resources into sustainable products. During the past four years, Ken has been involved in the development of waste-to-energy projects in Vietnam. Currently, his team is working to develop food wrap from prawn shells and food waste with Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU), where Ken also takes his prominent role as the president of the University’s Alumni Vietnam Chapter and a member of the Alumni Council.

Meanwhile, the “tech girl” Tracy Nguyen is an outstanding example of success driven by learning and self-leadership. Tracy is currently the department manager of KPMG Singapore’s Technology Advisory practice, where she oversees its go-to-market strategies, operations and strategic alliances, as well as helping governments and businesses transform digitally. Tracy is the first Vietnamese and youngest one ever to undertake this role and was nominated by National Committee on Youth of Vietnam (NCYV) to participate in AYF 2021.

By Mai Dang

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