Before I answer this, a little background on what I do. I run a technology recruitment and offshoring company in Vietnam and Indonesia with clients all over Asia. Additionally, I am the Product Lead and Project Manager for our internal innovation lab, managing approximately 16 developers of various nationalities, skill sets, genders, etc. on a daily basis. We work on innovative HR products.
Without risking discrimination against other nationalities, I would argue that they are some of the best in the Southeast Asian region if not the best (generally from my own experience).
Here are the reasons:
- They are technically sound.
- Most of them are humble and work hard for the organization;
- They go all the way to solve a specific problem/error.
They are technically sound
Most of the Vietnamese developers I have met are good at coding and programming. Even those we hire for our clients have only positive reviews from their bosses. I think this is because of the strong mathematical and scientific foundations that Vietnamese engineers have built since childhood.
According to the study conducted by the Program for International Students (“PISA”), Vietnam is ranked Eighth in the world for science and 22nd in the world for mathematics. Not bad considering they beat over 75 percent of the world’s countries.
With these test scores for 15-year-olds, I’d say it’s a good first look at their strong logic basics.
Vietnamese developers are strong in programming languages like PHP, Ruby, React, Vue, Angular, Swift, Android, React Native, etc. This is also partly due to the huge number of outsourcing companies here, which have specialized in generic programming languages.
The only drawback to them is that I haven’t seen many deep tech languages like Python, Tensorflow, Keras, or other data science library developers here. For deeply technical languages, I’d recommend Indonesian developers instead.
Most of them are humble and work hard for the organization
It is bad for a startup or corporation if all of your employees are glory seekers, or only work for themselves rather than for the organization. In general, most of the Vietnamese developers I know so far avoid fame and glory, and prefer to work behind the scenes to ensure the smooth continuity of our technology products.
Due to the low sample size, I’m supposed to conclude with this, but I have one good analogy using CTO at Uber, Thuan Pham. Not many people outside of Uber and Vietnam know about it (well, I’m not sure most people in Vietnam know about it except those in the startup and tech communities). However, I’m sure most people know or have heard of Travis Kalanick, CEO of Uber.
Also, the last thing you want is a CTO suing you after he leaves the company, as the former CTO of Grab did for the passenger carrier in 2016. Read more here.
Most of the Vietnamese developers and even the Vietnamese non-technical staff I have worked with are very humble and hard working for their organizations.
One example: when I offered to commend his work to a Vietnamese content writer. He dismissed me with a kind of humor.
Then the Vietnamese staff told me he didn’t want to be credited for his work. He just wants to do his job.
This is good news for business owners and bosses as they will have less time to worry about how to self-massage and can use more time to focus on business.
They go all the way to solve a specific problem/error
They will fight, reason and go all the way to solve problems and mistakes. For this last point, I’d like to use an anecdote to illustrate:
I have a React Developer interface and let’s call it “X”. Based in Da Nang and curious, he studied medicine before moving on by profession to become a tech developer. When I asked him why the latter, he mentioned that he wanted to pursue his passion. interesting. Naturally, he immediately passed the interview.
I have a weakness for pinning stories.
We had this task to make certain parts of the web application responsive by creating a horizontal scrollbar and keeping the row elements displayed.
Developer X did the job very quickly and deployed it to the test site. However, on my Macbook’s screen, the horizontal scroll bar in the desktop user interface (“UI”) was displayed as an ugly gray. This was not meant to be, like a slider It should only appear for the mobile interface. No matter how we tried to debug, for example, using Google Developer Tool among others, we could not find the root cause.
The most frustrating thing is that the desktop UI looks fine on the Developer X side but not on my side. We spent several minutes thinking about why.
The next afternoon, he began the conversation:
Developer X: Hello. Is your browser okay? Or does it still show a gray scroll?
Developer X: Do you use TeamViewer? Can I test on your Mac?
I: I do not use. Can I show you the developer console? Or teach me how to test?
At this point, to be honest, I wasn’t keen on letting him “control” my laptop as there was a lot of secret stuff involved, but he responded right away.
Developer X: https://www.teamviewer.com/en/. You can install it. It’s free and personal. Then give me your ID and password so I can check your screen. After installation, it will be like this:
Developer X: Then give the ID and password of the screen you want to share
Ikisa: ok let me see
Developer X: Yes, please give me the ID and password when installing
He was so kind to walk me through the process of using TeamViewer. At this point, I’m like “take my id and password la. This guy fuck ups.”
I: <المعرف وكلمة المرور>
Unfortunately, he couldn’t log in and realized it was a different version (I last installed my TeamViewer in 2016 and it hasn’t updated since).
Developer X: Please update your TeamViewer as well. You can click the download button to update it. Can you find help/update on it?
I: ok I update. Please Wait.
Developer X: yes. You may need to install it again after downloading the update package.
I: <المعرف وكلمة المرور>
At this point I could see him taking control of my laptop and moving my mouse cursor around, clicking here and there.
6 minutes laterFound the root cause. My Macbook Air has been causing problems. I told him earlier that I was using a Mac but not a Macbook AIR. He managed to find the problem, did some neat coding on his part, made a pull request and posted it.
The problem has been resolved.
If it’s with some other developer, they’ll probably tell me for any of these reasons:
- I do not know why;
- I’m not sure. Maybe you can ask others to check. looks good.
- I guess I’m not good for this project. Sorry. (And they send a letter of resignation.) True story;
- My computer is too slow to find what’s wrong (no kidding. I had one developer tell me that). True story.
…and many other excuses I’ve had in my project management journey that I can share at another time.
This was just one of many episodes that left me with a generally good impression of the Vietnamese developers. Vietnam is a rising country populated by young, hungry and talented developers. Many companies and startups in the region are setting up their technology research and development centers here. Some notable examples are:
- Carousel from Singapore
- SEA Group from Singapore
- Grab from Singapore/Malaysia
- NCS from Singapore
- Ninja Van from Singapore
- Kyber Network from Singapore
We also see a large number of Vietnamese developers working on site in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, etc.
Despite those above points and examples, I’ve had a number of bad misfortunes with some Vietnamese developers, although they are few and far between.
Also, it does not mean that other nationalities are poor. Currently I’ve been working with good people from Indonesia (in fact, my de facto tech lead is Indonesian), Philippines (current WordPress developer is Filipino), etc. generallyBased on my personal experience, Vietnamese developers are relatively conscientious, hard-working and focused.
To confirm my points above, I also asked one of my friends, who is an associate director at Topica Founder Institute, a Singaporean who has worked in Vietnam for many years. Literally said:
“Developers in Vietnam are generally above average, at least for experienced developers. Connectivity may be a bit of an issue at first but it gets overcome over time. Overall, the devs in vn are sufficiently skilled and are a hardworking bunch and hungry to learn to overcome any facets deficiencies they may have. – Bobby Liu, Co-Director, TFI
I can’t accept more.
Achilles’ heel is their connection.
But hey, you can’t really blame them because their native language is a tonal language similar to Mandarin. Even the best English-speaking Vietnamese here can be difficult to understand because of their intonation.
Well, you can’t just have your cake and eat it.
It’s a give and take but I would say the positives outweigh the negatives. One way to mitigate poor communication is to get project requirements and specifications written clearly in Trello, Slack, or other project management tools. If it is black and white, then everything should be clear and understandable.
Gilbert New Ex Accountant, Full Featured Marketer (Creative + Distribution), Aspiring Full Stack Developer. Now we are pursuing a lifelong dream: to start and sustain two companies to make an impact in this world. In Gilbert’s spare time, now reduced to a pittance, he travels to places unknown and gets lost.
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