Monday , June 17 2024

Vietnamese tech leader helps others through depression


Despite a job at the world’s top technology company, a wife and kids, a big house and a nice car, Tran Quang Vinh still felt empty and lonely inside.

From an early age, Vinh, now 37, finds no inspiration in any other subjects beside English and drawing on the computer. When he graduated high school, Vinh took a multimedia course, but the teacher only taught the things he already knew, so he left and took graphic design jobs to earn money.

His income grew from VND3 million ($126.63) to $4,500 per month. At age 27, he was offered a design advisor position by a company in the US, but the offer was ultimately revoked when the company changed its policies.

“I was very hopeful, so of course I felt very disappointed. My wife was pregnant with our firstborn at the time, but she still encouraged me to go find an opportunity,” he says.

Right as Vinh set foot in San Francisco, he was incredibly shocked by the expensive lifestyle in the U.S. He only had about $8,000 on hand, but rent was already $2,500 per month. Vinh decided to share a place with someone else for $800.

“I waited until there was a sale at the supermarket to buy my groceries, and went to the Chinese market to buy two dumplings for $5 to eat for two meals every day,” Vinh recalls.

He contacted every American colleague he used to work with in Vietnam for assistance. One person connected Vinh with a friend of theirs and he was introduced to a CEO.

On the day of his interview in downtown San Francisco, he walked and took the subway for two hours. On the way, the young Vietnamese man saw everyone walking quickly and confidently because they knew where they were going. But he felt entirely disorientated.

However, the desire to forge a path for himself rose in the young man. “I gathered all of my confidence to walk into the interview, which lasted 8 hours,” he says.

After the interview, the CEO of the company gave Vinh two options for the design director position. He will either receive the salary that he negotiated, or his salary will be lower by 15%, but he will receive more company shares. At that time, due to the fact that he needed the money for his expenses, he chose the first option.

Vinh had specialty skills but was lacking in communication skills. Although his English was good, his ability to communicate his thoughts and ideas were not up to par. He practiced in front of the mirror, and then actively spoke up in meetings to receive feedback from his coworkers.

“They told me which words to use to express myself more effectively. Thanks to being in that environment, I was able to improve,” he says.

Only a year later, Vinh’s design was honored by Fox News as the most beautiful of the year.

With that said, living alone had given Vinh bouts of melancholy.

When his life became more stable, he brought his wife to the U.S. He felt less lonely, but there were more financial pressures. He rented a place for his family that a quarter of his salary.

Vinh (in glasses) with his coworkers at a brainstorm event about AI at Meta headquarters, New York 2023. Photo courtesy of Vinh Tran

Vinh (in glasses) with his coworkers at a brainstorm event about AI at Meta headquarters, New York 2023. Photo courtesy of Vinh Tran

Tran Ngoc Bich, Vinh’s wife, says that during that time, when her husband came back from work, he would eat and then continue working throughout the night. He worked at three companies at once to make enough money and to buy a house.

“I watched him study every single day, if it wasn’t this then it would be something else. He always said he had to learn more and gain more knowledge to advance,” Bich says.

At the age of 29, Vinh bought his first house in the US.

Vinh created a website to upload the products he designed. Thanks to this, he was recruited by companies like Google, Microsoft, Uber, and Sony. After two years in America, he left his first company to look for new opportunities. Vinh chose Google, where they offered great benefits. They had made him two previous offers and he took the third.

“It took me four months to finish the application process before being interviewed,” he recalls.

After 8 hours of completing three design tests back-to-back, he finally made it to the interview round. The recruiter asked: “Why don’t I see any university degrees in your application?”

“I used to go to school,” Vinh replied, “but I found that the fastest way to learn was through work. No books or schooling can compare.”

He was accepted into a design position with the benefits of his dreams. But it was at this time, after a general health check-up, that Vinh found out he had a major depression disorder due to the trauma he experienced when he was young.

When Vinh was 8 years old, his parents divorced. When he was 15, he lived by himself when his mother remarried and his brother went to study abroad.

“Every week, my mom would bring me food and put VND100,000 on my fridge before leaving”, he says.

Vinh isolated himself by listening to music constantly while drawing on his computer to express himself.

Once he’d met with a doctor and gotten his diagnosis, he finally understood why he always felt lonely and empty even though he had a family and a job with a good income. He began to go to a psychiatrist for treatment.

Vinh worked at Google for three years before stopping due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Having to separate himself from his work caused his depression to worsen.

“I’m afraid of the dark, so I didn’t want to go inside my house, instead I would just stand outside. As soon as I went to my room, I’d cry alone. The pills didn’t work and only made me feel worse,” he says.

When the world reopened, Vinh still had to go on leave for three months due to the poor state of his mental and physical health.

He decided to transfer to Meta after rejecting the interview 7 times, because he reasoned that working with social media would give him more exposure and being able to work remote full-time would benefit his health.

Despite this, Vinh still suffered from depression and his health declined. His prescription gave him more balance, but took away all the inspiration he needed to do his work. In meetings, he would overreact due to the influence of the medicine, so he felt incredibly awkward in front of his colleagues.

He decided he needed to do something to contribute, something to help others, especially people with depression like him.

Last year Vinh quit his job to build a software company that provides solutions and support to people with depression. It’s called Murror.app.

Truong Bich Yen Chi, Vinh’s colleague at Meta and also his partner for Murror.app, says that Vinh has inspired many of his coworkers.

He always listens, and has created opportunities to help everyone improve.

“Vinh does not mind the burden, whether big or small. I partnered with him because I sympathized with his story, and I believed in his abilities and the mission of the company,” she says.

Currently, Vinh’s company has 15 employees, including psychiatrists and technology specialists from around the world. He hopes to be able to launch the company by the end of this year.

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