Sandy Hoa Dang is a social entrepreneur, inspiring speaker, experienced executive, leadership trainer, and management consultant. Her passion is to develop young people to maximize their leadership potential to benefit society.
Ms. Dang is the Co-founder and Principal of CoInnovate Consulting, a company that provides leadership training, capacity building, and strategic planning to companies, governments, foundations, and nonprofit organizations.
Let's find out the reason why Ms. Dang is so passionate about leadership and people development in the interview below!
What is your Stories of Self, Us and Now as in Public Narrative?
I was born in Hanoi and I lived there for the first ten years of my life, which was also the time of the American war. It's really shaped my experience. As a child, I worried about the bombs going to drop in my house and worried about when is the next meal gonna come forward because, during the war, everyone was so poor. Now thinking about those days makes me appreciate life so much more because of my experience. So I value life a lot for now. If I hadn't gone through those experiences, I probably had not have had that perspective. And I know how difficult it is for people, and so I want to do something for my community and the people that I would come across. At the end of the day, helping them really shaped how I see myself and what is my purpose in life.
Why is Public Narrative a must-have skill this day and age?
I think that for everyone, whether you are at high school or you are in college or you start working already, the important thing is that in this public narrative and organizing skill, leadership is not about position. It's not like you need to be a CEO or a principal to take up leadership. Leadership is when you see something and you said: “ I want to do something about it because I can see this happening right now.” For example, when I came to Washington DC and there were 6000 refugees and I feel like I need to find a way to help people because I know how hard it is based on my experience as a refugee. So I think leadership is really about picking up the responsibility to do something to help better the community.
You really need to know what you are passionate about right now, what challenges you have overcome, and what choices you take during those difficult times, and what the outcome is. Public narrative is really about knowing your story, your experience, and how you can use those experiences to help others. The goal is to be able to use what you learned in life and help others to work with you as many things that we are facing today are so big. And we can't solve it by ourselves, we have to work together.
What motivates you to keep going and contributing to the field of people development and leadership in so many years, Ms. Dang?
I really value all the people who taught me in life. As you can imagine, I didn't speak any English when I first came to the US. And I have so many people who helped me, and even when I started a nonprofit organization working with refugees children, there are so many people who are willing to mentor me, teach me how to start an organization, how to raise money, how to manage people, etc. They don't want anything from me. They want me to pay it forward. Thus, I feel very fortunate that I get many chances to attend a top university and had an opportunity to go to Harvard and so I learned so much. So that's why it's so important for me to share what I have learned and still find a way to help others to also have an opportunity to get the education as I used to.
You have been working in many different crucial positions, not only in Vietnam but also in the US. So can you share with us some remarkable milestones or stories in those positions that strike you the most?
When I was appointed by President Obama to become the director of the Vietnam Education Foundation, I was very honored. because as a child living in Hanoi and hiding from bombs and then I never dreamed that one day I grow up and in the US and the president would appoint me to reconcile the war between the United States and Vietnam. I did all the things without thinking that, oh yeah, one day the president of the United States can appoint me or what people would recognize me for. I did it because my heart tells me to do it then I just do it. I have a chance to meet so many passionate, smart, kind Vietnamese scientists, engineers, and public health experts as part of the Vietnam Education Foundation Fellows. And I feel so honored because I get a chance to share with them what I know and I feel very much connected to them. So it was a great opportunity. And that's sort of got me move forward. Specifically, I feel very special that I can use all my language skills to contribute to the work between the US and Vietnam, which are the two countries that I love. One country I was born in, another country gave me an opportunity to learn and to be who I am today. So all of that I did it because I love what I did and if I had to go back and do it again, I would do exactly the same.
What makes a great leader these days?
Good leaders have great compassion. In this day and age, we have so much fake news and misinformation. So how can a leader be authentic and really speak from the heart and put the people the focus of the mind? So when I go out and teach public narrative. it's not about me. I focused on teaching because I want people to get the skills and I want them to be authentic. So when you speak from the heart and your intention, and you really want to better the people, I think that would make a good leader. They know how to navigate the different systems, the culture, and really think about the benefit of the people.
Your public narrative passion is now developing into your Inspired Leadership School. So what makes this program different and helpful for the participants?
Inspire Leadership School, it's really about helping people to know what their purpose is because if they know what their callings are, then they would put all their energy right. Many people said to me the class was full of hard work because I have to think about my own challenges, why I made that choice, what the outcome was, ... And I said, yeah, it's true. It's a lot of work, but what I really want for you is to discover your own passion, to discover what makes you want to get up in the morning, what excites you about that and how to make a living and at the same time do the thing that you love. Pay attention to your feeling. Pay attention to what makes you want to get up in the morning. And even though you are very busy, notice the thing you still want to do when every other one is dropped. And the class will help you to make a living while at the same time doing the thing that you love.
Thank you Ms.Dang for joining this talk with VNPN!