As marvellous as …engineering ©

Le Trung Hieu

Le Trung Hieu, a fresh graduate getting an offer from London Offshore Consultants (LOC) with a four year graduate training scheme in the UK, Australia, and Singapore after his graduation. Hieu was selected by the British Council to be its ambassador to encourage young people to choose engineering. This article is published when the British Council invited the UK’s leading professors to Vietnam for the Sterling Group Mission 2013. 

Hieu was the finalist of the “Road to Olympia peak” game show – the most famous general knowledge game show for high school students in Vietnam in 2008 and was ranked the first (total band score 29.75) in the entrance exam to Vietnam Maritime University. With these achievements, he won a scholarship that allowed him to undertake an undergraduate course at the University of Southampton in the UK without taking Foundation year or A-Level course. 

At the University of Southampton, Hieu led other team members against 280 teams from across the UK and reached the top five in a business competition called IBM University Business Challenge. Later, he was one of the top engineering students who won the Engineering Leadership Advanced Award by The Royal Academy of Engineering and became a Student Ambassador of the University of Southampton.  

Earlier this year, Hieu participated in the competition ‘UK in my eyes 2013’ competition organised by the British Council and became one of the 20 winners. 

These are not all of the achievements of Le Trung Hieu who is from Hai Phong, Vietnam, and who has always had a great passion for engineering and outreach activities, which make his stories really inspiring for listeners.                              

Failure with BP

After two years on his undergraduate course in Ship Science school at the University of Southampton, which is well-known for engineering and one of the Sterling Group’s member, Hieu was excited to be selected for the internship programme of BP, one of the top five energy corporations in the world. 

Most of the interns could continue to work in the following summer after their internship but Hieu was denied by his line manager. He reflected on this failure: “I love the internship with BP but my characteristics do not seem to suit BP well. I’m a little bit risky whilst BP Shipping, as a big company, wants to minimize the risk and hence does not provide the opportunities that I am interested in. My line manager also told me to find a more active environment to start with”

Taking that advice seriously, Hieu took a summer internship with London Offshore Consultants (LOC). He was involved in three projects of LOC in Singapore, including modelling and investigating the stability of a FPSO (Floating, Production, Storage and Offloading Unit), demonstrating an accident between two ships in a law case and doing a sea-keeping analysis of a containership in storms. Hieu’s excellent performance, modesty and passion brought him an offer from LOC to join a four year graduate training scheme in the UK, Australia, and Singapore after his graduation.                                        

Hieu said: “I am so excited to be the British Council’s Ambassador and have a chance to inspire the young in Vietnam to learn engineering. During my years studying overseas, I realized that there is a big demand for highly skilled engineers in developed countries such as the UK or US, so I believe the demand should be even higher for our developing country, Vietnam. 

‘When I took the entrance exam to university, I found that the engineering courses did not attract as many candidates as those like finance, banking or international trade. However, when I studied overseas, engineering students could be more easily accepted for internships or employment even before they had finished their undergraduate programmes’.

Engineering students do business.

The idea seems to be strange but it was what his engineering faculty encouraged students to do.  Every year, they provide financial support for 3 teams to participate in the IBM University Business Challenge. The University of Southampton always emphasizes on equipping engineering students with business skills as they believe engineering students with good soft skills could become very potential entrepreneurs. 

Two hundred and eighty teams from different parts of the UK took the business challenge in five weeks corresponding to 5 trading periods. Each team worked as a board of directors of a beer manufacturing company, which made decisions for production, costing, and selling products to compete against other teams in the virtual business. It was not an easy decision to make because for instance, a little higher price than competitors will make the sales drop and hence the company will make less profit. On the contrary, the lower price will let the sales increase but it will increase the demand and if the company cannot provide enough products, it will damage its customer satisfaction. 

Immediately after he received the email about this interesting competition, Hieu did a research on internet and then decided to take this opportunity as it could improve his team work skills. With no business experience, Hieu’s team was initially one of the worst teams although all five team members made a great effort. There was, however, a big change in the competition when Hieu’s team made use of their engineering modelling skills to design a market model, which supported quickly updating revenue and helping businessmen to make good decisions in different situations. This excellent market model guided Hieu’s team to get through the semi-final and final rounds, and finish in the top five.

The IBM University Business Challenge made a milestone in Hieu’s student life. Hieu learnt valuable lessons on how to work in a team, how to encourage team members in difficult circumstances, and gain invaluable business acumen. Hieu confessed ‘I have competed in many competitions but I have never been the winner. I think it might be good for me as that’s why I keep developing’. You can watch Hieu’s video of the competition at the end of the page.

Let choose my university.

In his first year at the university, Hieu actively joined in voluntary activities for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) subjects. He was selected to be the Student Facilitator for the School of Engineering is his second year and finally became a Student Ambassador of University of Southampton in his third year. His mission was to convince prospective students to choose the University of Southampton.

Last summer, Hieu was in charge of a group of eight prospective students from all over UK. Each group, under the guidance of the student ambassador, had to join the competition to design and build a model of a high speed craft from foam, plywood with a small motor. This competition was to test the future students’ design capability, their logical thinking, and deepen their love of engineering.

Le Trung Hieu said: “I deeply love with engineering. I had a chance to share this love for engineering with students in the UK, and now I have chance to inspire students in Vietnam to pursue a career in engineering. As the Ambassador for Sterling Group Mission 2013, I hope the students in Vietnam will come and meet the professors from the UK research-led universities to explore the opportunities in the seminar in Hanoi (Tuesday 10 September), Da Nang (Friday 13 September), and Ho Chi Minh City (Monday 16 September).'.