My third morning was certainly better than the previous two after getting 11 hours of sleep yesterday. After breakfast, once again we headed to UEF for classes. Today’s morning lecturer focused on the Mekong Delta region – its history, its agricultural richness, its growth, and the challenges the region faces with modernizing and environmental changes. Following this lecture, we had another hour of Vietnamese language class where we learned vocabulary about occupations, the different arrangement of statements vs. questions, and how to ask some common questions. The first day I spoke Vietnamese may have been my peak because I’m not getting any better as it gets harder… it’s really tough! After classes finished, we headed over to “Pho 24” for some spring rolls, pho, and flan. Pho is the most famous Vietnamese dish, so obviously I was expecting a lot from the broth/meat/noodle meal. It was so good and honestly exceeded all my expectations. Definitely going to hunt down a good pho place when I get back to the States.
Our afternoon consisted of a company visit to Glass Egg Digital Media, a graphic design / game design company who handles outsourcing work from larger gaming companies like Microsoft and EA. They lead the world in making cars for racing video games, and are one of the three oldest firms in the world to do what they do for the gaming industry (17 years strong). We were able to tour the two floors of office space they keep in a business building before sitting down with the COO and CFO for a presentation and a Q&A session.
The COO spoke to us about the challenges facing the company. The biggest challenges he noted were their need for larger office space now that their company was expanding, their difficulty breaking into design besides cars due to their monopoly of that particular design aspect, and the competition from companies in China. The only issue out of these that is exacerbated by their location in Vietnam is the competition with China. Some American companies that work with Chinese companies would rather hire a second Chinese company for other design needs rather than travel further to Vietnam. The company even considered opening a branch in China to combat this competition at one point. However, they eventually decided the benefits of being based out of Vietnam were enough, and that a branch in China would be too complicated.
The benefits of Glass Egg being located in Vietnam are plenty. Firstly, labor costs are much lower here than in China or Japan. Secondly, it is easier for them to retain senior employees because there are only about 10 similar companies in all of Vietnam. If they were located in China, the COO said, there would be maybe 500 similar companies in the same city, and thus much more competition for skilled employees. This employee retention makes for a better work environment / morale. Going further, the low amount of similar companies in Vietnam cuts down on domestic competition, and leaves just foreign competition for Glass Egg to worry about.
In the future, Glass Egg sees expansion of non-vehicle design. Though they originally made a name for themselves in cars, and are the world leader of designing 3-D cars, they are trying to diversify their portfolio and branch into environments (the background of the video games), characters, props, and more. Of those categories, the COO said he sees the most expansion in the future in designing gaming environments.
Our Day ended with Korean Barbecue with the UEF students and exploring Union Square, a big hub in downtown HCMC. At dinner, I tried bacon-like pork (amazing), some sort of Korean latka (amazing), and octopus (tastes like shrimp, yum!). At Union Square, we walked along the river, played in some fountains, and had the most amazing peach tea of my life. Overall, another wonderful day in HCMC.