Today we got down to business. We spent the morning learning about urban development in Vietnam. The lecturer included a great comprehensive history lesson that really augmented the concept of how Vietnam has, is, and will continue to change in the future. He shared with us the plans of Vietnam becoming a Smart City, stressing the fact that we should reflect on the past but always continue to move forward. He also unintentionally shared some insightful advice about living between reality and the abstract, and I really took it to heart.
Lunch was at…wait for it… McDonald’s. I have to say, I didn’t feel any better after eating it here than when I do at home. I was actually quite surprised how consistent the quality and taste was to that of America. Of course it was not the typical Mickey D’s, but honestly I could’ve been having that same fine dining experience in just about anywhere.
Our site visit today was to Glass Egg Digital Media. It was much different from the one we went on yesterday, as the entire company is located in a skyscraper in the busy city. Glass Egg is a company that creates graphics for major video game producers such as Microsoft and Ubisoft, to name a few. I am not much of a gamer, but the companies they partner with are pretty big players in the field. However, it is too expensive for these US and European-based companies to produce their own graphics, so they outsource to places such as Glass Egg in Vietnam.
When we first arrived, I was really impressed as to how all of the workers who came to greet us were women. I loved to see the female power and presence in a corporate, male-dominated industry. Later in the presentation I learned there is only one woman in the C Suite, but progress is progress. It is super relieving and important to me to see women all over the world gaining the respect and positions of power that are so deserved. It reinforces to me, on a more personal level, that Vietnam is truly on a major development and globalization trend, which prior to this experience has only really been apparent based on more concrete things such as buildings and infrastructure.
Glass Egg is faced with some interesting dilemmas. When the company was founded some 20 years ago, there was no school in Vietnam that taught graphic design. They had to establish their own training programs. Even after they successfully did that, they encountered many cultural issues with the actual designs. In that time, the working class did not grow up with access to foreign influence. So, they did not envision the same types of designs for characters as their international clients did. The room for creative interpretation held them back. As the country became more global and the rising workforce was more familiar with outside culture, they were able to break through this barrier and produce amazing and successful work.
Another contributing factor to their initial struggle is that more than half of the work done in this industry is located in China. So, it was rather difficult to convince clients to make a detour to Vietnam to visit their site. However, this also turned out to be a unique advantage for the company. They found that when their potential partners did make the trek, they were excited to be in a new city and really enjoyed being there. This facilitated strong business partnerships, because although it is not as convenient as China, there is a different type of allure to an unfamiliar country.
Graphic design is a highly competitive field, which is why it is imperative for Glass Egg to stay current with technology and the worldwide market. This field is much different from most, because steep competition exists all over the globe. Despite this, they have managed to implement many strategies that have made them rather successful. Their turnover rate for employees is only about 7% compared to 35% in China. This is critical to long-term success as it severely hurts projects when employees leave. Glass Egg also constantly trains their employees to ensure they are up to date with the latest knowledge. The people in Vietnam have a much stronger work ethic than those of their competitors, which has served as another advantage.
The COO did not express any interest in branching too far outside of their current products. They mainly design vehicles and settings, and more recently they have established a mobile app design company. He seemed pretty clear that it will take a big investment from influential markets to change the current state of the industry, and until then, Glass Egg will keep doing what they know best, as graphics are only becoming increasingly important in our society worldwide.
Not only is the work of the company rather unique, the site visit in and of itself was as well. It was super intriguing to walk around the studio and see hundreds of graphic designers creating content for future games. It also stood out to me how each employee personalized their space, as I imagine they put many long hours of work in at their desks. I never truly realized how much went into the whole process, so I have a whole new respect for that line of work.
Glass Egg is another prime example of how globalization is influencing Vietnam. The company has become a strong, firm player in a cutthroat business, and they are here to stay.
Wait, did I forget to mention the breathtaking view?