Coming Full Circle Through My One-Company Career

CEO of Siemens ASEAN, Dr Thai Lai Pham on his journey at Siemens, and some memorable moments and milestones along the way.

"Over the last 28 years, no matter where I’ve been – Germany, the US, Singapore or Vietnam – I’ve always had a home: Siemens."

I was born in Vietnam, but moved to Germany as a young boy, settling in Munich. I’d never thought about going back to Vietnam until almost ten years ago, when I was offered the opportunity to return to my homeland to be the CEO of Siemens in Vietnam.

 

Here’s a little more on my full-circle journey, and some memorable moments and milestones along the way.

Finding Siemens, and making it a home

Emigrating from Vietnam to Munich wasn’t easy, but the benefit of doing so at a young age is that you adapt to major life changes more easily than adults. Vietnamese life and culture was slowly traded out for the German equivalent and my focus shifted to building a life there. After finishing high school I decided to study electrical engineering, a subject that I was really interested in, and managed to get into the prestigious Technical University of Munich (TUM).

 

Typically, studying electrical engineering in Germany sets you on a singular career path: joining Siemens. The company is headquartered in Munich, where TUM is, so Siemens was an obvious choice for me. I joined the company as a working student in 1992.

 

After graduation, I did a short stinct in KPMG before returning to Siemens, and I’ve stayed on ever since, for a couple of reasons.

 

The first is that I was – and still am – fascinated by Siemens’ technology. When I started it was all about connecting people through telecommunications, but I soon realised the company’s tentacles touched everything from trains to power plants and even more many facet of people's daily life. That fascinates me to this day – I’m still learning about the wealth of technology we provide our customers and the impact we create for the society. I’ve never been bored at Siemens.

 

The second reason for my commitment to the company is the opportunities for growth. Despite having no experience when I joined as a young student, I was able to work, explore and learn whatever I wanted about electrical engineering, and always felt supported in whatever choice I made. When I officially joined Siemens as a graduate, I continued to be offered these open doors. I was given the chance to work on exciting emerging technologies such as ubiquitous computing and cool projects such as the Megatrend Project, and in different countries like the US, Vietnam and Singapore. The company even sponsored my PhD.

 

I have a deep hunger to explore new industries, technologies and countries, and am grateful that such avenues are available at Siemens. Even in my current position, the scope for personal growth and development seems endless.

Opportunities taken and lessons learned

My 28-year journey hasn’t been without regrets. I wish I had a bit more courage early on to explore more things and uncover more opportunities. I think back to when I was first offered the assignment in ASEAN – it wasn’t something I was looking to do. I have to thank my wife for convincing and motivating me to try it out, since the Asian experience will not just broaden my horizon, but will also give our young children a chance to understand their half-Vietnamese roots better and gain a broader perspective of the world.

 

I assumed we’d be back in Germany within two years, but here I am, almost a decade later, and loving it. As such I’d encourage young people to be open and courageous, to accept opportunity when it is offered, and also to listen to your partner!