Professor Thao Huy Vu, from Viet Nam, comes to the Masters of Software Development (MSD) faculty with 20 years of software engineering experience, including a distinguished career in software development, and the establishment of his own successful company in Viet Nam. He chose to join the MSD faculty with a sincere desire to share his knowledge with students and because he loves the MIU environment. Read more to learn about his wonderful journey to MIU as a former student and now a faculty member.
Interview by Christine Albers (CA)
CA: Can you tell us about your childhood in Viet Nam and how it prepared you for a career in software engineering?
Professor Thao: I was born in a very poor farming area in Vietnam, however, I loved studying math when I was in elementary school and all through high school. I was always the best math student in my school and received several national awards for impoverished and talented students. Before attending Ho Chi Minh University, I did not even know what a computer was, I just knew that I wanted to become an engineer and that information technology was the hottest major at that time. After a year of college, I found that I loved programming. I studied very hard and got a job as a software engineer when I graduated.
CA: What was your educational and professional background before coming to the USA?
Professor Thao: I received my BS in 2007 with a degree in Information Technology from Ho Chi Minh University of Technology. After graduation, I worked two years for a software company and then received a full scholarship to conduct research about computer networks at Myongji University in South Korea. I wrote a paper about Fault Tolerant Ethernet, which was published in the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) journal, regarding connecting to the internet if there is a problem with the Ethernet connection.
After finishing my Master’s Degree at Myongji University, I worked for a software company in South Korea where I was on a team that developed medical imaging software. I was one of the first people working on that project and I stayed for 4 ½ years. Our software was accepted for purchase in Korea and China, scheduled to sell in Japan and Europe, and finally, accepted by the FDA to sell in the USA.
CA: You had quite a distinguished career in South Korea. What inspired you to come to MIU and join the Computer Science Program (ComPro)?
Professor Thao: After I finished developing the medical imaging software, I didn’t see any more challenges. I wanted to learn more about software development and since the US is the origin of software engineering, I wanted to come here to study.
A friend told me about MIU’s Computer Science (ComPro) program. He had friends who graduated from ComPro and got great jobs developing software in companies like Microsoft and this was very motivating for me. I thought, this is my chance, so I applied for ComPro and became a student in 2015.
CA: Did you notice any benefits from practicing Transcendental Meditation (TM) while you were a student and in your career?
Professor Thao: I had 10 years of software experience prior to arriving at MIU, and it was a very demanding career. Software engineering can be stressful and requires a lot of effort, and I couldn’t find a way to handle that. When I saw that TM was offered at MIU, I hoped it would help me relax and I was encouraged to become a student. I practiced TM regularly and it helped me focus and stay rested throughout the Computer Science program, which is a pretty intensive course. I am still a software engineer, and I love developing. TM allows me to relax and get deep rest so I can enjoy coding without the stress and fatigue.
CA: Did you get that great job you were seeking, when you graduated with the MS in Computer Science?
Professor Thao: Yes, when I finished ComPro, I got a job as a Software Engineer with Operation Technology, Inc. in California for a year, then I moved to Thesys CAT LLC, a subsidiary of Thesys Technologies LLC, in New York. After a year at Thesys Technologies, I decided to go back to Viet Nam and create my own startup business, and within 2 years I developed an e-commerce system and launched my own company.
CA: How did you go from starting your own company in Viet Nam to joining the Masters of Software Development faculty at MIU?
Professor Thao: Last year I received an invitation from MIU to be an instructor in the Masters of Software Development department. I was able to accept the position because I had set up the technical part of my company in Viet Nam and my co-owner was able to run the company with the software I developed. Technology is growing fast, and even faster since Covid, so many companies are shifting from using humans to using software to run their business, and our company is a perfect example of that.
CA: When did you arrive at MIU to teach the MSD courses?
Professor Thao: I came to MIU in July 2021 and assisted several MSD professors in teaching web application programming, mobile programming, cloud computing, and final projects. In March 2022, I will teach my first course in Server-Side Programming. This is great because I have experience in this field and used this technology in my work at each of my workplaces so I look forward to sharing my knowledge.
CA: How does it feel to be back at MIU?
Professor Thao: I’m excited to teach computer science to MSD students as I have 20 years of experience in the industry and I want to share everything I’ve learned. Plus, I like the environment at MIU because it is peaceful, friendly, and international. I feel like this is my home now and hope I can stay a long time, and that motivates me to do well in my job.
CA: How do you like teaching MSD students?
Professor Thao: I like the MSD students because they are all mature professionals and serious students. I want to transfer my knowledge to them in my courses and it’s interesting because they don’t have a background in computer science, so I have to think twice about how to teach them. I have to explain everything in a common language, which is a bit of a challenge, but it is very satisfying when they understand.
CA: What was it like, teaching during Covid?
Professor Thao: With MSD students, I prefer that they come to class in person so I can work closely with them, see their coding immediately, and help correct any mistakes. We practice social distancing and everyone wears masks in the classroom. However, if a student is unhealthy, they can take the class online until they recover, so everyone is able to attend classes and not fall behind.
CA: What do you think is special about the MSD program?
Professor Thao: There are many special things about the MSD program. First, the technical curriculum contains all the courses needed to cover the basic and fundamental knowledge of computer science. Secondly, the block system, where all the courses are taught one at a time, in one-month segments, helps them understand the fundamentals and gradually learn newer technologies. By the time they finish the program they have everything they need to know and the latest technologies for the market. Thirdly, I like the university’s system of using TM to improve the students’ awareness and ability to focus, which will help them expand their knowledge of technology.
CA: Can you expand on the benefits of practicing TM for the students?
Professor Thao: As you know, technology is changing very fast. Software developers must expand their knowledge almost every day. In the software industry, if programmers don’t expand, they go backward. To move forward, they will need a tool like TM in the workplace, so they can stay rested and fresh, have clear and focused minds, and continue to advance their technical knowledge.
CA: Do you have any advice for students who are considering applying to the MSD program?
Professor Thao: I would tell new students that technology is our future and software development will require more and more software engineers in the market over time. If you want to change your career and become a software developer, and you are ready to put the effort and commitment into this program, now is the time to do it.
MSD is an intensive program, but MIU provides three vital ways for students to succeed: 1) a curriculum with all the knowledge needed to become a proficient software developer, 2) an environment conducive for gaining that knowledge, and 3) the tools to develop consciousness so you can absorb and retain the knowledge and grow in self-development.
It’s a wonderful program, our graduates are getting great jobs, and we are here to help them every step of the way.