Training in the legal field can make you a techie too

Meet Thanh Lanh-Connolly who, barely had electricity in Vietnam as a child but, had grand aspirations which led to becoming Trainee Legal Executive in the tech team at Ashfords LLP today. Here's her story.

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Becky Rock-Evans

9th June 2021

"Remember, you have experience in other disciplines which you can bring to the table so be confident as you are adding a different and valuable dimension to the conversation."

 

Have you always followed a path in tech?

When I was a child, there was hardly any tech around me. I grew up in the 80s where my country (Vietnam) just opened its trade border so resources were scarce. I spent more nights studying under the light of a kerosene lamp than a light bulb because our power stations didn’t have the capacity to generate enough electricity. The concept of “tech” to me was limited to mechanics and computers (remember MS DOS? – that was the only system I learned about at high school). It never occurred to me that I would work in tech, as any subjects classified as ‘natural sciences’ were stereotypically reserved for the “male brains” so the route into tech for girls was just not there.

But I was lucky as my grandfather taught me to strive for a career. So the dream of the 8 year-old me was to become a diplomat, as I imagined I would bring in more resources and investment for the country. That would mean more electricity and less mosquitos!

What made you decide that a career in tech was for you?

It was a slow process of realisation. The more I work in this field the more I see how tech can help to resolve many issues and improve our quality of life. For example, in those old days had we had the technology to generate more electricity, I probably wouldn’t have to wear glasses today! Working here in the UK where the tech industry is advanced and thriving, it’s so refreshing to meet people with innovative ideas and smart solutions. More importantly for me, I now know that tech is not supposed to be reserved for one particular gender and that I can work in it too.

How did you get to where you are now?

I followed my childhood dream and graduated from the diplomatic academy of Vietnam. Then came the big reveal: I was more of a rebel than a conformist. The bureaucratic lifestyle wasn’t for me. I made a snap decision to join the legal department of an international bank when the opportunity came, as the foreign investment sector offered me the environment I was looking for: something vibrant and different. One thing stuck with me until today; 11 years ago, in a country where most things were handled in cash and manually, the CEO told us that one day everything would be digitalised. I was fascinated; so I chased after that vision by coming here to England for higher study and joined Ashfords’ tech team, where I can see for myself that digitalisation is not a vision but a reality; and tech means much more than just digitalisation. 

What’s the best bits about your job?

Working with people who think differently, new systems, new devices and new technologies. I’m very curious and like shiny new things. Whenever I play with or trial a new product or a new software, I have a giddy feeling that makes me feel extremely fortunate to be working in tech. So to all the innovators and techies out there, I sincerely thank you for all the sparks and joys I experience when I work with you and your creations.

Any bad bits?

Because I’m working in an area that I personally like, it’s difficult for me to classify tech as ‘work’ and it means I find it hard to sometimes leave my work behind at the end of the day. I love to talk about this topic in depth (I have to admit, all the time!) but I have learnt (after many failed attempts) that greeting my husband in the morning with a discussion about subconscious biases in AI or how to balance tech and humanity is not a good idea!

What are the next steps for you?

Become a qualified lawyer. Retraining to be a lawyer in a different jurisdiction takes time and I’m very close to the finishing line. I can’t wait to cross that line and open a new chapter of my career where I can take on more challenging projects.

Any top tips for someone interested in a similar role?

Be open minded, you never know where the road takes you. Have a lot of patience, as experience in a new field can’t be built up overnight. Personally I have to repeat this mantra constantly since I (surprisingly) am a very impatient person. And lastly, remember you have experience in other disciplines which you can bring to the table so be confident as you are adding a different and valuable dimension to the conversation.

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