Humans of enCity: Linh Trinh – Planning to bring betterment to the people

Linh is enCity’s latest Fulbright Scholar and one of the original members of the Saigon office, working in the Strategic Planning team. She shares her thoughts about playing hard to get, her alternate life as an illustrator and why she loves coming to work.

Linh Trinh, Senior Associate in Planning, Project Coordinator

enCity: How long have you been with enCity, and what attracted you to the company?

Linh Trinh: I joined enCity in April 2020, but I feel like I’ve been here forever. I knew Dzung when he worked at CPG Singapore and I was working at CPG Vietnam. He reached out to me in both 2018 and 2019 for an opening at enCity, but each time I was busy with other commitments. Then in 2020, he called me again about HIID (Ho Chi Minh City Highly Interactive and Innovative District), and I decided to come onboard with enCity. There were two things that influenced my decision.

The first was the people. We had a meeting on a fine Saturday morning, which happened to be Vietnam Reunification Day, with other expert consultants on HIID. I was overwhelmed with what we were discussing, but everyone was highly competent so I knew I could learn a lot from them.

The second was their professional ethics. When they spoke about the project, I could feel that they wanted to do really excellent work, and their first priority was to do good work that enables positive impacts for the city. I liked that very much, I felt like this was a great team and I wanted to be a part of it.

enCity: You mentioned you started on HIID. Is that the project that stands out to you most?

Linh Trinh: HIID has had the greatest impact on me. It has a special place in my heart because it is in my hometown, and it is the first major strategic project (that isn’t a competition) that I’ve ever completed, in terms of scale and also impact. So I grew a lot in completing that project.

Linh (fourth from the left, front row) participated in a stakeholder engagement workshop for Ho Chi Minh City Innovation District

enCity: What drives your planning style?

Linh Trinh: I’d say that my focus is very much on bringing betterment to the people. My ultimate goal is what’s good for the people, and everything I do or propose pretty much aligns with that goal, so it could be designing affordable neighbourhoods, drafting economic empowerment policy, and so on. I don’t have a defined approach or style in planning – and maybe I will never want to fixate myself to one. I focus on what’s good for the public. I’d say this mentality is influenced by the ideas of Jane Jacobs. Not only professionally, but also from a personal perspective because she is the first influential female planner that I know of, so I look up to Jane Jacobs a lot in that sense.

enCity: What is your favourite thing about enCity?

Linh Trinh: I’d say my favourite thing about our company would be the people. Everyone is not only very talented (I’d say omniscient and omnipotent) but also very kind hearted and supportive. We laugh all the time, and they make tough days easier, so going to work feels more like going to meet cool friends to do some great things together. It doesn’t feel like I have to go to the office and do all the boring stuff to make a living.

enCity: You are very, very lucky to have that. Do you have a favourite memory?

Linh Trinh: I’d say one of the memories that left the deepest impression would be the night that we prepared the project bidding dossier for Tay Ninh. There were four of us working throughout the day until 4am, and although it was very tiring because we didn’t sleep, we still joked around, and laughed, and it was hectic but it was fun, like crazy fun, at the time. I feel like we’re all in this together, we get through this together.

enCity: Do you have a lot of really late deadlines?

Linh Trinh: Yes, especially for strategic planning, we usually have very last minute notice from our clients. If they want a report of a few hundred pages by tomorrow we have to stay the whole night to do it. But the team always offers help and support, so instead of one person staying up late doing things alone, we all voluntarily stay up late together so that everyone can go to sleep earlier. So you don’t feel like, it’s all on me and I have to do it alone, you don’t feel like that. I really appreciate my team for that.

Linh in the workshop with Tay Ninh provincial leaders for stakeholder ideas

enCity: You recently were awarded a Fulbright Scholarship. First, congratulations! How did you come to apply for this, and why?

Linh Trinh: I had a really great experience studying for my bachelor degree in the UK, so I want to do it again, but I want to do it in another country where I can learn different perspectives on planning and experience a different environment. Professionally, I think this is very helpful for planning and design. When you are exposed to different environments, you see both good and bad things that can benefit your work in the future. I have also always been impressed by the very open and innovative culture of the US. As a person, I want to become bolder, take more risks, embrace more new ideas, so I think the US is a good place to learn that.

I was aware of the Fulbright scholarship a long time ago, but I didn’t apply because I thought they wouldn’t choose someone like me. Then when I joined enCity I learned that Trang and Dzung are both Fulbrighters. After I applied and got shortlisted, I reached out to them for interview tips and they helped me prepare and practice my interview skills. We did one mock interview, and they gave me some comments, and shared their thoughts on what the Fulbright values are. So I did some self-reflection on whether my values align, and whether the scholarship is worth all the responsibility, arduous work and also the joy that I want to have in the next few years? The advice and the insights that they gave me played a big part in me getting the scholarship.

enCity: What happens now that you’ve got the scholarship? Do you have any dreams or plans for after that? Or are you just going to take it one step at a time? 

Linh Trinh: I used to think that I could plan ahead, but the past ten years have taught me that you can’t plan anything beyond the next two years. I have also grown to be comfortable with the uncertainties and know my vision and my guiding values so first of all I plan to just enjoy my time in the US and try to learn as much as I can, and see where things will take me next.

enCity: If you had to choose a different career, what would you do?

Linh Trinh: If I hadn’t become a planner, I’d definitely be an illustrator, because I love drawing. I used to think that when I grew up I would become a Walt Disney cartoonist, but then I learned that they have to draw the same thing again, and again, and again, to illustrate the motions. So I changed my mind and decided to become a children’s book illustrator.  I still love drawing and illustrating, so if I weren’t a planner I’d definitely do that.

Heather Banerd