A week in the life of Minh Nguyen

Minh Nguyen
16 December 2019

My name is Thuy Minh Nguyen. I obtained my Masters Econometrics from the VU in 2007. After graduation I worked at ABN Amro in the Model Validation team and KPMG in the Financial Risk Management team. I moved to London in 2011 where I started to work in the Market risk methodology team at Deutsche Bank (DB).

Today I am on maternity leave, enjoying quality time with my baby girl Lisette who is just 7 months old. My 2 year old son Wim is now at the onsite DB nursery. 

The productivity is nearly the same when working 4 instead of 5 days a week as I aim to be more efficient.

At DB I have worked in different risk methodology teams: Value-at-Risk, Counterparty risk and now Economic Capital. Our flat in Shoreditch is very close to the office and DB nursery, only about a 7 minutes walk. When I started working at DB, I usually worked between 9 am and 7 pm. Since my son is born, I start at around 8 am and finish at 5 pm and work four days a week of which one day from home. (To be honest, the productivity is nearly the same when working 4 instead of 5 days a week as I aim to be more efficient, but the work/life balance is much better.) On a typical working day, I drop my son off at the DB nursery and start with porridge or English breakfast from the canteen and then typically work on a model enhancement project. Before going on maternity leave, I was working on some model enhancement projects from a methodology perspective, but also operational perspective. I am working close with the IT team to investigate how to leverage Big Data platforms to do prototyping for EC. My interest is in Machine learning methods and Big Data environments. A working day in our team varies a lot. Most of the time you do some self-study and coding, but we work closely with many teams (IT, model validation, regulators etc.) and therefore have regular meetings.

What I noticed is that having gained the model development skills during my Econometrics study and having the practical and creative mindset, you can really make an impact at work. For instance, when working in the VaR team as a junior market risk modeler I introduced a new model to deal with risks not captured in the VaR which was very well received by the regulator and played a critical role in the RWA reduction (i.e. saving billions of working capital for the bank). Another aspect I like about my work is the multicultural aspect. I work with German, Chinese, Italian, Dutch, French, Russian, Scottish and of course English nationalities etc. and we operate globally, therefore work with people from the Berlin, New York, Frankfurt and Singapore office. It is interesting to learn about the different cultures, in particular the English culture. English people are typically very polite and less direct then the Dutch, which is nice, but can also be a challenge at work as it takes more time to interpret what they really mean. Having the opportunity to travel was also nice. I was on secondment in London while working for KPMG. By coincidence I met some colleagues from the ABN Amro (including my husband Martijn who is also an Econometrist) in London. The world can be quite small in Finance. You notice the multicultural aspect also at the nursery. My son Wim has a best friend at the DB nursery. His name is George and he is mixed (half Chinese half Scottish). Sometimes Wim comes home with a new word and it is neither English nor Dutch. Then, sometimes I hear George saying these words too, so it probably was Chinese. Furthermore, the nice thing of working in a quant team in general is that I am quite free to propose new ideas and to be creative/innovative. 

Having gained the model development skills during my Econometrics study and having the practical and creative mindset, you can really make an impact at work.

I typically have lunch behind my desk to ensure that I can finish more work within a day now I work part time. Chicken Katsu curry is my favorite lunch after Pho, but as I am Vietnamese I can make Pho myself (homemade is the best). Before the children were born when I worked fulltime, I sometimes went to the street food market with colleagues or attended classical lunch concerts. 

On Mondays when I am off, I take my children to the baby classical music classes or attend a playgroup or go to the City farm or Rhymetime at the library or go to the park. There are many activities for children in the area.

There are a lot of restaurants in Shoreditch. We use to go for dinner at least once a week, but now it is more difficult with small children and instead I am experimenting with homemade English and Arabic dishes. This Saturday, friends are coming over to cook dinner. Yes, to cook dinner, as I will be running after the children and our friends have no children and are real foodies. We now also have play dates in the weekends sometimes as my son has some best friends at the nursery. Next week my son his best friend at nursery and parents will come over for a Pho lunch.

At the moment, while on leave, I try to study at home when my son is at nursery. Coursera is a lot of fun ! Kaggle is also fun, but it is difficult to find the time. Luckily, there seems to be a lot of overlap between Machine learning and Econometric methods, therefore most Machine learning courses are relatively easy to pick up. 

We just returned from a trip to the Netherlands to visit the family. It is nice to see that some family members (Nam, Duy and Don) are also enjoying studying Econometrics. Now looking at my beautiful daughter, who is sleeping, I wonder what she will become…maybe a singer or a manager as her voice and will are very strong haha. Now, back to doing some Coursera before my son comes home from nursery and I am forced to watch Peppa Pig.

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