Our Vietnam team is in a lockdown so hardcore it is being led by the military. What is it really like and how are we navigating it?
Since the Delta variant hit Vietnam in May, the country has been struggling to contain what has become an unprecedented outbreak. Vietnam is now seeing upwards of 12,000 Delta variant cases every day.
Ho Chi Minh City, where our Vietnam team is based, is now in total lock down, with the military patrolling the streets and distributing food to those who couldn’t stock up before the supermarkets closed.
While such a lockdown may be familiar in other parts of the world, this is totally new for Vietnam, particularly for Ho Chi Minh City. Since COVID hit in early 2020, Vietnam has quickly quenched its few outbreaks - in fact the pandemic has barely touched the country and normal life prevailed for much of 2020 and 2021, until the Delta variant hit.
Now, our R&D, Marketing, Production and IoT teams are working from home, many of them have been for months, navigating a whole new set of challenges in their push to keep everything moving and meet MODMO’s deadlines and quality standards.
To give you a deeper insider’s view into our Vietnam team’s experience, we caught up with 5 MODMO staffers from various departments to ask them about their lives during the lockdown and what’s going on in their departments from home offices around the city.
Drake has been working from home since July 2021, when the entire South of Vietnam was put into what would become an ever stricter lockdown.
As MODMO’s Supply Chain Manager, he oversees and manages every stage of the production flow, from purchasing the raw materials to the delivery of the final product.
“So far so good,” he says.
“My setup is quite simple; 2 monitors to show all the data & sheets to make sure I keep track of the changing in – out of components + the phone always in “ready” status,” he says.
But as the lockdown tightened in HCMC until today’s military-controlled operation, Drake felt the pressure of being kept inside.
““Grocery shopping permission” is withdrawn, food provisions will be done by [the] army to control the spread-out [of COVID],” he says.
“Working from home is fine [for] me, not really bad, but… I miss talking to people,” he says. “I miss the street foods & the lively roads of Ho Chi Minh City at night.”
There have also been many challenges for the Production Department at MODMO under this latest COVID outbreak.
“Domestic transport, import customs clearance & factory shutdowns are driving me crazy,” says Drake. “There are many areas [that are] graded “red” zones and [the] government [keeps releasing] new regulations for companies & ports.”
The Production Department has to think outside the box and is doing a lot of work on the fly to adjust to changing situations on the ground.
“[For example] I have to reschedule almost [all] shipments [to] be ready in a week prior [to the delivery date], then look up new partners who can provide sufficient vehicles with QR codes adapting [to] the new regulations,” says Drake.
But so far everything has been kept on track and Production is making some important advancements.
According to Nhan, our Head of Production, Production, R&D, Supply Chain Management and IoT are cooperating remotely with our factory to upgrade new robust firmware for Batch 3 of our bikes.
“We also shipped our first ever batch to the North American market,” he says.
The Production team is also taking the situation as an opportunity to “review, standardize and improve our products and processes,” he adds.
As well as keeping the supply chain moving, Drake is working closely on the latest of our batches of ebikes and simultaneously supporting R&D on the development of our MODs.
“Mods will be arriving to customers soon [in] early 2022. Stay tuned!” he says.
Ton is MODMO’s Lead mechanical engineer, managing and developing the R&D department and its resources. He often works closely with Drake and the rest of the production team.
At the moment, Ton is working on our MODs with Production, and on our existing ebike models.
During the current lockdown, he has brought everything to his house to work from home.
“I have to work at home, if [I don’t] the military will bring a tank to visit me,” he jokes.
“When I heard the news that we will have to be [locked down] for 2 weeks... I thought that it will be longer than that, so to prepare… [I] had to bring the bike, tools, bike components, Mod accessories [home], and push the suppliers to give us test samples sooner, so [that] we can do the tests and develop the bikes in this time.”
Ton says one of the greatest challenges for his team has been the inability to get together and do physical tasks such as building a new bike, testing it, etc.
“We designed the bike parts and made the samples at the factory, but we couldn’t directly see and evaluate them. All shipping services have been stopped… [so] we couldn’t get [the] materials for [the] actual job,” he says.
Some of the workers from MODMO’s suppliers got COVID so they had to close their factory. This, Ton says, impacted his team’s project timeline.
“[But] we still keep testing and improving [the bikes] every day to make sure the customers all have the best quality bike,” he says.
“ We found some new suppliers and brought them detailed SOP and QC guidelines to make sure we can get the best results in [our] new products,” he says.
The craziest part of lockdown for Ton hasn’t been work, but everyday life, he says.
“The food was running out… and all stores closed,” he says, “but [then] the government helped us to buy food.”
“I just can say [that] I’m improving a lot in cooking skills, getting lean, but actually, it is quite boring after work. I hope everything will get better, everyone will be back and Saigon will be crowded as it was. I miss Saigon sounds and I miss my colleagues so much.”
Shin is MODMO’s Graphic Designer.
“That “Designer” part entails quite a range, from [the] User Interface & Experience on [our] website and app, to 3D Rendering, to whatever [else is] related to the creative communication and visual aspects of the brand,” he says.
Right now, Shin’s set up is, as he describes, “a minimalist’s worst nightmare”.
“I like having stuff around,” he says, “like multiple monitors to switch between the screens and to try to be better at multitasking. There’s also a pinboard right in front of my [field of vision] with “stuff” on it.”
The biggest challenge Shin has faced during the lockdown has been the repetition of everyday life confined within four walls.
“To overcome this (hopefully not) eternal recurrence, I have tried engaging in rather new, to myself at least, fields and skillsets, for example the development of Application UI, and 3D stuff,” he says. “Also reading Camus and imagining oneself happy does help.”
After two months in lockdown, he has lost count of how many sticks has been put in his nostrils.
“I got my first dose of vaccine.. saw my online orders (mostly books) stopped arriving. My favourite cigarette brand went out of stock in the only accessible store in the neighbourhood. But I guess the most important thing is that I still haven’t contracted that damn virus… yet,” he says.
“My household is still able to order food occasionally, so at least we may not starve to the ironic deaths of having money but being unable to spend it. However, the total lockdown since the 23rd has impacted me a great deal, mostly in terms of not having any cigarettes left to buy.”
Another challenge is having to work remotely, he says, and collaborate on things that are ideally best done in person, “but Modmo has been somewhat of a multinational company since our birth so it’s not like we haven’t got used to this to some extent.”
Shin is working on a range of exciting things that he will be able to share in the coming weeks and months. On a regular basis, he is the man behind the renders on our instagram, the ads you see on our social media, the beautiful designs put up on our website, etc.
Sean: Customer Service
Sean, as Technical Customer Service Manager, heads up our tech division which provides technical product support to our customers, and is the bridge between our customer-facing team and the rest of MODMO.
“[I take] care of communication between the Vietnamese team and the CS team abroad, repair and issue enquiries from customers, creating a knowledge base for all Modmo folks,” he says.
Sean’s home office consists of “tons of keyboards and a desktop PC all from my comfy bedroom.”
“I brought my brain home and that’s about it,” he says.
One of the greatest challenges Sean has faced has been communication between work colleagues.
“Everything had to go remote and virtual. Which in hand, makes my life tricky with collecting all the internal remarks and tweaks for our future revisions of the bike,” he says. “Luckily, the internet exists and meetings on Google are in full swing: Monday to Friday.”
Life has been pretty busy, says Sean. He has a 9-month year old son and he has been juggling his roles of father and working professional.
“The experience is pretty eye opening that normal life can change so drastically. I won’t be taking it for granted after the pandemic lessens,” he says.
Right now, Sean is working on the development of a MODMO Wiki - an internal site with every piece of information our CS team may want to refer to - and helping the rest of the CS team to process feedback from our customers for our first batch of bikes.
NOTE: visit this blog to read more about how our CS team are driving their department forward this year to provide you with ever better service.
Finally, Cong! Cong is an IOT engineer at MODMO. He works on everything related to the way our bikes talk to our app - bluetooth, GPS, 4G. Typically Cong works with a team of five in our Vietnam office but he is currently working from a quick, minimalistic setup at home.
The challenges he faces, he says, include the fact that he can’t access the same equipment as he would have access to in the office.
“[There is also the] lack of face to face interaction with other team [members],” he says. “Meetings offline are much better than online.”
Cong has found that the best way to navigate this has been to reshuffle the way he works to prioritise what he can do with the resources he has.
“Any task that needs hardware equipment has to be reserved for when shipping is available,” he says.
Cong fills his freetime with work, exercise and meditation.
“Sometimes [I] talk to people [who are] having troubles,” he says, “or call my parents.”
The current hardcore lockdown hasn’t impacted him much, he says. He orders food every day and it is brought to him fully prepared. Other than that, he has everything he needs at home.
“To MODMO customers,” he says, “this is such a hard time in Vietnam, but I [am keeping] on working to bring our bike to you.”
MODMO’s Vietnam team is a core part of our operations and, as Cong says, they are working hard through this lockdown to keep everything on track.
Please contact Customer Service at firstname.lastname@example.org if you do have any issues with your order or any questions for our team. We truly value your voice and would love to hear from you.
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