Outliers project By: Timmy Pham

On June 1st, 2001 I was brought to the world by my loving and caring parents. Not noticing the world around me in my youth I’ve never stopped to wonder why my life is much different than the other 7 billion people on this Earth. However, living in one of the richest countries in the world, Singapore, I didn’t feel any different than the people around me. It wasn’t until I became more knowledge about the outside world that I started to realize I was part of a very fortunate group of upcoming difference makers. I knew that the life I was living was not something I controlled, but was predetermined by the generations before me. Someone who made a major impact on my life was my father, Tri Pham.

In the year 1994, after graduating from Wharton School of Business,my father, Tri Pham, decided to accept an offer from Merrill Lynch, and move to Asia. To understand why this is such an important decision in his life, you must first understand his earlier days. Being born in South Vietnam in the year 1965, my father was quickly evacuated out of the country due to the fall of Saigon. Ever since then my father has lived in Maryland for the rest of the time being till he graduated business school. Living as one of the few Asian kids in his neighborhood, my dad and his siblings struggled through their youth. However, he and his siblings persevered, just like their parents in order to start a new life for the Pham family in the US.

After graduating from Johns Hopkins University as an undergrad, and working six years as an engineer, my father got the opportunity to study business at Wharton. Taking a new route on his career, my dad studied two years in Wharton, excelling and becoming the top student of his class. Therefore, he was offered a job by a major banking company, Merrill Lynch, to start as an investment banker in Hong Kong.

The importance of his decision to move to Hong Kong, was that he took a huge risk on something that was very foreign for him. After moving from his homeland of Vietnam to the States for a better future, it was very hard for him to throw that all away, but my father was very ambitious and was nonconformist. He wanted to make his own future, and didn’t believe in the future his parents created for him by moving to America. Thus his passion for seeking new experiences led him to move back to Asia. Not only was he moving to a new home, but he also was moving into a new career.

Tri sat there holding his plane ticket in one hand, while a photo of his family in the other. Tears slowly dripped down his face, as the airport intercom buzzed. “ Passengers in flight to Hong Kong please start proceed to gate A24 now, as we are now allowing passengers on board”

Leaving the states was no easy task for Tri as he persevered through many struggles and grew up there his whole life. Taking the risk to join Wharton business school and applying to Merrill Lynch was not easy as well, but risks had to be made in order for him to be where he was now. However, the hardest thing for Tri was leaving everything that his parents built for him in their new home, America. He wouldn’t have been in the situation he was in now, if it wasn’t for his parents leaving Vietnam. He wouldn’t have gotten the same education if they didn’t fight for their lives and move out of the war. And most of all, he wouldn’t have gotten the mindset to fight through obstacles and persevere through his struggles, if his parents never taught him the importance of taking risks.

“Tri remember to look both ways when crossing the street” “Always say thank you and be polite to others” “If something is bothering, you can always tell me” My grandfather always said to him when he was younger. He had a big heart for his children, and always wanted the best for them. However, the most important thing that my grandfather taught him was not what he always told him, but what she showed him with his actions. And that was to always pursue in what you believe in, no matter what the risk was. Tri was very influenced and inspired by his dad, my grandfather, because he taught him many things that have helped shape Tri’s mentality and personality. The way Tri perceives the world is much similar to the way his father once did, and that was to understand multiple different perspectives of situation in order to fully acknowledge i,t which is why leaving America was one of the hardest decisions in his life.

Tri took many risks throughout his life, always trying to create the best future for himself. Thinking about his new chapter in life Tri was trying to visualize his future in 10 years from then. Where would I be in 10 years? what would I be doing as a career, would I be happy with my decision? However, what he did know was that the risk he was taking now, was going to be worth it. He put years of learning in his decision, and took multiple interviews for this job. Moving to a new city, a new country, a new world, was worth it.

Moving to Hong Kong was a big step in my father’s career and life. Not only was it a new country, but it also was a whole new world. The transition from a small county in Maryland to a whole new country and city was a big and scary risk. This was the first time my father left the country since he was a child, and didn’t really know what to expect. However, being the passionate learner that he was, my father did a little bit of research on the city that he soon called home. Hong Kong was and still is a busy and bustling city. There are brightly lit and crowded streets everywhere, and very rarely would you be able to hear yourself think while walking down those streets. Something that my father found very different than Maryland was the life and energy Hong Kong had, no matter when and where he was the city never slept. Never seeing buildings as tall as the Bank of China Tower my father was amazed by towering hand made structures.

For his first couple of years living in Hong Kong was very difficult for Tri. He was constantly working and ended each week with roughly 100 hours spent at his office. On top of that he was all alone and didn’t have many friends in his first year. Most of all he missed watching sports on television which weren’t broadcasted in Hong Kong. He missed watching basketball and football games with his brother and sister, until he found a greater passion in his new job. Tri enjoyed what he was doing and loved the new world he moved to. Learning how to use public transportation was a fun experience for him, and closing deals and having senior management access made him enjoy his new and adventurous life even more. This is important because Tri was enjoying what he was doing and didn’t care about anything else at that time. Even though times got lonely, and traveling to foreign countries for work was quite frightening at the beginning, Tri managed to push through and execute his job well. With minimum free time, Tri found a special passion with his new career just like his father once did, when he first started.

Anxiously waiting for his appointment in the Rittenhouse Hotel in a young and nervous Tri sat their with with his legs shaking. After being in 5 prior interviews he knew this one was going to be the last. With no experience in being in a Super Saturday, Tri didn’t know to expect for his sixth and final interview. Making a last minute alterations to his Hugo Boss tie, a big bald man with glasses that covered his face, made an entrance into the lobby. Talking to numerous other men, who also had very opulent suits, the bald man finally came came around to Tri.

Shaking Tri’s hand with a firm grip, the man confidently introduced himself

“Hi, my name is Ausaf Abbas and I will be interviewing you today”

As grateful as he could be Tri replied, “Thank you Mr Abbas for inviting me back, I am looking forward to this interview”

“Sounds great, please follow me to the conference room, where we could get started on your last interview,” he then responded, motioning his hands towards the hallway to the right.

As they they entered the room Ausaf gestured to the chair, inviting Tri to take a seat

Tri looked up at the small clock hanging on the wall. The hands reading 2pm as the interview was starting to begin. Thinking of possible questions that Asuaf might ask him, Tri nervously took his seat, trying to swallow away his small glimpse of fear.

“Alright Tri shall we begin?” asked Ausaf as he laid documents onto the coffee table in between the two men.

“Of course” my dad said forcing a smile to spread across his face.

Like many of the past interviews Tri was asked the very typical questions. He felt that it was like the same interview over and over again. 10 minutes into the interview, a sudden shift in questions occurred.

After answering all the questions he was thrown at, Ausaf then suddenly asked, “So, who is the leader of Pakistan?”

Startled by the question, Tri hesitated. He was shocked by the major change in the questions and couldn’t process what was going on. He stopped and thought to himself, this is my last interview with a very, very big banking firm and this is what I’m being asked. It could’ve been any other question that he could’ve thought of, ‘what was the most recently sold company for 50 million dollars?, or why he’s interested into the job?’ But instead he was being asked who was the leader of Pakistan?

“I’m sorry can you repeat that again?” Tri asked

“Whos is the leader of Pakistan?”, Ausaf asked again, this time putting a little frustration behind his words.

His heart started to race, as he tried to somehow learn the leader of Pakistan out of nowhere. He has never been in this type of situation, which was not knowing the answer to a question. Time started to slow down, as seconds felt like minutes, and minutes felt like hours. However, unwilling to give up Tri had to know the answer. His arrogant chip on his shoulder gave him the determination to sit their and think. He was not going to leave his last interviewing without answering all the questions asked.

Suddenly it hit him. A week ago while studying for his interviews Tri remembered reading an article written by his favorite newspaper, The Wall Street Journal, about countries in the Middle East. Slowly a grin washed over Tri’s face as he suddenly became more engaging in the conversation.

“ Oh yes, the leader of Pakistan must be president Farooq Leghari.” Tri replied sinking in his chair as the tension in his body was decaying.

“ Correct, Mr. Pham, now what is the capital of Pakistan?”, Asauf then asked, swiftly moving his pencil across his clipboard.

Tri chuckled as he wintenessed his last interview for his acceptance in Merrill Lynch soon became a trivia game about the Middle East.

“The capital of pakistan would be Islambad, Mr. Abasid”

After 20 minutes of trivia the interview was over.

“Tri I was very impressed with your interview, and would be glad to tell you that you got the job.” Asauf said as he gathered his folders off the table.

“ Thank you Mr. Abasid, I am looking forwards to working in Hong Kong” Tri replied as he stood up from his chair, and offered his right hand.

Shaking Tri’s hand Asauf excused himself from the room and left. Tri stood there smiling as he accomplished his goal and got the job. However, Tri was not surprised when got accepted because he knew he got the job the second he answered the question about Pakistan. What were the chances that 13 other young American men, who have never left the country, were going to know the answer to those Middle Eastern questions. Tri was different from the other applicants. Instead of living of textbooks and computers, Tri knew that life around him was as important as the life he was living in. Therefore, Tri always checked the worldwide news and lived a life away from school. He played tennis and volleyball when he was younger, and didn’t mine following the Washington Wizards and Redskins. He was well rounded applicant that had the knowledge and character that fit the role for an international job.

Merrill Lynch has been a wealth management division of Bank of America since 2013. However, before 2013 Merrill Lynch was an independent financial service corporation since 1914, when it originally started. Founded by Charles E Merrill and Edmund Lynch, Merrill Lynch has had a long history of different names. Both men were young and were looking for a partner to work on a new project. In its early years, Merrill Lynch found an abundant amount of success. In 1921 they purchased Pathé Exchange which soon later became RKO Pictures. Then in 1930 Merrill Lynch transformed Safeway into the third largest grocery store in America. Not only that , but Merrill Lynch also transformed itself to an investment bank by merging with E.A. Corp & Co. Then in 1941 they expanded even more, by joining Fenner and Beane, a investment bank and commodities company based in New Orleans.

The night was cold and the the room was silent. It was 1975 in Rockville Maryland, when my father learned the importance of persevering through struggles. Before then he lived a pretty tough life already, being the only asian kid in his grade. The only thing he could hear was the tears dripping down his father's face on the when my father. old wooden table. The air was bitter as his eyes couldn’t comprehend what was going on in the family living room, everything felt sick. He stood there watching his father be traumatized as the news broadcasted the war in Vietnam. Covering his mouth in horror my grandfather watched Vietnam, his country , his home, fall apart.

“Whats wrong?” Tri asked as he slowly approached his father. Tri was only 11 years old at that time, but being the educated youngling he was, Tri knew exactly what was going on. He held his father's hand, as he tried to comfort him. However, his father was still in disbelief as he saw everything he once had, owned, loved, crumble into pieces. My dad slowly made his way to the couch, where he sat with his dad, as he experienced fear from his father for the very first time in his life.

“Tri we have nothing now.” My grandfather told Tri as he places his arm on his shoulder. “Tri, we have no country, no home, and no job. Now that Saigon how collapsed we have nothing. My job means nothing without Vietnam being in peace.” Tears started to stream down his face now, as words started to collapse on each other making a blurbing sound. “Times are going to get real tough around here. We are going to have to start saving money now, and have to be strong as a family. He then hugged Tri, clenching him close to his chest. “ Tri I love you soo much. You and your siblings and especially your mother mean the most to me, and I cannot afford to lose the family now.”

“It’ok dad, I understand” Tri responded shaking in fear as he hugged his father closer. Tri then laid on his father's shoulder pondering about how the next years of his life were going to play out. He then told himself, I have to be strong, I have to be strong. Not wanting to disappoint his father, Tri knew that these next months were going to be very hard.

Throughout the next month’s Tri and his father, Hien, were right, those days were hard. Instead of going to work , most days Hien would have to stay home, since he was now jobless. The family had to survive off food stamps and no longer had the opportunity to go grocery shopping when they needed to. Expenses came to a cut as the family also had to start shopping at neighborhood yard sales, and thrift shops. There were times when Tri and his siblings wore the same clothes to school everyday, everything was at an all time low. However, Tri knew he had to be strong and could not give in to the slump their family was in. That being said, Tri studied harder and tried to be more engaged with the family. Always doing an extra deed everyday Tri did all he could to stay positive. This temporary routine of not only being more engaged with the family, but also studying hard soon became a habit which helped shape him to a man he is today.

My grandfather, Hien Pham, played a very important role in my father’s life. Not only was he hard and strict on my father, but he also was loving and caring. He was capable of showing affection to his children, at the same time yell at them in anger. He was a very smart man who knew how to hold a strong family bond together. This being said Hien always put his family before him, and always wanted the best for them. Most importantly my father looked up to his father as a mentor and an idol. My father always admired my grandfather because of his hard working attitude towards life. To my grandfather, money was not everything. Instead he followed his passion, which was to represent his country and tried to make the world a better place. My grandfather was a diplomat for Vietnam, and was one of the first people ever to pass a foreign service officer exam to become a diplomat for his country. During his time this was a very prestigious accomplishment that he took with pride.

My father and grandfather had a lot of things in common. Not only were they two very dedicated and intelligent people, but also were nonconformist and followed their passions. When my grandfather was young he didn’t obey his parents, and studied politics instead of the more traditional sciences, such has medicine and law. He also wanted to see the world beyond Vietnam and looked at many opportunities to leave. So once he got the offer to become a diplomat in America he was beyond joyful. Before moving to America he met my grandmother who was five years older than him. This being said both parents were against their marriage and did not show up, due to the difference in years. However, that didn’t stop my grandfather because as he always did, he followed his heart and took risks.

Looking back at my father’s life, I can see what led him to his success now. It wasn’t because he studied hard in school and followed the very stereotypical route to success, but because he took big risks, and knew how to persevere and move past adversity since he was young. The story of his life taught me that in order to achieve what you want in life isn’t easy or lucky. Actually it’s tough and sometimes horrifying, but it’s all worth it. The risk that you take, and the adversity you struggle through are what make you who you are today. Going through the process you’ll realize that you aren’t fighting for yourself and your family, but also the generations that will come after you. Just like his father did for him my father did everything he could in order for me to live the best possible life he could make for me.


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