Even though she has accumulated numerous awards, has her name to twenty-two patents, and is the first Asian American and the only female elected to the title Senior Fellow at Texas Instruments in its 80 years of history, engineer and motivational speaker Duy-Loan is clear about her goals, “None of my professional accomplishments, the awards or the patents or the title, mean anything to me if I fail to maintain the balance of the triangle of life with family and friends as the base, and if I fail to raise my sons with both the American and Vietnamese cultures.”
Duy-Loan explains her concept of a balanced life: “ I liken it to a triangle; during most of my keynote speeches I talk about leadership and how to balance the three aspects of life- family, professional and civic. And I always encourage people to realize that we cannot have everything at the same time, but we can have it all over a lifetime! But we MUST want it, work at it and keep helping people along the way!” In 1975 Duy-Loan and her family left Vietnam. “ When the democratic South fell to the communist North, my father said it was time to get out! He stayed behind to try to salvage some of our assets, but the country collapsed so quickly that we lost everything. My father ended up having to stay there another four years, and finally walked out on foot to Thailand. From there we brought him over to this country.”
It is from this background that Duy-Loan and a group of young professional friends (Elena, Tung, Nam and others) established the Sunflower Mission, a 501(c) 3 organization that is committed to improving the lives of the people in Vietnam, mainly through educational assistance programs. Her husband, Tuan Dao joined hands to help and is currently the Chairman of Sunflower Mission. Mr. Dao is a Senior Executive Consultant with an international project management consulting group that focuses on developing and improving the delivery system for companies in the oil and gas sector.
“ Through Sunflower Mission we improve the lives of the students and communities that we serve and we try to reach out to the very poor. Our students finish primary and secondary education and continue to pursue higher education. We try to form strong and trusting bonds with all we help so that our students become successful volunteers, teachers, and leaders. It is not only about academic education for the children of Vietnam but also leadership education for the children here in America as they contribute their time and talent engaging with activities and work camps we hold every year.”
Duy-Loan has also been the director and board member of the Mona Foundation, which has a presence in the Phoenix community. By espousing a worldwide mission, the Mona Foundation promotes universal education and gender equality. Programs include those that develop from grassroots educational initiatives and those which seek to raise the social and economic status of the community as a whole, including those of women and girls. The Foundation believes that universal education and gender equity are essential strategies for the eradication of poverty, disease, and conflict.
Duy-Loan is the advanced technology ramp manager for Texas Instrument’s Digital Signal Processor (DSP) products, including one recognized in 2004 Guinness World Records as the fastest single-core DSP in the world. Duy-Loan has a long list of accolades but her favorite remains getting inducted into the Women In Technology International Hall of Fame in 2001 and named National Technologist of The Year in 2002. She has received Congressional Recognition for her civic leadership on multiple fronts. In 2002, Duy-Loan was elected to the Board of National Instruments (NI), a public company headquartered in Austin, Texas with stocks traded on NASDAQ.
Regarding her motivational speaking, Duy-Loan explains, “ I got started giving speeches when I was the class valedictorian in high school at age 16, and gave a commencement address. Then ten years later I spoke to a group while working for Texas Instruments. This speech made such a lasting impression that TI would ask me to speak elsewhere. Today I give 15-20 speeches a year for Fortune 500 companies, commencement addresses, and nonprofit conferences. Soon I will address a group in Washington, DC, for almost 400 Vietnamese American students and professionals.”
Duy-Loan and her husband have two sons, Quy-Don and Quy-Dan Le Dao, ages 11 and 14. “It’s very important to me to not lose my priority on the family front. A basic truth is that unless my sons are proud of who they are, and proud of their heritage, they won’t achieve their full potential. I want my boys to have utmost confidence whether they are giving a speech in front of 10,000 Americans or reading a Vietnamese novel in their private bedrooms. I want my boys to have the confidence to play soccer with their American friends or to perform ceremonial tasks to pay respect to their ancestors. I want them to be comfortable in both cultures, learn from both cultures, extract the best from each and apply that knowledge to help them become decent human beings and effective leaders of the world!”
She continues, “My leisure activities are now are limited. As I say in my speeches, ‘you can have everything, only not all at once!’ Right now I don’t have the luxury of much leisure. But in my free time, I love to watch the lake, work in the garden, read a good book, and watch a movie with my family! I particularly love to play with my sons, sometimes a video game with the Wii or a game of poker or throwing Frisbee! I just appreciate the small everyday things in life.”
And for this remarkable woman, she has truly balanced all the aspects of her life well--from her family and friends, to her nonprofit duties, and to her successful career.
What are your volunteer activities? Giving speeches to help people overcome challenges in life & provide educational opportunities for children in third world countries. I deliver keynotes to Fortune 100 companies to help them do more for their people.
Which social event is your favorite? Mingling with the younger generation to learn more about them after each keynote I deliver. I am not a person who loves loud parties or a lot of noises.
Favorite Restaurant? Good Italian, French and Vietnamese cuisines with an elegant and quiet ambience.
Who is your hero and why? Don't have one in particular. I learn and admire different qualities from different people.
Who is the most interesting celebrity you have ever met? I don't care too much for celebrity in general. I think we often glorify the wrong values on this front. There are celebrities who give back to society and they do it because it is the right thing to do and not because it will bring more glory. I respect those.
If your life were a movie, whom would you want to play your part? The last thing I want is for my life to be in a movie! So I don't think about it. I want my life to be simple, happy and making a difference each day.
Do you have any Pets? Not anymore, but my children have plenty: chicken, rabbits, gerbils, parakeets, finches, fish.
When you move, what will your home tell its next owner, about you? The last time we sold a house that I personally designed with my husband, the new owner (had never met him before that) presented me a hand-written letter that was 8 pages long! That was quite a surprise and the letter pretty much sums up what I want them to think about me through my house: pride, organized, tasteful, caring, creative, loving, determined, respectable, and hard working What words describes you best? Intelligent, charismatic, common sense, caring, determined, disciplined, inspiring, funny … these are the words people often say to me and about me … and I believe they fairly describe me
What was your first job? At the age of 10, I sold tickets on a bus in Vietnam to help my family .
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? Impatience
What is the trait you most deplore in others? Feeling ‘victimized'
What is your greatest indulgence? To sit in my back yard with a cup of coffee, staring at the water on the lake, and doing nothing … in the early morning or late at night. The other thing I really love is to snuggle with my sons or act silly with them.
What is the greatest gift you have ever given and received? - The gift of support, love and understanding from my husband - The gift of humor, responsibility, and love from my sons - The gift of help when I need it most from my older sister - The gift of freedom and opportunity from my father - The gift of sacrifice from my mother in the first few years in America - The gift of generosity from the people we call Americans
In return I try to give as much of me as possible to the children, to people who are less fortunate and to those who need my help when they need it … to give even when I have little time left to myself.
What or who is the greatest love of your life? My youngest son, Don Quy-Le Dao and he is also an intellectual challenge for my brain … especially when I see so much of me in him!
What is your current state of mind? Happy, but overwhelmed with so many media activities and requests. Having to say NO is not pleasant but must do sometimes.
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement? Remembering where I come from and being able to carry my family's name with honor and my heritage with utmost pride.
What is your most treasured possession? I thank God for the two sons I have. They are NOT possessions, but they are indeed treasures from God.
What is the quality you most like in people? Level headed, no hidden agenda, ‘can-do’ attitude, give without expecting anything in return and good listener.
Favorite books / Writers? I read a lot of Vietnamese books, American biographies and financial trade journals. I read them all and don't really have a particular favorite one.
What is the best advice you have ever received? “Be Firm But Kind” when I was in college and “learn to write diary in Vietnamese” (to help me remember your mother tongue) when I first arrived in America.