Dr. John Walsh Interview

by Leonard H. Le Blanc III

We speak today with Dr. John Walsh one of the world’s leading experts on management.

When did you first come to Thailand?

I was in Australia when I met my wife through a consultancy project for AusAID. She was one of the local facilitators at the Ministry of Labour. We kept in touch online and eventually we married, and I relocated to Zayed University in Abu Dhabi. When an opportunity came up at Shinawatra University, it seemed to be a good chance to come back to Thailand and establish a life together there.

What has changed the most here?

The country has opened up in so many ways to international influences in lifestyle choice: retail, dining, entertainment, all these things are now the equal of any country in the world. From my own perspective, being a person who likes to walk, the opening of the Skytrain and underground system have been revolutionary.

What has changed the least? 

Thai hospitality remains the same in most of the country. The ability of Thai people to smile when there does not seem that much to smile about.

Tell us about your work at RMIT.

Now I am senior programme manager and lecturer in international business at RMIT- Vietnam. I am responsible for the undergraduate programme in international business, which is the largest in the university, plus the Master of International Business programme. That means a lot of meetings and decisions about students and faculty.

Can you share your experiences at Shinawatra University?  

I was there for 16 years. It changed enormously during my time, from a place full of students and life to one where the numbers dwindled. This was partially because of the political situation. Some of the highlights, or lowlights, included being flooded in 2011, when students had to be evacuated by boat, closing the university down when besieged by a violent mob then having to lead the staff over the wall to escape. There were good moments too. Establishing and running the doctoral programme, introducing and editing the journals, organising the conferences and doing research for grants from UNCTAD, GiZ, CaVAC and others.

What do you do for fun? 

I read a lot of books. I follow a lot of sports, mostly via the internet. Hanoi has some nice places to visit. I enjoy the Temple of Literature and the Temples at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum complex, for example. The retail opportunities are slowly improving. However, I came here because I intended to work and build a new career and so I rather abandoned the idea of having fun while I am here. I had hoped to obtain enjoyment from visiting my family but that has not been possible for nearly a year now.

Please tell us about your family. 

My wife is the Head of the Labour Ministry for Roi Et province; our daughter is studying a Master’s degree in Taiwan in contemporary art issues. The inlaws are in Bangkok where they have lived for many years, although they enjoy their families and friends in their home towns of Angthong (Father-in-law) and Roi Et (Mother-in-law). My own Mother lives in Normandy in France and I have a sister and her family who are in the UK.

As one of the world’s leading experts on management can you share any advice? 

At the moment, it is all about survival for many firms and developing flexibility to respond to changes in the external environment. Some parts of the world, here in Vietnam, for example, have settled down into a new normal but in other places it is very difficult to imagine what the future will look like. Those people who are able to keep on top by means of communication should be able to prosper, while the gap between rich and poor is likely to be intensified in most of the western world.

Advice for anyone who wants to move to Thailand?

Go for it. Be open to the experiences available. Try to develop patience to deal with things that may be different from what is familiar. Behave with some dignity and kindness and you will be well rewarded wherever you go.

 

What do you see as your future?

That is a good question. There are still so many things that I want to achieve and so many places I would like to visit with my family. At the moment, so many of these opportunities are closed but let’s hope for better news in the future.

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