Janny Ly is the founder of Perspective Charity.
Janny arrived in the United States of America in the spring of 1993, with her mom, dad, and siblings – a family of 6. They had no relatives or friends in the U.S., and they had no idea where their lives would lead. When they arrived in Buffalo, NY, they did not have a dollar. Janny was 19 years old – and spoke no English.
Janny knew the opportunities she would never have if the family had stayed in Vietnam. And she knew, regardless of her current situation, her choices as she settled into American life would lay the foundation for her future. A couple of weeks after arriving, her family met with a community counselor whose role was to help them understand their options and make decisions about how to proceed. The counselor recommended that Janny and her brother forego school and find jobs. But Janny knew that education would be the only door to a better future – she and her brother opted to find a way to attend school.
Janny was fortunate to be accepted to Grover Cleveland High school. The principal, a magnanimous man, made exceptions and admitted older-than-18 adults who exhibited a strong desire for knowledge. Her dedication and excellence in her high school work resulted in Janny being awarded college scholarships to Rochester Institute Technology (RIT).
For her high school and college years, Janny took advantage of every single opportunity and made the most of them. After school, she worked multiple shifts at different businesses, serving two purposes: helping her family financially, and learning English. Janny worked at fast-food restaurants, supermarkets, and retail stores. At college, Janny’s days often started at 7 a.m. and ended at 2 a.m. For additional income, Janny would tutor math and grade assignments for professors. Between school and work, she would volunteer at a local orphanage and with the nonprofit organization, Helping Hands. Janny already had a commitment to “paying it forward,” knowing that helping others benefits the greater society. Volunteering also allowed Janny to gain perspective and exposure that she could never have learned in a classroom setting.
Defying the odds against an immigrant with limited English skills, Janny graduated college in 2001 with three job offers in hand. Though two of the offers were more lucrative, Janny took the offer nearer her parent’s home. This allowed her to devote after-work hours to volunteering at local charities. During Janny’s early career, she wondered about what her life would have been like if she had remained in Vietnam: would she still have been able to go to college? what career path would have been open to her? She knew many children who were as capable as she was never afforded the opportunities she received in the U.S.
As Janny’s life became more financially stable, she had a glimmer of one day starting her own nonprofit organization to help less fortunate children realize their educational dreams and potential. She wanted to give motivated, capable children the opportunity to succeed where, otherwise, they may not have the opportunity.
After working at BCBS for a year and a half, Janny received a call from a company in Virginia Beach. The company needed to fill a medical finance manager position. She flew to Virginia Beach, interviewed, and received the offer. How could she (a broken-English-speaking, barely out of college immigrant) lead a team or take on the responsibility? She was nervous but enthusiastic about the challenge. She asked herself, “How can I become a good leader who earns my team’s trust?”
Janny shared the job news with the Chief of Actuary at BCBS and asked if he could give her some advice. He began mentoring her during her remaining time at BCBS, coaching her on the nuances of being a good leader. Of all his teachings, the most important lesson was to “wear the shoes of the lowest ranking member on your team and walk in those shoes, and then you will become a great leader.” The day she said goodbye to her mentor and friend, he told her, “Janny, keep your chin up and keep paying it forward.” The seed of leadership began to build in her mind and heart. Her professional career progressed beyond her dreams – she was able to create, build, and lead innovative, forward-thinking teams. Her most recent corporate position was Director of Healthcare Data Analytics for a major health care company.
Janny has expanded her leadership skills with her passion for paying it forward. She has served in various leadership roles for the Vietnamese communities across the U.S. over the past 20 years – in Buffalo, NY; Rochester, NY; Virginia Beach, VA; Dallas, TX; and Austin, TX. She also has served in nonprofit leadership roles: Vice-President, Vietnamese Professional Society Dallas Chapter 2004-2006; Organizer, DFW Vietnamese-American Academic scholarship program 2005-2010; Vice-President, Vietnamese American of Austin, Texas 2008-2011; and most recently, co-founder of Open Eyes Beyond Border in 2018, their mission continues under new leadership.
Janny is married to Dung Duong, an accomplished entrepreneur and innovator in the Lighting-emitting diode industry (LED). Recently Dung authored a memoir, “Shifting Optics: A life in Perspective.” Together, they are raising three children. Their children’s lives will be much different from, and much better than, their own – more opportunities, a broader array of resources, and a more diverse environment.
Janny & Dung’s worry has shifted from concerns about their own lives to concerns about whether this new world will be conducive to giving children the drive, intrinsic motivation, and proper perspective to persevere through dark times, and will it serve to make their children impactful members of society. From this worry came Janny’s idea and motivation for Perspective Charity, a vehicle for children in more affluent situations to connect with children in less fortunate areas of the world, empowering both to gain a kind of perspective that leads to being productive/successful/contributing members of society.
In summer 2018, the family had a liquidation event that allowed Janny to set aside funds to realize her dreams of paying forward. In early 2020, she established Perspective Charity with her good friend, Christine ThuyNguyen Tran. Christine was instrumental to the success of the DFW Vietnamese-American Academic scholarship program back in 2005-2010.
As a person who has survived poverty and succeeded in her education and career goals, Janny is now dedicated to using her business acuity and leadership to further her philanthropic goals.
Please read the thoughts of her husband, Dung Duong – Author of the book “Shifting Optics: A life in Perspective.” that was captured by THRIVE below.