#STINGDAILY: Difference Maker

July 27, 2012

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

IBM’s slogan is “Building a Smarter Planet.”

It’s little wonder Viet Ha Ngo is a perfect fit for them.

Ngo, affectionately known as Christina during her four seasons on the Georgia Tech’s women’s tennis team, is doing her part to complete IBM’s mission this summer while doing an internship with them.

“The internship was very hard to get,” she said. “I think being a student-athlete has really helped to shape my character so I was very tenacious. The first time [she applied] I did not get invited to interview, but I kept working and finally I got invited and they hired me right away.”

Ngo has been in her element, as among her responsibilities have been working on the company’s web sites for the ATP’s four Grand Slam events — The Australian, French and U.S. Opens and Wimbledon. IBM is a sponsor of all four events.

“They are developing web sites and applications. I’m just making sure that all fan experiences are great,” she said. “Having my sports background really helps to find out areas and make suggestions on how to make the user experience better.”

The internship began May 30, less than two weeks after she played her final collegiate match in the Sweet 16 against California (she didn’t get to complete it, as Cal clinched while she was in action), and concludes August 10.

Classes begin 10 days later and Ngo begins her final semester leading into graduation. It will be an unusual semester for the Hanoi, Vietnam, native, who is fluent in four languages (English, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese), as for the first time in four years, she won’t be playing competitive tennis for Georgia Tech.

She’ll miss it and will be missed.

Finding a way to contribute was something that Christina did for four years on the team. She had a 76-57 record in singles competition, including a pair of 20-win seasons, and a 54-42 mark in doubles.

As a senior during the 2011-12 Sweet 16 season, she was 18-16 in singles, and 17-10 in doubles, where she teamed with sophomore Muriel Wacker. She finished her career with a flourish, winning her final three singles matches, while she and Wacker rode out on a four-match winning streak, taking seven of their final 10 matches.

Ngo was rewarded on July 19th, by joining five of her Yellow Jacket teammates — fellow seniors Lynn Blau and Caroline Lilley, junior Elizabeth Kilborn, Wacker and freshman Jasmine Minor — by being named a Scholar-Athlete by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA).

The honor made it 4-for-4 for Ngo.

An ITA Scholar-Athlete must be a varsity letter winner, while earning a grade point average of at least 3.50 for the current academic year, and he or she must have been enrolled at their present school for at least two semesters.

“Of course, it’s a huge honor, especially knowing Georgia Tech and knowing the tough challenges that the school has for the students,” she said. “When you see it, you’re like, ‘Wow, all that hard work paid off.’ You don’t expect it. You hope for it and then it comes it’s very rewarding.”

As rewarding was the fact that Georgia Tech was named an ITA All-Academic Team. The requirements are a team GPA of 3.2, with every member of the team carrying that standard. The Yellow Jackets blew away that average, compiling a program-best 3.71 GPA during the spring semester.

“The thing about our team is that, we’re always thinking about being the best,” Ngo said. “It’s not just being the best athletes possible in the country. It’s also about being the best in every area of life. Be it in school, be it out serving as a role model for younger generations, honestly, I think our team is a very special team because everybody is working very hard and everybody has very high standards. I think that’s thanks to the whole Athletic Association. The people that surround you set such high standards. It really helps to motivate you.”

She’ll be motivated by finishing her degree in Economics and International Affairs.

“Right now I don’t try to look too much ahead,” she said. “I’ve learned to be flexible while I’m at school. I still haven’t graduated yet. My goal, of course, is to do the best, but I feel like it’s not just about getting a degree. What I’ve learned so far from Tech is so much more. It’s not what you have but it’s who you are and how much impact you can make. In order to do that, first of all you have to push yourself. The second is just to see if you can make a change.”

She would like to continue to help make a positive change with the tennis team, even if she is no longer eligible to do so on the court.

“I feel like there are a lot of things we can do,” she said. “Not just in a tennis sense, but also in a sense of how we could prepare our players for after-tennis life. That will be something that I will be working on.”

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