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Podcast: Getting personal with Linh Nguyen

July 14, 2020
clock 12 MIN READ

We’re excited to bring you new episodes of our podcast, The Intersection. Join us here, where investments and technology meet. On this podcast, thought leaders and movers and shakers come together to discuss what’s shaping the future of business, community and culture.

Episode 3: Getting personal with Linh Nguyen

In this episode of The Intersection, Linh Nguyen discusses her career path at SEI, from summer intern to Senior HR Business Partner. Linh also shares stories of the personal and professional challenges and successes she has faced.   

This environment has given us the opportunity to look at our employees differently, challenging us to understand where people are in their personal lives.


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Megan McCloskey:  Hey there, I'm Megan McCloskey and you're listening to The Intersection, a podcast that brings you candid conversations with members of our community and leaders in our industry. Today's guest on The Intersection is Linh Nguyen, a senior HR business partner here at SEI. Linh sat down with Leslie Wojcik, our head of global communications, to share a few stories and lessons she's collected throughout her journey from summer intern to senior member of our workforce development team. Take a listen.

Leslie Wojcik: Thanks so much for joining us today, Linh. We're super excited to have you. I want to start off first by congratulating you on a huge accomplishment. You have been named the 2020 rising star by Human Resource Executive magazine. Congrats.

Linh Nguyen: Thank you so much. It's definitely an honor to be a part of that group and reading some of the other stories from the other women. I definitely felt super honored to be named next to them.

Leslie Wojcik: That's so awesome. We want our listeners to learn about you today, your career path at SEI. You went from summer intern to today, you're a senior HR business partner. But first, last year at our annual women's network summit, you spoke a little bit about your story and your mom and the impact that she had on you and your sisters growing up. So can you share a little bit with us about that story and the impact she had on you professionally and personally?

Linh Nguyen: My mom's been a huge part of my life and I think from such a young age, her main thing was making sure that she instilled really great values in our lives. So it didn't really necessarily matter what we wanted to be when we grew up and what type of career path we decided to take, but it was more of making sure that you're a good person. And whoever you decide to spend your life with, that they have good values and it didn't necessarily matter about that person's upbringing in the sense of kind of their cultural background or their religion. It was more of if that person is a good person, you can tell based on how they treat other people, then that's all she could have asked for.

And I think that stems from kind of how her parents raised her as well. She grew up in a time where arranged marriages were still a thing. And I think she and her mom realized like, "Why should we do that?" I think that started when she was really young, so it was something that she want to instill in us. And so it was always making sure that you can think for yourself, making sure that you surround yourself with good people and you give back.

Leslie Wojcik: That's absolutely beautiful. I love that. So shifting gears a little bit, when did you know that you were interested in human resources and how did that bring you to SEI?

Linh Nguyen: I would say that I kind of got into it a little bit later. I was not exposed to people being in HR, my family or friends. I actually really didn't know that HR was a career until maybe my sophomore year in college. I remember having a guest speaker at one of the classrooms and that's what he did. He worked in HR. I can't even tell you what this person said that resonated with me. All I know is that after this talk that he had with the classroom and me just kind of trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my career and what I should major in, I realized, "You know what, that sounds like something I could do. Why don't I look into it?" And that's when I started to do a bit more research into what HR does.

And a part of that, I knew that I wanted to go to a business school. And one of the reasons for me choosing Temple was because the HR field was actually in the business school there. And I just felt, "Hey, why don't I just try this and see what happens? And if I don't like it, and if it's not for me, that's okay. I'll just take another four years to figure out what I wanted to do with my career." So that's how it happened. Then, one of my professors actually told me about SEI and she had mentioned to me that they had this really great internship program and a lot of students that she knew applied there and I should do the same. And that's what happened and the rest is history.

Leslie Wojcik: So this career at SEI led to a stint in the UK. Can you tell us a little bit about that experience? And what impact it had on you and your career?

Linh Nguyen: So moving over to the UK was definitely a new experience for me. I also was not a traditional college student, so I never studied abroad. I didn't live on campus. So for me, I think it was an opportunity to not grow my career, but also to grow personally as well. And so I was very fortunate that before moving over there permanently, I was able to travel back and forth and just kind of get an idea to see if it's something that I would be interested in, something that I would be happy as well. And so I'm really lucky. The fact that I had a manager that allowed me to do that.

But moving over there was definitely much more of a challenge than I had intended for it to be. You had to figure out your bank accounts, where you're going to live, trying to figure out their transportation system, trying to figure out how you're going to make friends, even things like that. It was such a huge change. But through some really friendly colleagues of mine, I was able to navigate that pretty well, I would say. And I think learning and growing over there professionally has really helped me understand and connect with our employees a lot more, in addition to really connecting with SEI as a whole and understanding a different part of their business. 

Leslie Wojcik: Not just in the UK, I would just say overall your career at SEI, what would you say has been the biggest challenge that you've come across and how did you overcome that?

Linh Nguyen: I think that my biggest challenge really was moving over to the UK. And I think a lot of that was because it wasn't just professional. There was a huge personal component. And I had moved over there with my partner at the time who's now my husband. And so, we were making a huge change to our lives. I think that was something that I didn't really anticipate because you would think that, "Oh, well, they speak English and the food's the same. I've been over there." And you just start to realize there are so many different cultural differences, I guess you can put it. And it's so diverse, but on a different level. And just their laws are different and there was just a whole slew of things that I needed to learn. And I don't think I would have been able to do that if it wasn't for my colleagues in the UK to help me navigate that landscape.

Leslie Wojcik: Similarly, what would you say has been your your proudest accomplishment? Whether personally or professionally.

Linh Nguyen: This is always such a really difficult question for me to answer, because I feel like I'm grateful for a lot of different things that happened in my life and I'm very proud of all of that. So I know I can't mention all the great things that happened to me. For starters, I guess this award. That's a huge accomplishment. So I'm very happy and thrilled for that and to be recognized by my company. So that's definitely one. Having the opportunity to live abroad or work is another huge accomplishment, just because as many people know, it's not something that we typically do. So I really felt that my skills and my value was recognized and I was able to add all of that value in a different light. And then I would say personally, you heard me talk about my parents, you heard me talk about my mom, but being financially independent is a huge accomplishment for me. And being able to get back to my parents, that's something that I always strive to do. And I'm at that point in my life.

Leslie Wojcik: Absolutely awesome. So when you look at SEI, and obviously, we are in this kind of, I hate to say the word, unprecedented time, but we really, as a company, accomplished so much in the last three months. And where we are today, we didn't skip a beat when we transitioned into a remote environment. But looking forward, what excites you most about where SEI is heading?

Linh Nguyen: I am very excited and I'm looking forward to how we invest more in our employees. I think being in the environment that we're in... Not like we didn't care about our employees before, because we definitely did. But it's giving us an opportunity to look at our employees differently, really trying to understand where people are in their personal lives and trying to understand that this work-life integration just exploded to a whole different level. So when we think about different policies, procedures, or even the workplace experience and our employee experience, how we want people to feel, I believe that there's going to be much more emphasis to cater to that than ever before. And I'm excited for that.

Leslie Wojcik: A lot of opportunity wrapped up in it, right?

Linh Nguyen: Yes.

Leslie Wojcik: All right. So now we're going to do something called a speed round. You're going to answer with the first thing that pops into your mind. All right. You ready? Book or Kindle?

Linh Nguyen: Book.

Leslie Wojcik: Comedy or drama?

Linh Nguyen: Comedy.

Leslie Wojcik: Music or podcasts?

Linh Nguyen: Music.

Leslie Wojcik: Ocean or pool?

Linh Nguyen: Pool by the ocean.

Leslie Wojcik: Ice cream or water ice?

Linh Nguyen: Water ice.

Leslie Wojcik: Train or plane?

Linh Nguyen: Plane.

Leslie Wojcik: Soup or salad?

Linh Nguyen: Salad.

Leslie Wojcik: I've learned a little bit about you through all that. Before we go, I know that something big happened in your personal life in the last few months. You tied the knot virtually. Can you share your story with the listeners?

Linh Nguyen: It's definitely a unique story that I'll be able to tell my grandkids one day. Kyle and I have been engaged for two years and so we were planning a pretty big wedding. And I mean big, because both of our families are really large. So we were planning this for the last two years, looking through every single detail. We were just in the home stretch. We're almost there and then a couple of weeks before, all the stay at home orders were put in place. And we weren't sure if we could still have our wedding or not. There were just still so many unknowns with what was happening with COVID. So some people were reaching out saying that they're unsure how they feel about being in a large group setting, which we totally understand.

Some of the airlines kind of stopped their flights unless it was an emergency. And we had a bunch of people coming from overseas from the UK, from Australia and then, I had family in my wedding party in California. And so we were like, "Look, this might not happen." We can't risk the lives of our friends and our family just for two hours or three hours of our celebration, I guess. I said, "Can we really celebrate around that?" So we decided to not move forward with the big celebration. We ended up getting a self uniting license because we're in Pennsylvania and we can do that. And so, we woke up the day of when our wedding was supposed to be and friends and family just wanted to reach out and tell us that they were thinking of us and still share their best wishes, their well-wishes for us.

And we were like, "We shouldn't have this pandemic overcome and overtake our wedding. So why not just tie the knot not now? Since we had a whole bunch of people on zoom calls and FaceTiming us." And that's what we decided to do. And we were surprised by a nice video that our wedding party created for us which was really nice messages from our friends and our family, as well as a music video, where my friend was supposed to sing our first dance. So we ended up doing our first dance in the living room. At the end of the day, it really worked out in the sense of it was small. It was intimate. It's something that we both wanted because that's more of our personalities. And I think that there are bigger things happening in the world that we needed to make sure that we cared about that before we cared about our wedding.

Leslie Wojcik: And you got to wear your dress and I got to see the pictures and you looked gorgeous, even dancing in your living room. So congratulations to you both and congratulations to you again on your awesome award. Thank you so much for being here. You are a real inspiration and it's an honor, not only for me, but I know for so many others to call you a colleague and work with you. Keep on keeping on and inspiring all of us. Can't wait to see where your story goes next.

Linh Nguyen: Thank you so much. It was such an honor to be here. I really do appreciate it. Let's see where all this takes us in five years.

Leslie Wojcik: Awesome. Thanks so much, Linh.

Megan McCloskey: Thanks for listening to our new podcast series. We're looking forward to featuring more guests and meaningful conversation. Until next time. Stay well. And of course, we hope you'll meet us back at The Intersection soon.

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