One on One with Vy Nguyen
One on One with UDIA NSW Diversity and Inclusion Committee Member and Strategic Communications Manager, Landcom Jennifer Sweeney and Vy Nguyen, Development Director for Central Barangaroo and the Reserve, Infrastructure NSW.
JS: Why property? (What got you involved? What interests you about property? What do you love about property, or the property industry?)
VN: I accidentally fell into property when I got sucked into the overview for the town planning course. Whilst I had previously wanted to be a pilot, this has turned out to be been a good accident. My interest in property comes from my passion for people and places; what creates our experience of a place, and what contributes to how we feel about our spaces.
JS: What have been your career highlights? (Proudest moments? A-ha moments?)
VN: Someone wise in the industry once told me to ‘think bigger’. With that always resonating in my mind, a career highlight has been to attend Harvard Business School and work on a portfolio of affordable housing projects at BC Housing in Vancouver.
Others highlights included becoming the youngest female Development Director in Landcom ever and to be appointed as the first female Development Director for Barangaroo on behalf of the NSW Government.
Most recently seeing the opening of the Lachlan’s Line Bridge has been a highlight. The delivery of this hard fought vision and investment into the creation of something with such extraordinary design, colour, beauty and function that adds specialness to this place reinforces to me the value of resilience, pushing boundaries and ‘thinking bigger’.
JS: What are the most important changes you’ve seen in the industry and why?
VN: The most important and positive change I’ve seen in the industry in the past 15 years is the increased female presence. I truly believe that more women in the industry has changed and shaped our industry for the better; creating a better way to work, a better way to collaborate, and a better way to strive for the best places.
JS: What have been the biggest challenges you’ve overcome or faced?
VN: This is never easy to admit. For me, the biggest challenges I’ve overcome have been returning from maternity leave, twice. There is an emotional battle and to a certain extent a loss of your own identity, including your work persona. The juggle and transition is real, the circumstances you return to work in are always different than when you left (no matter how well you try to manage them on maternity leave). I’ve found both times that Ive needed to reinvent myself and re-establish my place.
In a leadership role, I believe that it is important that you demonstrate that it is absolutely fine that sometimes you can’t always be present, and that it is alright to find a routine that works corporately and with your family life.
JS: Let’s talk about leadership. How have you experienced leadership in your working life?
VN: I’ve been very privileged and worked with a variety of amazing leaders. These leaders generously share their experiences and continue to give their time to mentor me, and most valuably help me to navigate my career especially through the challenging times. My mentor relationships have developed from informal arrangements built on rapport and mutual respect.
Mentors have made a huge difference to my opportunities for skills and experience and given me a solid base for career trajectory. Most importantly, my mentors have helped me trust my gut and understand myself better in the working environment.
JS: Let’s talk about D&I. What are your thoughts on diversity and inclusion? How has diversity and inclusion impacted your career? How does D&I impact your working life? How do you think D&I is important or relevant to the industry?
VN: I love diversity and inclusion: I’m all about it. Personally, I also tick a lot of the boxes.
You get the best outcome in work and life when you collaborate, when you push and pull ideas in a really constructive environment. I’m all about creating an environment where everyone is comfortable to voice their ideas towards the best possible solution.
One aspect of diversity and inclusion that I’ve been particularly passionate about is ageism. Ageism in our industry is real, and so limiting. Ageism is prevalent at both ends of the spectrum. It limits our industry because we are missing out on important perspectives and experience. We need to unpack our bias against ageism. We need to be more conscious of ageism and bring it the forefront to stretch the boundaries of diversity and inclusion.
JS: What’s your One Thing? (i.e. What’s one thing you do to support or encourage diversity & inclusion?)
VN: My one thing is to encourage everyone to speak up, to give everyone the opportunity to speak, to resist hierarchical traditions and embrace collaboration. Collaboration is how I operate. I’m respectful, and believe that everyone has something to contribute.
JS: What’s one thing you think the property industry needs to tackle, do better?
VN: I think there is room for improvement to explain what the development industry does for the community – to explain that what we do is about people.
There is also so much scope to explore more viable models to deliver affordable housing between government, the community housing sector and the private sector. We’ve got a long way to go.
JS: What’s the one thing you are most passionate about? (Be it work/ private/for the future)
VN: I’m really passionate about building capacity in our industry.
For me this happens in two important ways:
- Supporting a culture and practice of giving back and paying it forward, by being available and accessible, and sharing experiences.
- Helping people understand how they’re contribution fits into ‘the big picture’, and where they can go in the industry by giving everyone an opportunity, helping people in your teams and in the industry.
Valuing everyone’s voice and sharing helps everyone perform, lifts everyone up, delivers better outcomes and is much more fun.
JS: Any final thoughts or comments?
VN: I’ve worked hard and been very lucky with the guidance I am grateful to have received through my career.
I continue to ‘think bigger’ and push those boundaries on purpose in a meaningful way by providing a role model, leading from the front, making the effort to bringing everyone along and setting an example.
I’m really cognisant of the generational benefit of females before who have helped carve out our ability to push through today in a different and more collaborative way.
This interview forms part of a UDIA D&I Committee initiative series to encourage and highlight more diversity in UDIA and the property industry. It is intended to highlight diversity by profiling our members through industry publications on a regular basis throughout the year. Thank you to Vy Nguyen, Development Director for Central Barangaroo and the Reserve, Infrastructure NSW.
Since 2018, the Diversity & Inclusion Committee has been one of the key Business Advisory Committees for the UDIA NSW, focussed on improving and promoting diversity and inclusion in the UDIA and our industry. This year, we launched the ‘One Thing’ campaign – celebrating and sharing the ‘one thing’ that we’re doing to empower people by respecting, supporting and appreciating what makes them different, in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, beliefs, disability, sexual orientation, and education. What’s your One Thing?