Khoa Nguyen is a Vietnamese New Zealander based in Wellington. He is a certified chartered accountant who runs his own consultancy business, has held various directorships and is an avid volunteer. Between early meetings and volunteering at the Wellington City Mission he generously made some time to catch up with the Office of Ethnic Communities for a quick Question and Answer session
Khoa Anh, your name is very familiar to many in Wellington but could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Khoa Nguyen and I came to New Zealand almost 27 years ago. I am the General Manager at Conveyancing Solutions Limited and the Managing Director of Viet River Holdings Ltd, a niche business management and international consultancy company. I'm also the father of two New Zealand born Vietnamese-Indian children.
What was it like coming to New Zealand as a 23 year old? Was it very different from back home?
I grew up as a street kid in Ho Chi Minh city. If you're familiar with the little children who run around selling chewing gum, polishing shoes, that was me. But when I came here, with no English, I started a different journey. I was the first student to graduate with a tourism degree in 1997, and in fact, since it was only introduced the year before, I was the only student that year.
Since then you've gone on to acquire three more degrees as well as hold various board positions. Could you tell us about one of your most memorable experiences?
I've held various positions on a number of different boards but ironically, my most memorable experience was when I didn't actually get the job. After three rounds of interviews I found myself to be shortlisted for Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Whau Maia Board of Directors, one of the largest boards that serves the whole country. As I sat there on the marae in front of all the elders, down to myself and one other candidate, I explained to them what an honour it was to have made it so far. For a young boy to have come from the streets to sitting there in front of the kaumatua was a moment I'll never forget - I didn't get the position but it didn't matter.
In a world where people are so busy you find a lot of time to volunteer, why is it so important to you?
It's about giving back to the community. I come from the philosophy that nobody owes you anything and whatever I can do to help others, I will. I was part of Sir Peter Blake's Dream Team and shared my story with young students and I've also done the same at universities here and back in Vietnam. Work hard and making my parents proud, making my country proud - that's what drives me.
What do you think New Zealand will look like in 20 years time?
We are a small country and we need to connect more widely and more actively. I believe the future will see a lot more languages on the street, a strengthening of Māori and Pasifika culture and more diversity across all sectors. Equally, I hope it is a New Zealand where my children can grow up and say, with confidence, I am a New Zealander, yes, of Vietnamese and Indian descent, but also, I am a nation.