Community Leader 2023: Hi Nguyen
Hi Nguyen had always taken an interest in police and counter-terrorism, but it was the 9/11 attacks that “pushed me off the sidelines,” he says.
He left a career as a sales rep in the software industry, walked into an RCMP recruitment office and signed up. He says he immediately clicked with the policing lifestyle and its goal-oriented culture, and graduated as an RCMP officer less than two years later.
His first posting was in Langley, B.C., as a uniformed officer, where he learned the “bread and butter” of police work. He soon moved into more ambitious assignments, investigating drug networks and car theft rings, and was eventually transferred to Ottawa. There he joined the Prime Minister’s protective detail as a bodyguard, before transferring to an assignment protecting the Governor General.
In 2011, Nguyen achieved his dream, moving over to a role in national security and counter-terrorism. Nguyen stayed with the RCMP for another six years, and was part of high profile investigations, including the 2014 terrorist attack on Parliament Hill.
Retiring from the RCMP in 2017, Nguyen says he had a “What now?” moment.
His solution was to take on a new challenge — something completely different from police work. He started his own business, helping children with learning disabilities. The work was fulfilling, he says, and he learned a great deal about what it takes to run a company, but he missed his old life. Nguyen sold the company after a few years and looked for a path back into investigations.
Nguyen joined the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation as an investigator for a few years before accepting his current role at the University of Ottawa as director of protection services.
“It was a huge shift for me,” says Nguyen, who immediately prioritized the transformation of the university’s security department. “I really applied everything I learned in policing, everything I learned in business, [and] all the courses I took on leadership. I’m super-proud of what the team has accomplished in the last two years.”
Nguyen can speak passionately and at length about leadership, team-building and collaboration — a result of his years in intense police environments and a personal commitment to growth and development.
Shortly after joining the University of Ottawa, he saw an opportunity to lean on his existing skills while developing new ones. In 2022, he reached out to other campus security professionals in the Ottawa area to form a “Leadership Mastermind” — a group of peers that could meet on a regular basis to problem-solve and exchange ideas. The mastermind began with six people but quickly grew to dozens across the country.
“I learned a whole ton doing this from other people, and other people learned from me. Everyone was contributing continuously. It’s been a fantastic network,” says Nguyen.
Nguyen was recognized for his leadership earlier this year by the Ontario Association of College and University Security Administrators (OACUSA) with their Award of Excellence.
Nguyen also recently re-entered the business world, establishing his own coaching and mentoring company Team Up Leadership Consulting. Nguyen operates the business separately from the mastermind group, but the two share some common ambitions.
“I want to give back to the world of policing and security,” explains Nguyen. “A lot of people are thrown into a leadership position” without having the preparation. “Nobody’s teaching them how to do this. That’s what I do — I spend time with them and teach them the skills.”
About to reach a milestone birthday, Nguyen is taking a sabbatical in October to travel around Asia. His goal is to “read, write, explore new things and talk to new people.”
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