At the end of each semester, alumni from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire are selected to receive awards from the UW-Eau Claire Alumni Association. A total of eight awards will be presented on May 23 at a luncheon and ceremony in conjunction with spring commencement.
Tuan Nguyen will receive the Outstanding Recent Alumnus Award, which acknowledges special achievements and great promise of alumni who are within 15 years of their graduation from UW-Eau Claire. See the full list of award recipients.
Nguyen shares his history and advice to graduating Blugolds.
Tuan Nguyen '06, bachelor's degree in computer science; '11, master's degree in business administration
"I am humbled to be considered for the award as I know there are so many UWEC alumni out there that are much more successful, but are not here to share their stories with us. I remember the first night I got to Eau Claire. It was a cold night in September. My host family was there at the Greyhound bus station to pick me up after the long bus drive from Mississippi. I was a young boy from another country, an international student, an outsider with a hint of Southern accent being all the way up north.
During my sophomore year at UWEC, I was on the brink of being a college dropout. The divorce of my parents not only took away the foundation of a family and support, but also took away the financial backing required to attend school in America. It was tough, as there is no way that I could pay the full tuition for an international student by myself. I did not even have the money to buy the ticket home at that time after taking a leave of absence. If I had gone to a different, bigger school, where I would be just another student, I might have ended up in Vietnam as a dropout. However, the Center for International Education, and especially Karl Markgraf, did everything they could to help. I would not be here today to share my story without all the help from them.
So people often say 'great job' to any accomplishment, but to me, it is more important to realize that behind those accomplishments are often another story. Being an immigrant, a complete outsider without the language and cultural understanding, it is a long journey to one day be a leader. However, it is a journey that I did not go alone. I am fortunate enough to have great friends, great family and to have attended the great school that cares about its students, not only academically, but also personally.
Apart from being an IT professional, I am also a part-time blogger. My latest blog is Survive the U.S., a place where I share my experience and tips on how to survive in this great country as an immigrant. One of the ways that I could give back is to tell my story and to share some lessons I have learned. I personally feel that it is such a struggle for any new immigrant to move to a brand new country with a different language and culture and try to learn, work and live at the same time. So what I share will not change that, but rather make it easier and inspire other immigrants like myself to be a part of the country and society one day."
Nguyen currently is a systems programmer analyst senior at Northwestern University-Enterprise Data Warehouse in Chicago where he works in health care and medical research software development. He began his career in 2006 at Marshfield Clinic where he designed, developed and supported software applications and infrastructure for clinical and hospital practice. In 2010, Nguyen moved into the Biomedical Informatics Research Center in the Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation where he developed guidelines and policies, and designed clinical and medical research application infrastructure for the research foundation.
Tuan's advice to the newest Blugold alumni:
"It's a little cliché to say this, but don't be afraid of failure: embrace it. Fail early, fail often; that's how I've learned to improve myself. During my last semester as a senior at UWEC, I must have attended at least 50 interviews on and off campus and applied to at least 300 positions. In most cases, I got a rejection.
Toward the end of that process, I got so good at interviewing that one of the hiring managers stopped me on the way out after an interview and asked if I'd had any professional interview coaching. The fact is, I just learned to improve my answers, my interactions and my resume after every rejection and failed interview attempt. Some people got it the first time. In my case, I am a true believer that 95 percent of success is sweat.
Don't be discouraged by others' success or of your own goal. One common theme throughout my life and career is that seeing someone being so successful at what they do, I would feel like I could never get there, and settle for a lot less. Know that you should not compare your beginning with someone else's middle of the curve. Break the awesome, sky-high-end-goal into smaller, attainable, shorter-termed goals, and measure your progress along hitting those milestones.
Last but not least, try to have fun and be happy. At the end of the day, I think being happy is worth more than any other kind of success or money. I often joke with friends about how tired I am raising two kids while both of us are working full-time and taking part-time classes. However, I will not do that any other way. Family and happiness is the end goal in my book, and any other success is there to support that."