Meet the rising star of the week: Kevin Nguy, Ikea

Last month, we launched our first Rising Stars of Retail report in the May issue of Inside Retail Australia’s quarterly magazine, a special feature highlighting some of the great under-the-radar talent in the industry from a wide range of departments. Each week, we will publish interviews with the inspiring people listed in the feature, where they reveal what motivates them, the work that they’re most proud of and the challenges that they’ve overcome. 

This week, we chat with Kevin Nguy, market manager at Ikea in Logan, Queensland, who first began working at the retail giant as a uni student and up into his current role.

You’ve worked at Ikea for 15 years. Can you tell me about some of the most interesting experiences you’ve had during that time?

It’s been 15 years now since I joined Ikea, and what a journey it has been. Who would’ve thought that the checkouts co-worker that joined Ikea many years ago would now be responsible for an entire store, but of course this is entirely a possibility when working for Ikea!

My latest change in role had me pack up my life and move to Queensland to become the Manager of the Ikea Logan store. With no friends or family here, I was confident I would be happy as we have stores all around the world filled with Ikea co-workers who share the same culture and values, and I knew they would make my everyday work rewarding and enjoyable.

The most interesting experiences I’ve had have been the opportunities I’ve had to put my hand up and take on more responsibility within the business. I don’t think we are ever fully ready for our next job and when you recognise this and overcome the fear of taking on more, the personal growth you experience keeps you wanting more.

What are some of the initiatives in your company that you’ve led that you’re most proud of?

I’m proud of being part of the team leading our first steps into online selling and becoming an omnichannel retailer, which was a big milestone for Ikea Australia. Our iconic blue stores were suddenly complemented by another sales channel that added accessibility and convenience for customers who wanted our products but didn’t necessarily have the time to travel to us.

I’m also proud of leading the team that deployed the CDC units (Customer Distribution Centres), which fulfil online orders including truck deliveries and smaller parcel deliveries, that we now have operating across Australia. I was proud of my ability to lead a new team and was reminded of the trust Ikea had in me deliver something pretty significant for the business.

What have been some of the most interesting challenges that you’ve overcome and what have you learnt from them?

Growing up and working in retail as a weekend job there was always this pressure to leave Ikea and get a ‘real job’ that came from friends and family. What I genuinely loved and still do to this day is the real connection I have with my colleagues that have ultimately become my extended family. After graduating university and being successful for a job outside of Ikea, I was confronted with a decision that has ultimately dictated where I am today. The challenge of putting my own feelings first and choosing to work somewhere I love versus what others thought I should be doing was a big personal challenge at the time. Now many years on I know it’s important to find out what makes you happy – for me it’s being positive and passionate every day and making the choices that feel right for you for your career.

How would you describe yourself as a leader?

Genuine and authentic. We are really encouraged to be our true selves at Ikea and I have taken this on wholeheartedly. Sure, we are equipped with many tools and knowledge to lead, but ultimately the leader that I am seen as is the real me. Leadership is not about being the perfect human, rather we are encouraged to be realistic with who we are and maximise our own potential as we develop within the business. 

Who is your retail hero and why?
I have been very fortunate to have worked with many great leaders across Ikea. If I had to pick one retail hero it would be my former manager and now fellow colleague, Paul Eady, the market manager for Ikea Canberra. Paul’s influence, belief and determination to see me succeed was pivotal to my career. At the time I was a checkout operator, but Paul saw so much more than that in me and encouraged me to explore my own leadership and future in Ikea. As a result, I changed my uni degree to focus on business and leadership and ultimately decided to build a career with Ikea. Today we are still very good friends and I know he is supporting and believing in others today with the same unrelenting passion he had for my career development.

If you could swap jobs with anyone in retail, who would it be and why?

I’ve stayed with Ikea because I truly believe in the vision that we are chasing after: ‘to create a better everyday life for the many people’. We have the Ikea Foundation that is dedicated to supporting those who are less fortunate and addressing key issues for future generations, like sustainability. To be working in this area and really making a difference in the world is something I would love to be a part of in the future.

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