Member Spotlight: Joe Nguyen
Member Spotlight: Joe Nguyen
This isn’t the first time that Internet analytics consultant Joe Nguyen has been written about. He made the news in 2016 as the first person to ship in a Tesla to the Red Dot, but more so because of his appeal to the Singapore Government: that his environmentally-friendly electric car shouldn’t be taxed for carbon emissions. Telsa founder Elon Musk even called Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to explain the situation and resolve it, and soon everyone knew about Tessie, as Joe fondly calls the car. With the presence of the car on the island having now grown so rapidly, in May 2021, Joe was made the president of the Tesla Owners Club Singapore.
Born in Vietnam during the Vietnam War, Joe is used to conflict. His family escaped in a boat in 1979 and lived in a refugee camp for a year on an island near Mersing in Malaysia. “I was an eight year-old on a tropical island. I had bleached blonde hair, a tan and I remember spending every day running along the beach,” says Joe. “I must have had some form of school, but I can’t remember. I haven’t been that carefree since.”
Although, for his mother it was a different story. “My mother was trying to get us out of there, and she was working with the United Nations,” says Joe. “As adults you worry so much about the future, but as a young boy I was without worldly worries.” But he does recall being on a boat at the age of eight and praying for his life. “It’s an image that I can still see.”
Joe moved to the United States a year after living on the Malaysian island. After his high school in Baltimore, he received a scholarship to study at Princeton University and chose Mechanical Engineering—“by default”. “As an Asian kid you are given the choice of being a doctor, lawyer or engineer. My sister’s a doctor and I thought it’s too much hard work,” laughs Joe.
Asia came calling again in 1993, so he postponed a PhD programme at Carnegie Mellon University to take up a lecturer position at Ngee Ann Polytechnic in Singapore. But Joe never returned to Pennsylvania to finish his PhD. He fell in love with a Singaporean woman, they married and now have three sons aged 18 to 22. Joe has been in the Lion City since. Shortly afterwards he joined another Princeton graduate in Singapore on a new Television venture, before joining Discovery Channel Asia in 1998—his last corporate role was with media market research giant Comscore. Joe now acts as an Internet analytics consultant for companies in Asia. For a period of time, he also created websites and oversaw e-commerce sales for several luxury hotel groups, working with a team in Sri Lanka. But then SARS hit and hotels in Asia were just looking at survival—much like now with the pandemic.
A perpetual optimist, whenever Joe has faced a hurdle in life or his career, he reminds himself of what he has already gone through—“It’s been worse, I’ve been a refugee.”
Today, sitting at the Club, surrounded by the beautiful marina, as intrinsically linked as he is with his past, he is astutely aware of where he has reached in life. As a consultant for multiple companies—as well as two non-profit companies—“I live a plush life,” he says.
Joe spends his downtime either playing golf, or recharging at ONE°15 Marina Sentosa Cove or Seletar Country Club. The mechanical engineer had planned to get his boat licence, but work took over. Whenever he is in need of a fix on water, he travels with friends to Kusu or St John’s Island or books a trip on the Royal Caribbean. Joe also makes sure to start his day with a spot of rejuvenating exercise. However, his way of burning calories is not restricted to the gym. “I play Beat Saber (a virtual reality rhythm game) couple of times a week. It improves my eye-hand coordination,” he adds. The fitness game has become a family competition as Joe also plays against his sons. “I am expert level,” he smiles.
While some turned to baking sourdough during lockdown, Joe experimented with infusing gins and whiskies. “My wife bakes, that’s her domain. I use all the spices she uses, I just do different things with it,” he laughs.
When asked what legacy he would like to leave behind, the 50-year-old entrepreneur responds in all humility: “I don’t have this grandiose idea I am going to create something that changes the world. I just hope that the imprints I leave behind will be in people’s memories.”