Human Resource Professional Pays It Forward

In this Q&A, Slumberland Furniture's Vice President of Human Resources An Nguyen ’05 unpacks his interest in the HR field, his personal career journey beyond graduation, and the support he has received from family, friends, and Bethel professors.

By Katie Johnson ’19, content specialist

June 30, 2022 | 10 a.m.

Meet An Nguyen '05, Slumberland Furniture's vice president of human resources.

Meet An Nguyen '05, Slumberland Furniture's vice president of human resources.

At the BUnited Breakfast last spring, five Bethel graduates working in the human resources field spoke on the nature of their roles in light of COVID-19 roles, the ways the job market has changed, and the new reality for many businesses. Our article “Human Resource Professionals Offer Insight on Changing Job Market” highlights the panelists’ expert opinions for anyone interested in learning more about how the pandemic has influenced the nature of work in general. 

This panel of experts included An Nguyen ’05, vice president of human resources at Slumberland Furniture. As he offered his perspective on the changing job market, Nguyen briefly shared pieces of his own personal career journey. We wanted to know more about how his journey unfolded, from graduation to his current role as a leader at Slumberland Furniture. In this Q&A, Nguyen unpacks his interest in the HR field and the support he’s gotten along the way.

What drew you to the HR field? 

I knew I wanted to choose a major and career in business for a variety of very practical reasons.  I chose HR specifically because the idea of being in a profession that can play a large part in helping others succeed and achieve their goals appealed to me. 

My family is from Vietnam and came to the United States in 1982. I was born a year later in St. Paul, Minnesota. I’m the youngest of nine. The generosity and kindness of so many helped my family succeed. My family’s generosity and kindness helped me succeed. Being in the HR field allows me to pay that forward.

Can you walk us through your career journey, starting at your first job in the field to where you're working now?

After I graduated from Bethel in 2005, my first job was a recruiting coordinator for a collections agency. It was a difficult job. It was a difficult culture. I didn’t know what questions to ask. I didn’t take good notes. I was overwhelmed. I didn’t do a good job. I got fired after three months. It was a real wake-up call for me. 

Next, I was a human resources coordinator at a hotel. I had a great boss who really took an interest in me, which gave me confidence. He gave me tough assignments and helped coach me through them. I got to build my skills in employee relations, payroll, benefits, and safety. I made sure to ask a lot of questions and took good notes this time. 

The Slumberland opportunity came along after I was at the hotel for about a year. Ken Larson, Slumberland’s president at the time, was a guest speaker in a class at Bethel my junior year. I was very impressed with what Ken had shared about Slumberland’s culture, mission, and values. So, when I saw the opening, I jumped at the opportunity to apply. I was one of the final two candidates, but they chose the other person. They told me that they might add a second position, and if they did, I would have a very good chance at it. I think I called the recruiter weekly for the next two months. I knew I wanted to work at Slumberland. And after two months, I got the offer.

I have been at Slumberland ever since. I have had so many opportunities at Slumberland. I think I’ve had the opportunity to either perform every role or play a supporting role for every position on the team at one point or another. I have had some of the best teammates and have gotten to learn from some amazing leaders.  

There are a lot of great human beings at Slumberland. It’s a company built on great values and has leaders that support those values at all levels. Our leaders treat everyone with love, dignity, and respect, and they don’t expect to be patted on the back because that’s who they are at their core

How do you approach your work as the vice president of human resources at Slumberland? 

I think my answer gets overused a lot these days—probably because it’s true—but I approach my work with a large focus on empathy for others. Everyone has so much going on these days inside and out of work. Also, the workforce is so diverse, and it’s important to consider different perspectives whether you agree with them or not.

I try to focus on asking questions, listening, and being kind. I read a lot of Brené Brown.

An and Britta (Harris) Nguyen with children Asher and Penelope.

An and Britta (Harris) Nguyen with children Asher and Penelope.

Has there been a moment throughout your career that you found yourself using something you learned at Bethel? Or what’s been a highlight of your Bethel experience?

Yes. Absolutely. All the time.

My advisor and HR professor Bethany Opsata really did a nice job preparing me to enter the field and be successful. The HR program helped build the foundation for what I do daily. 

I also met an incredible group of friends during my time at Bethel. These friends played a part in shaping me to become who I am today. I still stay in touch with this group, and we continue to support each other throughout our careers.

I also met my wife at Bethel too. Probably my favorite part of my Bethel experience.

How has your family supported you throughout your career?

It’s tough to talk about my career or myself without recognizing my family and how they have shaped me. I learned to have a strong work ethic, how to be dependable, what it means to sacrifice for others, and the importance of generosity from my parents and eight siblings. My parents sacrificed so much to come to the United States so my siblings and I can have the lives that we have. My parents worked long and hard hours. My siblings all chipped in on household work and caring for us younger ones while maintaining schoolwork, jobs, and a social life. I come from a family of a bunch of hard workers. They have all succeeded in their fields of choice. My parents and siblings set a great example for me and drive me to be successful in what I do.

I’ve been married to my wife, Britta (Harris) ’05, for 16 years. She is a successful social worker at a local hospital. I wouldn’t be where I’m at without her support and encouragement. I have two kids, Asher (11) and Penelope (7), who are both amazing and make me proud everyday.

Study Business at Bethel!

As a business student at Bethel, you’ll become an ethical, inspirational leader. You’ll explore the intersection of business and faith, develop your God-given talents, and learn to use the tools of business to make a difference in your communities and our world.

Learn more