The way forward

Many speculate that brick-and-mortar retail is dying but Diane Nguyen (’13) doesn’t see it that way. As part of the Nike Direct Brand Marketing, Retail Brand Concepts team, Nguyen is on the international front lines of the retail industry. “Retail is not dead, it’s changing quickly, and brands need to engineer the future they want,” Nguyen affirms. “We have to move at the speed of the consumer -- experience is the brand and consumer care is king.” 

Driving the consumer retail experience is central to Nguyen’s role at Nike, where she’s responsible for store concept development and pilot rollout. Nguyen is a natural marketer known for her ability to develop relationships and deliver a good pitch, but her original career plans charted a very different path.

From obstacles to opportunities

Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Nguyen’s parents were absent during her childhood. She endured difficult challenges and rose above them through sheer determination. Nguyen was originally drawn to work in the justice system and obtained a bachelor’s degree at PSU in Criminology and Criminal Justice. “I wanted to become an FBI agent or a trial attorney,” Nguyen recalls. “As part of my courses, I got to sit in on municipal court cases and see the legal system in action firsthand – that was phenomenal.”

After college, Nguyen became a private investigator and then worked at the Columbia River Correctional Institution helping incarcerated men with rehabilitation. She changed her mind about going into law and began to work with youth instead, first with Measure 11 juveniles at Multnomah County, and then at Self Enhancement, Inc. (SEI), a nonprofit organization that supports at-risk youth.

“Working at the nonprofit was rewarding but emotionally difficult,” Nguyen says. “Some of those kids were dealing with heavy situations, and I realized I wanted to help youth in a way that would have more impact. That’s when I decided to write a book for youth explaining how I got through my circumstances.” Nguyen’s book titled “Exception: A Memoir” was published in 2017.

Agile response

While writing the book, Nguyen took a job at the Nike Factory Store and went on several job-shadowing stretch assignments at Nike World Headquarters. She landed a marketing job at Mercedes-Benz, then worked at BMW, adidas, and Laundry Service, a creative marketing agency. When a recruiter from Nike contacted her for her current position, Nguyen accepted.

Nguyen’s latest achievement is that her team helped open Nike by Melrose in Los Angeles, which won Retail Dive’s 2018 Store Concept of the Year. The digitally enabled store allows consumers to scan products on their phone, text the store directly, perform self-checkout and more. “We are providing digitally oriented consumers with convenience and meaningful ways to interact with the brand,” Nguyen says. “I believe the future of retail has no boundaries.”