Paul Nguyen is the Webmaster of Jane-Finch.com, dedicated to showcasing the Toronto neighbourhood in a positive way despite consistent misrepresentations by the media and general public. He says the most challenging aspect of his project is also the best, as you’ll discover in today’s YPDaily profile…
Top photo: Jane-Finch.com founder Paul Nguyen and executive producer Mark Simms.
Elevator Pitch: Describe your job in a nutshell.
Paul Nguyen on CTV’s National Affairs
I am the Webmaster of Jane-Finch.com, overseeing a small but dedicated team of local reporters, community activists and volunteers. My goal is to showcase Toronto’s Jane-Finch community in a positive way.
Why did you start working at your company? What was the inspiration for this career route?
The Jane-Finch community has a bad reputation for guns, gangs and drugs. I felt it was important to show the positive side of the neighbourhood. I had a fun experience growing up there as a kid. During the weekends, I would make homemade movies with friends and pass around VHS copies that made us local stars. Video was the best way for me to share my community’s identity and diversity.
I founded Jane-Finch.com in 2004 to give a residents’ perspective of the neighbourhood. Back in the early days, I stumbled around experimenting and doing everything from gathering stories to posting homemade flyers at the bus stop. Today, we are deeply involved in local activism, championing equality and working with local youth to make a difference in the community.
What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
The best part is also the most challenging part. I respond to all kinds of requests that still amaze me. I’ve had kids from other parts of the world ask me for homework help to dating advice! I’ve met all kinds of people in advertising, television, government, education- the list goes on. I never expected that a website about a small part of the city would touch so many different people. To this day, I still receive calls from people near and far. The hardest part is trying to help them along the way as best I can.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Paul Nguyen receives the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal from the Prime Minister and Governor General at Rideau Hall
I’ve been given some great opportunities by caring mentors in my community. I would love to volunteer more to help other kids in communities like Jane-Finch on the path to success.
What does success look like to you?
Success is having the determination to overcome great obstacles. Seeing the hard work that happens daily in the community gives me great pride and confidence for the future. Jane-Finch is a success story in itself- a place where multicultural acceptance is in our blood.
What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
Being a national winner in the 1999 Racism. Stop It! video competition showed me that I could use my hobby for a good cause. My 30 second PSA was shown across Canada on Much Music.
Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Follow your heart and passion. Get the right training and mentors. Develop good habits early on and be persistent. You will gain a lot when you volunteer and give your time.
Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
Jane-Finch.com reporter Sabrina Gopaul covers the 2007 Kiddie Caribana Parade in the Jane-Finch community
I like to partner with groups working to strengthen the voices of all Canadians. My main passion will forever be linked back to the Jane-Finch community. As they say, you can take someone out of the ‘hood, but you can’t take the ‘hood out of them.
What to you is notable?
Notable is when someone who has great success still makes time for the little guy to be notable in his own right.
As a youth, Maestro Fresh Wes called me on my phone out of the blue to say, “keep up the good work”. He even visited Jane and Finch to let me interview him when I was just starting my website. We filmed it in my friend’s basement. That’s notable.
Blackberry, iPhone, Android, or Other?
My friends make fun of me because I’ve had a ‘dumb’ phone until recently. Tech always changes. It’s what you say that matters, of course.