Abby Shen is the Co-Founder at Tech for Social Good, an organisation passionate about responsible and human-centred technology and empowering the next generation of tech innovators, leaders and policymakers.
Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to?
Currently I’m the founder of Quiet Achievers, a platform showcasing the stories and cultural experiences of a diverse group of Asian-Australians, as well as the co-founder of Tech for Social Good, where we empower the next generation of responsible tech leaders through educational programs and community events.
Right now, I’m travelling around Asia, working on these passion projects and levelling up my photography skills before I join McKinsey & Company next year as a consultant.
Looking back, I would say I’ve had a very non-linear career journey. This is because in my earlier years, I would say yes to a lot of opportunities simply to figure out what exactly I enjoyed and didn’t enjoy. I’ve been a maths tutor, paralegal (back when I used to study a law degree), software engineer, policy researcher and most recently was in the strategy and operations space at Eucalyptus, an Australian healthcare technology company.
From these array of experiences, I’ve realised that I ultimately love being on the frontlines of creating, operating and scaling anything whether it’s a business, organisation or passion project. On top of that, I’m extremely interested in how we can leverage current and emerging technology to improve all facets of life and society, as well as how we can do so in a responsible and sustainable manner.
We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday?
This year isn’t a typical year for me, what with the constant travel and moving around, so I’ll describe a typical day when I was in the middle of working on and launching Quiet Achievers.
I like to start my day at 8AM, and immediately go out for a walk or a run. I find that the morning movement often energises me for the rest of the day. It also means that I don’t forget to or put off exercise, which easily happens as the day progresses when I’m focussed and knee-deep in work.
When I get back home in the morning, I’ll allocate the most important tasks for me to work on or finish off in the day. This ranges from reaching out to people for interviews, researching the Asian-Australian ecosystem and history, taking and editing headshots, recording and editing interviews, content creation, website design etc. I like to switch up where I work, so I’ll either head to the library, work in a co-working space or stay at home.
At the end of the day, I’ll reflect on what I was and wasn’t able to finish as well as why, and ensure that I’m on track to meet my deadlines.
Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach in maintaining it?
I think the ideal work-life balance is when both aspects are holistically satisfied. For me, it means getting the chance to do good, impactful work that fulfils and challenges me on a day to day, as well as feeling like I have enough time to take care of my health, be present with my friends and family and just enjoy life in the moment.
During exciting or critical periods of work, I have a tendency to allow work to take over my life. Usually, the first things to go are daily exercise and alone time. Knowing this, I actively make these two activities non-negotiable habits, and know to pay more attention to keeping them up when work gets more busy.
Change is constant, and it’s essential for growth. Have you made any lifestyle changes in the past year to improve your work-life balance?
One change that I’ve incorporated is journaling for 5 minutes at the start and end of each day, following a few prompts around gratitude, reflection and motivation. This allows me to start each day in the right mindset, and also appreciate each day as it comes, more. These low-effort reflections have also allowed me to learn small lessons about myself that I otherwise would have missed as each day blends into another.
We’re always on the lookout for new resources! Can you recommend any books, podcasts, or newsletters that have helped you in your journey towards balance?
I don’t consume any content that specifically centres around balance, but my favourite newsletter and most relevant recommendation (that I actually do open in my emails) is Ali Abdaal’s Sunday Snippets which always has good advice around productivity and habit-building.
In general, I personally find that being more connected with the world, and having a deeper understanding of myself in it helps me achieve greater balance. I like to get my daily dose of Australian news through the 7am podcast, and I’ve also found that listening to the As I Am podcast has been helpful in navigating my dual Asian-Australian identity and feeling more balanced overall.
Before we wrap up, do you have any final words of wisdom or insights on work, life, or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Everyone has their own version of balance, which you can really see as you read through all the interviews on this site. Don’t get caught up on what other people view as the ‘perfect lifestyle’ balance and be true to what truly satisfies you.
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