Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind With Joey Nguyen, Co-Founder at Venntifact

Joey Nguyen is the co-founder and head of technology at Venntifact, a 30-person consultancy that provides training, talent and advisory around martech.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I’ve been in the world of marketing technology for the last 12 years. I’m currently one of the co-founders and lead the technology team at Venntifact, a 30-person consultancy that provides our clients with training, talent and advisory around martech.

My career path started in web development, my passion since high school, which led me (by pure luck) into this niche. I was part of the founding team of a data agency called 2DataFish, which was later acquired by Publicis. I’ve been primarily in services or “agency side” my whole career, with a short stint at a vendor – nothing client side yet!

Outside of Venntifact, I pursue my passions as a hip-hop artist and a yoga teacher.

2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

I look at each day like a set of puzzle pieces, fitting things around the client commitments that can’t move: “where can I fit in exercise – before, during or after hours?”, “I have 45 minutes in transit, is there a call that would be suitable to slot in here?”

It’s a chaotic harmony that has me bouncing between a lot of things and wearing a lot of hats, but that’s the way I like it.

I like to take some time for myself when I first wake up. I’m currently trying to learn Italian, as well as bring back a habit of saying affirmations, which I found really effective when I utilised them previously. I will also spend time quickly checking for major developments in things that interest me – technology, video games, MMA.

Although my schedule can be quite erratic, the consistent aspects are:

  • I need to do some form of exercise, or else I get very antsy / anxious
  • I try and move my music forward, whether through writing, listening to instrumentals, or just enjoying new songs for inspiration
  • I fast until dinner
  • I drink only water / sparkling water during the day

My work day to day is a mix of consulting, technical thinking, and team leadership. I’m passionate about crafting elegant solutions to interesting problems, so I’m at my best sitting right in the middle of business and technology, with client challenges on one side and the latest tech innovations on the other.

I spend most of my time with clients or checking in with my team, with a few hours carved out to process emails or work on client deliverables.

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

For the most part, the majority of day to day things are flexible and can be handled remotely, which is a great option to have while travelling.

We have collaborative Slack workspaces with many of our clients, which really helps with informal, ad hoc communications, and we also work with clients that are interstate, meaning that lots of communication is done over the phone or on Hangouts.

However, as great as Google Hangouts and Slack are, nothing beats face to face communication, and I much prefer to have regular face to face catch ups with clients and team members wherever possible! I’ve seen so many times where a phone conversation or email exacerbates a tense situation which could have easily been solved with some face time.

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4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

One of the biggest shifts for me was seeing my life as an interconnected ecosystem, where skills cross-pollinate and reinforce each other: my “business skills” have helped me navigate the music industry, and teaching yoga has very much shifted my perspective (and fears!) around corporate presentations.

The frame of reference of a big tapestry helps me feel like I’m working towards one overall goal of “my life”, rather than bits and pieces going in different directions. When I self reflect, if I’m happy with the big picture sketch of where I’m headed, and I’m happy with my current distribution of the effort in the different parts of my life, then I feel in balance.

It’s not always perfect. For example, spending time to build Venntifact has necessitated a larger investment of day-to-day time than my previous role, and doing so has meant winding back on teaching yoga regularly.

However, I’ve successfully protected my music time, and have released two EPs and toured the east coast while at the same time growing this business to 30 people.

I try and make the most of the time I have available, and being able to record whenever I’m at home or write while I’m in transit gives me a flexibility that isn’t possible when trying to keep to a regularly scheduled class timetable. My aim is to reach a stability / regularity that allows me to gain some of that teaching time back.

Work-life balance for me means a feeling of growth and progression in all aspects of my life. It means prioritising the things that are most important to me and being willing to give up anything that doesn’t make the list.

It means not attaching my identity or self worth to any one particular thing. And it means having very firm boundaries around the things I’m not willing to compromise on. It’s something I’m constantly monitoring and tweaking, and what was right for me last year isn’t necessarily going to be what works in 2020.

Shaping my business style around my natural tendencies has brought me the most success, and I would highly recommend that others tailor their own approaches to life and business around their own natural inclinations.

5) What do you think are some of the best habits or routines that you’ve developed over the years to help you achieve success in your life?

A few different ones:

1. My email inbox is my to do list, and I use Boomerang for Gmail religiously to keep my attention on the things I need for any given day. I am regularly sending notes to myself throughout the day, and I’m also receiving a drip feed of unanswered emails / things to follow up on alongside any new client correspondence. It’s the simplest solution I’ve found to keep everything in one place.

2. Having limited time has helped me be far more effective. When I first finished uni, I took 6 months off to focus on music and achieved nothing. Without constraints, I had no urgency. These days, trying to squeeze in short bursts of songwriting in between the rest of my life, I find I can do so much with so little. I truly think constraints get the best out of us.

3. I hate to be repetitive, but exercise is the single most beneficial thing I would recommend to anybody. Discipline, self understanding, mental clarity, health, space and time away from whatever it is you need to be away from. It’s got it all!

4. A change I’ve made recently after feeling a bit stagnation is to ensure I’m always a beginner at something new (hence: currently learning Italian, and exploring reformer pilates).

Over time, it’s hard to keep the same level of enthusiasm for something you’re reached a certain level of maturity at – further improvements take a long time, and can be relatively minor. When you’re a beginner, any progress is amazing and you can develop rapidly to a level of competency. For my mind at least, it’s a great self-hack to always feel like I’m moving forward.

5. I’ve leveraged a lot in my life off of my tendency to “go deep” into things. I’ve had many obsessions over the years which have shaped my passions over time (video games, battle rap), and I always seem to end up wanting to contribute and be an integral part of the “community” in whatever I’m loving at that point in time.

I’ve realised that this is also my approach to clients and technology – I want to go deep, I want to understand everything, I want to hear the full story, I want to add value.

Shaping my business style around my natural tendencies has brought me the most success, and I would highly recommend that others tailor their own approaches to life and business around their own natural inclinations.

6. Make things as accessible as possible if you are serious about making them a habit. I write music on my phone, I have a recording space set up in my apartment. I live within 5 minutes walk of 5 different gyms, and 3 different yoga studios. I have gymnastic rings, parallettes and a kettlebell for days when I need a quick session at home. Minimise the logistics to maximise your outcome!

6) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?

Funnily enough, there’s a fantasy series called The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson that has given me a lot of inspiration. There have been a lot of lessons for me personally about willpower, discipline, teamwork, redemption – I’ve actually got a series of quotes written up on my wall at home. One of my favourites:

“If I must fall, I will rise each time a better man.”

7) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

Exercise. For me, it’s the foundation that everything else is built on!

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

I’m very interested in polymaths, and people who transcend one specialty to excel in multiple arenas.

Donald Glover is someone in particular who appeals to me as a musician – I’m amazed that he raps, sings, produces, DJs, acts, does stand up, directs, writes. I would love to know his passions outside of “work”, how he decides where to allocate his time, and his general approach to learning.

How does something new get his headspace / attention? It would be amazing to hear about.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

I will share the most important advice that was ever given to me, that has shaped my entire approach to work life balance, and that I strive to live by every day. These words come from an old friend named Seth:

“Only you can evaluate the personal pluses of things like going overseas or focusing on your passions. I will say that it’s possible to satisfy a lot of “passion” interests outside of/apart from work.

It’s easy to let work define us or become all encompassing, but this is simply a mistake. Even very busy people can carve time out to devote to things they are passionate about, but are wholly separate from their vocation, without also giving themselves over fully to that pursuit. Wallace Stevens is one of my favorite poets, with an incredible body of work, and he worked every day as an executive at an insurance company (pretty soul crushing, irrelevant kind of stuff for a poet).

He just did them both.”

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.