Balancing the Grind with Christine Ng, Head of Talent & Media at Quantum Motion

Christine Ng is the Head of Talent & Media at Quantum Motion, a company developing a revolutionary technology platform.

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

Sure thing! I had an interesting “squiggly career” (which the team at Amazing If has a great book an incredible podcast about). 

I graduated with a BSc in Psychology back in 2009, and for those of you who may remember, was a terrible year for job hunting due to the financial crisis.

I went back to Hong Kong and ended up working as an Assistant for Senior MDs in a healthcare media company and in banks, and having the exposure to work closely with senior leadership teams in a matrix structure in a dynamic and international environment made me realise I wanted to work in a people function.

My natural progression was to further my knowledge in Psychology which led me to come back to London to read an MSc in Leadership and Talent Management (Organisational Psychology). 

Whilst studying for my Masters, I of course needed to cover rent and bills and fell into recruitment, and ended up interning at an Executive Search firm which covered FinTech and AdTech hiring.

I was absolutely clueless about anything technology related and threw myself into the deep end and managed to get on the second cohort of the Mobile Academy run by UCL Advances where I learnt about all things mobile app development.

I tried to build my own start-up at the same time whilst working, which in hindsight I think gave me some credibility after understanding how to speak the “tech” language.

I had the opportunity to work for a Softbank and Google Ventures-backed SaaS start-up, Yieldify, a mobile app development company The App Business (now Kin+Carta), Financial Times and most recently, a quantum computing start-up called Quantum Motion.

My roles here are leading on Product & Technology hiring, and working closely with technology teams to build a hiring strategy and our technology brand. My current role involves talent acquisition (hiring and recruitment), talent management (development, learning, succession planning) and employer branding (social media) which keeps me extremely busy.

Also, the fact that I have been working mainly with web developers for over 8+ years and transitioning to quantum hardware and electronics has been a steep learning curve – I’m constantly asking questions and I am learning every day!

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

I try to have a set morning routine, where I start with a morning meditation and journaling, followed by a morning walk with Coco (cute little chihuahua) and the days that I am in the office is when I set off to the office. I also try to squeeze in a morning yoga session (which admittedly I was much better at when we were fully remote).

My work day typically starts with a cup of tea in the office and catching up with Pat, our Office Manager on things we need to manage on the day. We have just acquired a new unit so the team is distributed across two different offices – we believe the office and people’s experience are intrinsically linked and we want to ensure everyone is happy and therefore productive daily.

A people role at a start-up means this role is extremely multi-faceted. I am usually either having conversations with Hiring Managers regarding the hiring pipeline, speaking to external candidates, speaking to the team to understand their needs and challenges, establishing partnerships with universities and associations or escalating any facilities challenges on-site.

I try not to have any calls in the morning and preserve my project work time since this is when I am the most productive. That said, this is not always the case as I am always adapting to candidates’ and Hiring Managers’ schedules. 

There is a lot of context switching in my role, so my calendar is colour-coded to signal whether it is an internal or external meeting, head down deep work sessions, recurring tasks and of course, personal time.

I ideally would like to have more deep work sessions which I am much better at when working remotely where I can have headphones in and work on strategy and have my thinking cap on without feeling guilty about ignoring others around me.

After work, I am back at home to walk Coco, or will be at the gym, or meeting friends for dinner. On busier months I may have evening industry events to attend, which recently I have also tried to limit to 1 a month for upskilling and networking.

Yes Coco has been in the office a few times, and he’s still getting accustomed to new sights and sounds – it hasn’t been exactly smooth especially with all the expensive equipment around which gets quite stressful (for me!) but the team enjoys having a 4 legged furry dog with a waggy tail running around.

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

I joined Quantum Motion in July 2021 when we were still remote, and we started transitioning back into the office in January 2022. It’s been an incredible experience getting to know the business and the team – and there is something special about meeting everyone in person that you can’t translate online (I know, some of my peers would say otherwise!

It is also very much due to the nature of our work that this is important) – I find this is especially true because I am learning about a new industry and learn by osmosis and observation.

We offer flexible working which some of our team work 2-3 days a week from home – as above, the days I work from home gives me more time for my hobbies and personal projects. 

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

I used to think this meant finding the time to be able to work on life admin which I find extremely stressful as well. Work-life balance is also a way for me to enjoy things that allow me to de-stress, such as physical activities and hobbies without feeling overwhelmed.

I value rest and know I need my 8 hours of sleep to feel fully rested and functional. I also thoroughly enjoy being with friends, meeting like-minded people and learning about new topics to expand my horizons.

Pre-pandemic, I have always been known to double book myself after work which meant I was always going from point A to point B, but what is the point if you aren’t actually able to be mindful and enjoy the present moment and stress about the next destination?

It’s quite tough to balance the extrovert in me and also the need to relax, so what the pandemic has since taught me is to stick to one or two things per month that I’d like to practice more and do it really well and focus on.

At the moment it’s curating content since I have a number of speaking engagements coming up and learning about Buddhism. I also dedicated my weekends in September at the Samye Ling, a Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Centre to learn about “The Eight Verses for Training the Mind” – am really looking forward to it!

That said, this is just for me though and speaking to my team closely I know other elements are also important such as school pick-up and family time is also crucial – so I think the key thing is listening to what the team wants and also enabling them to have the space they need to accomplish that.

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

I have definitely stopped doing as much morning yoga, but I’ve started to walk more which has helped with the guilt! Meditation has always been part of my routine, but I was introduced to this app called Insight Timer which tracks my running streak and helps my competitive edge.

I also have a Wellness Tracker on Google Sheets which keeps me accountable for my habits. I update it daily (e.g. meditation, gym/yoga, 10,000 steps, managing what I’m eating such as protein and fibre levels, reading) and you start to learn how different events will impact your energy levels. I find it helps to understand yourself better and allows you to feel in control of your health – and I like ticking things off too.

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

I’m currently obsessed with the following podcasts:

Simon Sinek: A Bit of Optimism

Simon curated this podcast during lockdown which is when he thought people needed an injection of positivity. I find myself nodding along to the content which covers being vulnerable, and rebuilding relationships but the one I enjoyed the most was when he interviewed Michael McIntyre. I was laughing to myself the entire way through the episode!

The Knowledge Project

In the spirit of learning, Shane Parrish has an incredible line-up of knowledgeable speakers on topics I have no background in whatsoever, such as peak mental performance with the world’s top athletes to Stoic philosophy. My personal favourite episode is definitely when he interviewed Balaji Srinivasan (Former CTO at Coinbase) about Web3 and Crypto – it was a complete eye-opener. I always have this on in the background when I’m cooking or pottering around the house. 

WorkLife with Adam Grant

If you work in a people role, you would’ve come across Adam Grant. If you haven’t yet, he is a professor and top rated Organisational Psychologist at Wharton (UPenn). His podcast covers everything from Emotional Intelligence to flexible working and neurodiversity – it’s a must listen even for those in a leadership role.

The top books I always recommend are:

Give and Take by Adam Grant

Adam again! A friend who worked at Facebook loaned me this book and I was hooked by the first chapter – apparently they gave a copy of this book to every single employee at the time which would make sense since he had also worked on a book with Sheryl Sandberg about resilience.

As a “giver”, this book talks about how to balance and find equilibrium with giving and taking in a work context. The book is littered with concrete examples of Silicon Valley’s best networker, all the way to its application in sport and inner-city schools. 

The Art of Happiness by Dalai Lama

I picked up this book accidentally at a charity shop when going through a tough phase a couple of years back and it was a great start to my journey to looking inwards. A psychologist interviewed the Dalai Lama about the purpose and meaning of life and it made me realise 2 things: 1) things are never static and 2) there will always be someone who is in a better position than you are. The only constant is change and this is one aspect I embrace in my professional life, and working on in my personal life.

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

Mentioned apps already but definitely Insight Timer has changed my life, and Habit Share which has sort of evolved off my Google Sheets where I share a few of my habits with friends so we can keep each other accountable.

I’ve just ordered myself a Smartwatch as well which is arriving today – so I’m looking forward to that to remind me to get moving – ask me again in a few months!

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

Honestly, any senior female executives – and there are many out there of course the likes of Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer.

I am in awe of how they balance work and family life and sit on boards of companies and keep all their plates spinning. I have friends who are in this position at the moment and I am amazed at their resilience because honestly, I don’t think I am prepared for it, yet!

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

Learning how to say no, and manage expectations whether in a professional or personal environment. 

I find earlier in my career I was more than ready to take on projects as I was keen to impress – but it had a big impact on my personal life and downtime, and the same applies to your personal life as well.

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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.