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Balancing the Grind with Christine Ng, VP of Brands at Rainforest

Christine Ng is the VP of Brands at Rainforest, Asia’s leading e-commerce brand aggregator.

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

I’m currently the VP of Brands at Rainforest, a global e-commerce aggregator. My team and I onboard brands, assess their current/future GTM strategy and create growth plans for each one.

Specifically, I lead a team of brand managers, marketers, product developers and e-commerce builders to continue the growth of our 13 brands via new channels and products, and in many cases, re-branding brands end to end which need a refresh (my favorite part.)

As an individual, I’m passionate about building things, and enjoy having a direct impact on the businesses I am part of. In the various iterations of my roles (I am admittedly a bit of a career chameleon), I’ve worked mostly in consumer lifestyle companies such as ClassPass, Away, Sephora, Shopbop (Amazon), eBay and other various startups, but have done everything from product management to brand marketing and leading creative. It seems daunting (or crazy) to people, but I love it. 

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

I start my day around 9 or 9:30 am every morning. I literally roll over, take a shower and jump into the first meeting of the day. I wish I was one of those people that meditate, eat a mindful breakfast or drink lemon with water but that isn’t me – I’m more grab a green juice and go. I also tend to be very responsive with messages, so I’ve try to slow down and take a breath
before engaging.

My days can be a bit meeting heavy here trying to balance time between the teams I lead, project updates on individual projects and keeping my boss informed, but I try my best to keep things focused on progress and problems. I’m a straight shooter when it comes to communication, and I know everyone’s super busy, so we try to keep each meeting under 45 minutes, and I work on trying to steer conversations toward desired outcomes and solutions.

I also try to block my calendar so I can get personal training in the middle of the day. I function well when I get that mental break and can put down all my devices (I do one on one boxing mostly), and it really helps to clear my head.

Admittedly, I’m not a big lunch break person because it breaks my concentration, but I’m definitely down for happy hour/coffee later in the day if anyone on my team wants to chat in person since we are fully remote. 

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

To me, work and life are intermingled. I have never been able to commit to things I don’t like doing, but when I like something I get completely swept up. I admit I used to be a pretty work obsessed person. I tend to work well under pressure, so I used to think I was able to overcome anything that came my way.

However, after two pretty hectic back to back stints at hyper growth companies and an international move (Away to ClassPass), I got shingles on my face which were completely stress induced after leaving. This made me reflect heavily on what I needed to change. Now I can say – I’ve taken vacations, enjoyed my time off after work, and I’ve even gotten to work remotely for 2 months in Bali (a great reset for me mentally).

I also block my calendar off after 5:30 pm for reflection after team meetings and also use it for work me-time (a mixture of looking through my projects, what I’ve brought to the table in meetings in terms of productivity, and the general well being of my team and myself).

I also have now made the conscious effort to really log off mentally after hours (friends used to say I talked about work all the time), and now I try my best to be present for dinners, gatherings and other activities. The commitment to not being defined by your career identity hasn’t been easy but I’m glad to say that I’ve gotten better. I’m more than my resume now!

I’ve met so many people that have great successful careers and make tons of money but hate their jobs. If you think about it – you spend 35% of your waking life at work. Hating it would be pretty terrible given how much time we’ve got to spend on it – so having a true work-life balance is ultimately to me, creating a life with work you feel fulfilled or motivated by. 

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

The lockdown sort of gave me space to think and pick up things I’ve always wanted to do – one was DJing. I’ve always loved music, so I spent time once a week at Zouk (a club here in Singapore) learning how to DJ with a resident there.

I’d practise in between meetings to decompress and think before the next meeting or brainstorm. I’m someone who needs to constantly be in mental or physical motion so these moments often help me focus.

I’d say another thing I’ve changed is eating dinner earlier. It feels a little grandma, but I realised that my sleep was getting affected by eating dinner late. Now I get to go to bed with more sleep and more ability to function the next day because I’m not a morning person.

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

I’ve honestly never been a huge fan of business books per se – I was an English major so I think reading anything can be beneficial even though it might not seem like it has a direct impact, but some business books I enjoy are Principles by Ray Dalio (he is somehow able to blend self-helpy type anecdotes and hard facts which appeal to a large variety of audiences), Only the Paranoid Survive by Andy Grove (a little old, but I still love how he brought strategic inflection points into our vernacular today) and it’s a reminder tattoo I have, and Obsessed: Building a Brand People Love from Day One by Emily Hayward.

It’s a book about building brands – and for me, it also serves as a great reminder of why building a brand inherently still comes from a love and understanding of what you’re building, and who you’re building it for.

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

That is hard! I feel like with top executives/founders that are millennial or older- you often see an incredibly regimented schedule or a play by play diary that’s really intense.

I’ve always enjoyed working with young founders who tend to be more organically driven. That being said – I’d probably like to see Ben Pasternak’s take on work-life balance. He’s 22 and the founder of Simulate which I’m a fan of. 

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

Some cliches but truths – find something you love/like doing, and don’t stick around if it doesn’t serve your well-being or your core purpose. It’s never worth it in the long run. Most of all, don’t let someone else tell you what you need to be doing for your success – -there is never just one way to figure out what you need for that work-life balance, so do your best to let you drive the choices you make.

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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.