Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Dai Le, Founder & Culturalpreneur at DAWN

Dai Le is the founder and culturalpreneur at non-profit organisation, DAWN, as well as the Councillor for Fairfield City Council where she was elected in 2012.

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

I arrived here as a refugee from Vietnam with my mother and two younger siblings. I now have a third sibling born here in Australia.

We arrived here with one suitcase in hand, from refugee camps in Hong Kong, and not a word of English. After I finished my HSC, I landed a job as a journalist with a local Fairfax Community newspaper in Sydney’s South West.

I went on from there, landing a researcher’s role with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. I spent just over 16 years there, moving from being a researcher, to a producer, reporter and then broadcaster.

After nearly two decades in journalism, I stepped into the world of politics, in 2008, where I created historic swings in the seat of Cabramatta running in the NSW March 2011 election. While I didn’t win in the safest labor seat in the country, I made it marginal.

The following year I was elected to Fairfield City Council, where I have been re-elected and remained a Councillor. During this period, I also set up my own NFP – Dawn – an organisation that champions inclusion and diversity in leadership beyond gender. Through DAWN I was able to get institutions, and corporations to look at their workplace culture and promotions and their diverse talent.

DAWN ran workshops, consulted organisations, and collaborated with them in their work around inclusion and diversity in leadership. Since COVID-19, DAWN has had to pivot focusing on our media arm, Dawncast, where we shine the light on stories that matter.

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

My week is quite full on. Due to the different hats I wear, I allocate days to focus on the various roles I have.

So Mondays are allocated for my Dawncast work. This would involve me going to a friend’s studio and doing my recordings there. I would have prepared for the recordings the week or two before, finding talent who we could interview, and whose stories align with our vision and mission; getting the talent’s details and scheduling them in, and then preparing for the interviews. We usually do a batch recording of around 3 to 4 people.

Tuesdays, I allocate to my work in Council, which means reading agendas, minutes, reports and so forth before the Council meetings, which are usually in the evening.

Wednesdays I allocate to spending time listening to the interviews I did on Monday, and write up titles, descriptions etc and get it ready for the release schedule.

Thursdays/Fridays I often have board meetings. I’m on two boards: Multicultural NSW board and Local Government Board. When the boards don’t have meetings, I would either meet with constituents, work on my Dawncast.

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

Yes, the current role requires flexible and remote working. The flexibility allows me to make time for personal commitments, such as taking my ill mother to see her specialists/doctors, or taking my son to soccer/sports and so forth.

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

I don’t think so much about work-life balance. I think life is life, which also involves working. Living involves going to work, making time for family, making time for friends, and making time for yourself.

I think it puts pressures on women especially, if we keep on thinking we need to ‘balance work-life”. If you manage your time well, you can allocate time for yourself, or for your family. There will be times when work would call on you more, and there will be times when your family will call on you more.

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

I have started to put on meditation music in the morning when I wake up to get me into the zone of mindfulness as I go about preparing breakfast, getting my son and husband ready for school and work, and the dogs fed!

So it keeps me calm and anchored. As someone who’s passionate about inclusion and diversity, and in shining the light on stories that matter, I look for stories online that would feed my brain positively.

I avoid if possible, being caught up in the fear and trauma triggering content on TV, radio. This has made me calmer; I don’t react as easily; I remain calm and I can feel an inner peace.

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

I love Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle is the Way. I highly recommend it. I’m a stoic. I love stoicism. I’ve had so many obstacles thrown at me through my life, that I see these obstacles as opportunities.

The book delved into the teachings of Aristotle, Marcus Aurelius, Plato and Buddhism. I have it on Audible, and have listened to it a few times.

Another book I’m trying to plough through is Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. It’s huge so I’m going through it slowly.

I’ve downloaded Extraordinary Circumstances – the journey of a corporate whistleblower by Cynthia Cooper, and have only read one chapter!

I listen to my own vodcast. I read articles on Quora; I think it’s one of my favourites so far. There are so many newsletters that come into my inbox. I don’t read most of them, unless they have subject matters of inclusion and diversity.

I have subscribed to Morningstar (finance and market) Raiz (finance app) Women for Election, Smart Company – are some of the e-newsletters I have subscribed to. Also recipe e-newsletters.

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

  • I can’t do without the Gmail app. I check my emails regularly. My philosophy is to be in communication, and making sure that I address people’s queries, questions, and requests as soon as practicable.
  • Spotify – my meditation and music.
  • My Credit Union Australia app -to check my account and manage my spending.
  • Slack – to manage the tasks and communication channels with my team of volunteers.
  • WhatsApp – to stay in communication with other groups.
  • Messenger – to communicate with people.
  • Facebook app – to check and upload posts.
  • LinkedIn – to read feeds, news, interesting reports/people and to upload posts.
  • Raiz – checking it out and trying to use it because my son told me to.
  • Bigtincan App – for board papers to read.

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

I just love reading about people’s stories and experiences as they travel through life. I’m most interested to hear from people who had nothing and built themselves, or their business into something. It doesn’t have to be six figures but even to persist and to survive in the face of adversities.

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

I think embrace life with all of its challenges. Don’t place too much pressure on yourself trying to attain work-life balance.

Plan and allocate time to do the things you love doing, while also doing the work you have to do. I think things will balance themselves out once you do this, and therefore you won’t be so stuck with the concept of work-life balance which can stress you out.

I think being present and focused on what you’re doing, and not allowing others or your inner committee of voices to distract you, would be my piece of advice for those trying to attain work-life balance. Do what works for you.

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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.