Balancing the Grind with Haylen Ann Pong, Assistant General Counsel at Diligent Corporation

In this interview, we’re getting up close with Haylen Ann Pong, Assistant General Counsel at Diligent Corporation. Haylen’s journey in the legal world spans a decade, starting in private practice and evolving into a pivotal role at Diligent, where she manages the Asia Pacific legal team.

Beyond her legal acumen, Haylen is passionate about cross-cultural communication and deeply invested in ESG principles. In our conversation, she discusses her dynamic career, the challenges of maintaining work-life balance, and her insights on personal growth and professional development.

Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to?

Sure thing! My career journey, so far, involves ten years in the legal industry. I started in private practice, working in a fantastic mid-sized law firm, Coleman Greig. From there, I quickly became an in-house lawyer, starting at Salmat, an ASX-listed marketing company that spanned across Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines.

This was where I first became fascinated with working with an Asia Pacific scope. After that, I went to Nearmap, also an ASX-listed aerial imagery company that operated in Australia and USA, where I had the chance to develop my international legal skills.

Since then, I have spent over four years at a global modern governance company, Diligent, where I manage the Asia Pacific legal team. I am deeply passionate about cross-cultural communication and this role has greatly developed these skills, as well as keeping up with all the different international laws that come with operating globally! Diligent is also deeply invested in ESG, which is a cause I feel very committed to. I would love to see ESG being more prominently incorporated into the business world.

This cause is what prompted me to create my own law firm. I wanted to help implement sustainability and risk-conscious decision-making into businesses. Especially in early stages, building ethical practices into the foundations means greater social impact and benefit down the line. 

I am straddling both employment and business creation but moving the needle on better business practice is a big part of both businesses and who I am, so the experience is tiring but joyful.

We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday?

Lately, it’s been particularly crazy!

At Diligent, I start the day working on my in house role, where no two days ever feels the same! Workday mornings are usually the most hectic as this is the time to connect with international stakeholders and review the barrage of emails that have come through. I’ll usually have a legal standup with my APAC legal team in the morning where we’ll run through the goals we want to kick for the day, distribute work, and figure out next steps on major projects they might be working on.

After that, it’s negotiating contracts, drafting emails and legal advice, taking client calls or connecting with local Australian leadership. There might be a half hour to grab a quick bite to eat and then we will start to see work rolling in from the rest of APAC as Asia comes online! There will definitely be a few more phone calls to connect on different sales deals and how we can be tailored to the client’s local culture and customs.

By afternoon, that’s usually when something urgent comes in! Maybe it will be an urgent email from the HR team about an employment issue, a marketing or sponsorship event that has a few more terms and conditions to review than originally anticipated, or just a client who really needs our SaaS product today and we need to finalise a services agreement! Either way, there’s always something to keep me busy!

Towards evening, I will be close by for anything urgent but will start preparing for dinner time. I’ll enjoy a meal with my loved ones, and have a chat about the day. After dinner, I start working at my own law firm. I review the emails that have come through the day, connect with my clients to obtain instructions and do the necessary to progress their matter. I’m still building my business up, so I’ll create a checklist of how I want to improve my processes or have a think about the next article I’ll post on LinkedIn.

At some point, I will feel like I have done enough and will call it a night, get some sleep and start all over again tomorrow.

On the days where I’m working purely for my business, my day is dedicated to strategizing, having lots of coffee catchups and expanding my network. I’m trying to spend enough time on overall vision and goals because it’s so easy to get caught up with all the client work coming in!

Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach in maintaining it?

Interestingly, I can’t really define work/life balance for myself just yet! I do the “work” part well enough, but “life balance” is still in progress! I do recognize though that the balance looks different to me every day and I adjust it based on my needs. What I am attempting is to do one thing every day that is just for me. Maybe it’s a sleep in or a nap, maybe it’s ten minutes with a cup of tea enjoying some sunlight, maybe it’s dancing around the living room to 80s disco music!

It’s a start and good enough for more progress down the line.

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?

I don’t know if this is a lifestyle change but some of the best resources around me are the people I have connected with. Having realised that most people inherently want to help their community and see the people around them succeed, I went out on a limb and challenged myself to have authentic and vulnerable conversations with my network. It was originally to share experiences, grow faster and find ways to help my business succeed, but the conversations and bonding actually gave me a lot of personal joy and recharged my social batteries, so it has improved the “life” part too!

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?

Jay Shetty’s How to Think Like a Monk! It’s a fantastic blend of ancient wisdom and 21st century application for anyone who is trying to figure out their own thoughts and opinions amidst the noise of technology and social media.

One of the main concepts is about one’s self and the need not to assume the identity of how we want others to perceive us but to assume our own genuine identity. Jay also does a podcast – it’s wisdom in bite sized pieces!

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?

One of my favourite quotes is – “You are always one decision away from a totally different life”. The first time I saw it, it was a poster on a wall of a book store and I just thought it was catchy. Over time, it was an empowering quote when I was going through analysis paralysis.

I realised that an endless amount of looking in the rear view mirror wondering if I should have done things differently wouldn’t make a situation better. Trying to ensure my next decision was perfect didn’t make me happier. But what I could do was change, one decision at a time, until I liked where I was.

This is quite personal to me and I know it won’t work for everyone, so above all else, I would say that everyone should consciously make life work for them rather than conforming to anything they hear.

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.