Balancing the Grind with Julia Nguyen, General Manager, Digital at Lending Association

Julia Nguyen is the General Manager, Digital at Lending Association, the largest, independent, award winning financial services company in Australia.

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

I started out my career at a very young age in customer service and then spent about 15 years in various sales roles across different industries. Working with people at that capacity sparked a lot of curiosity in me around human psychology and organisational behaviour.

I’m so fascinated by how and why people interact and make decisions in certain settings. I learnt so much during those early years and was able to use that passion to drive growth in businesses through the power of people & experiences. I’ve been so lucky to have worked in roles where I’ve been responsible for what I’m passionate about; people, experience & business.

I love working for startups and scale ups where I can play a big role in creating something special and making an impact. I’m currently the General Manager, Digital for Lending Association and we’re on the path of huge growth and I’m responsible for the digitalisation of the business. 

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

As the GM I get a lot of different things thrown my way so no two days are the same and I must plan for the unplanned! The most important time of the day for me is my morning. I believe the way you start your morning really sets the tone for the rest of your day. I am usually up by 5am and off to either Pilates or the gym.

I like to enjoy my breakfast to calming classical music and always make my bed. That way when I get to work, I have already ticked off at least 3 things off my list. And if I can’t get the small things right, how can I get the big things right? 

A typical day for me is spending time with the teams across our business to understand their challenges and immerse myself in the way they experience our current systems and processes. This helps me in creating a framework that will drive effective change as I am designing solutions from the user’s perspective.  

Another part of my day is meetings with internal and external stakeholders including our Executive team and 1:1s with the leadership team where a lot of decisions are being made to ensure we are all aligned and working towards our company OKRs.

My role requires me to wear lots of different hats so I split my week up into “functions of focus” eg: Mondays and Thursdays are reserved for deep work and planning, Tuesday morning is Marketing, afternoon for Sales & Customer, Wednesday morning for Operations and afternoon for Product & Tech and Fridays for Strategy & Admin.

I am quite strict with my blocks so my meetings with relevant departments will also fall into these blocks. I have tried lots of different ways of working and this style really works for me. I’m most productive when my brain does not feel scattered, you just need to find what works for you by trying different things. 

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

Yes it does. The flexibility means that no matter what is going on in my life I can fit work in. I am quite structured and love being around people so naturally I find myself sticking to my routine and coming into the office. 

Life is not linear so of course things come up and I am so fortunate to work for a company that supports what works for each individual. Our culture here is that of a family – we talk about things and LA wil support with any resources required to make it work for you.  

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

To be honest, for me it is firstly about doing what you love and surrounding yourself with the right people and culture. You can be working 9am to 5pm and going to the gym in your breaks and still hate what you do and be mentally off.

That is not balanced for me. And life is way too short to be wasting those precious hours. On the contrary, you can be working 17 hours a day doing what you love and that is also not balanced. It really is getting that fine line between quality and quantity and making sure you are being available for yourself. This is why my mornings are all about me before the day becomes about everyone else. 

I am also very clear on my personal Purpose and Values and my job must fulfil that. I have noticed from my experience that when what you do aligns with your core purpose, everything else falls into place. 

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

Absolutely. Outside of eating healthy and exercising, I am also choosing better words to communicate (both to myself and others). I have made a conscious decision not to say “sorry” or “just” or saying “yes” and spreading myself too thin.

The one sentence that has truly changed my life is “yes, but not right now”. There are times where it is still really hard to say but I have learnt to be strict with my boundaries. 

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

Yes I love reading and learning! I would highly recommend First 90 Days by Michael Watkins especially for those starting a new job or new role, it has helped me so much! The podcasts I listen to religiously are The Daily Stoic, Mark Groves, Impact Theory with TomBilyeu to name a few! 

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

Can I say my phone? Haha my whole life is on there.  

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

Beyoncé. Definitely Beyoncé.

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

I would say that work-life balance is personal and very unique to you and your life requirements at a certain time.

I used to read a lot about this topic and nothing I read worked for me until I stepped back and re-evaluated my life and figured out what is important to me and how I can get the best out of myself.

It is not about the hours you work, that you are at the beach with your laptop or a 4 day work week for that matter, it’s about how you feel about what you do and how that contributes to your life. And as we evolve as human beings, what works for you will change also. You just need to be open to explore that within yourself.

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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.