Balancing the Grind with Mai Tran, DTC Content Manager at Heroes

Mai Tran is the DTC Content Manager at Heroes, a technology-driven e-commerce company that acquires, operates, and scales small and medium-sized brands.

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

I started my career in the world of tech start-ups by coincidence. I was still in grad school when one of my professors, who knew I was about to go on a professional gap year, asked if I would like to join his new project as the first employee. I agreed, without ever suspecting that it would lead me to where I am now, at my third start-up 4 years later.

The great thing about early stage start-ups is that you get to have many responsibilities and skill up very quickly. Over the course of the past 4 years, I’ve dipped my toes in marketing, sales, recruitment, training, community management and more.

I currently work for Heroes Technology, an e-commerce aggregator that specialises in acquiring and operating Amazon brands. I sit within the DTC team, helping expand our brands’ direct-to-consumer presence via their own e-commerce websites. 

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

At Heroes, we are free to organise our days as we see fit, as long as we get the work done. I usually start work at 9AM, have a one-hour lunch break around 1PM, and finish work around 6-6:30PM.

However, if I have an errand to run, or a medical appointment to attend to, I would not hesitate to take some time off during the day and finish work later. After work, I usually spend time with my partner and my 2 cats, watch my favourite show, exercise a bit, and work on my side project (a start-up crash course for anyone who wants to break into tech).

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

My company has offices in London and Madrid, but I would say a good half of employees are full-remote as they are scattered around the globe. Even for those who are based in London and Madrid, it is not required to come to the office. 

This was a big deal for me when I applied to Heroes. A lot of my work is project-based and requires deep focus, which is easier to achieve when I’m at home. I also enjoy not having to take public transport every day to go to work. That being said, I do enjoy the informal chats and personal connections that happen in-person, so I try to come to the office once or twice a week.

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

One of the hard lessons I learned during my first start-up experience is that a start-up is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. As a startupper, you have this burning passion for the project and want to bring it to the market as soon as possible, and so you just step on the gas and never let go.

I worked so much that I had health problems and became both physically and mentally exhausted about one and a half years in. That was when I realised that the lifestyle I was leading was not sustainable, nor did it make me happy.

I think we should approach work like we do relationships. Choose our job wisely, and not make it the only thing that’s happening in our life. As mentioned above, I try to finish work around 6-6:30 PM now to allow time for other activities.

I also make sure to disconnect on the week-end, and make use of my paid leaves (at Heroes we have 25 days of paid leave on top of the bank holidays). I take big breaks to travel, but I also just take a day off here and there as a treat to myself.

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

Listening to tech podcasts during my commute has made the trips much more enjoyable! It distracts me from the loud noises of the London tube and helps me learn new things on the way. Of course sometimes I also just enjoy listening to music, especially after a long day at work when I don’t have the mental capacity to focus on complex concepts anymore.

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

I really enjoy reading Mark Manson (author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck)’s newsletter called ‘Ideas To Change Your Life’. It touches on many different topics such as personal habits, beliefs, relationships or even politics with a philosophical twist.

The newsletter invites you to rethink some of the most basic ideas in life and look at things from a different perspective. It’s very well researched yet the writing is clear and captivating. It’s like a breath of fresh air since I spend a lot of time reading about tech and business news.

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

I’ve gotten into the habit of falling asleep to the sound of Headspace‘s sleep casts. It’s like listening to a bedtime story told by someone with a very soothing voice. I also use the app for its guided meditations, which are great for anyone who is new to the art of meditating.

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

I would love to read Mark Manson’s take on work-life balance, as he usually has very interesting insights and an original point of view on familiar topics. 

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

Find yourself a passion outside of work. It could be anything: a side project, sports, painting, music, family, anything. When you have something that excites you and is important to you, you’ll find it easier to organise your life in a way that makes time for it.

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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.