Balancing the Grind with Nina Nguyen, Head of Restaurant Partnerships ANZ at Menulog

Nina Nguyen is the Head of Restaurant Partnerships ANZ at Menulog, where her team looks after large national Quick Service Restaurants and top performing independent restaurants. 

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

My career has always been about people and relationships. I started off in media agencies as a media planner / buyer where I worked on some household brands to ensure their ads in whatever format were seen by their target audience. I finished my media career by looking after a department of creatives that engaged audiences via content.

My current role at Menulog is Head of Restaurant Partnerships where my teams look after large national Quick Service Restaurants and top performing independent restaurants. 

Menulog is an app-based food delivery service offering Australians the greatest choice of restaurants and cuisines across the country. 

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

Everyday is slightly different and completely driven by business priorities and tasks at hand.

Now that things are normalising post-COVID, I try to get out and meet our restaurant partners, big and small, to have conversations face to face or work a shift in their restaurants to really walk a mile in their shoes.

The day usually starts early with the kids sneaking into my room in the morning as the hustle of a working parent begins. After a quick cuddle followed by a strong coffee, breakfast and lunch boxes ticked off, I’m off to work.

I’m very fortunate that Karl (hubby), who also works in tech, works from home most days so does pick up/drop off. My commute is a longish one so I take advantage of it by logging into work while still on the train starting my work day. At Menulog, I’m able to work flexibly, and that has always been a non-negotiable for me. We subconsciously influence our teams by our actions so I’ve always ensured that I set a good example. 

In the office, it’s a series of meetings, some face to face and some virtually. Lunch is in the kitchen where I sit and often meet new colleagues as Menulog has grown from 100 to 500+ people in the last 18 months.

The workday ends on the commute home with it being a mixture of last minute emails and then it’s parent duties once again. Between 5-7pm, this is strictly family time and everyone knows this. I have a habit of checking emails in the evenings as this is when Europe wakes up and I go to bed knowing that I’ve ticked off my to-do list. Bedtime is early! 

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

I am very organised. I guess you have to be if you’ve got young children and want to be there for them and your work kids too.

Work life balance is probably the single most important thing that I look for and strongly encourage my teams to ensure that they are also looking after their wellbeing. 

I achieve the balance by being output driven and setting boundaries. In my role there are stakeholders locally and globally so you can be online at all hours of the day. One thing I’ve been strict on is by being clear on which evenings I’ll be working late and try to stack all calls into one night.

I then offset this by easing into the morning and not planning any meetings that require me to be in front of my laptop. I’m also a big fan of the RACI model so that I’m clear on my role within meetings. If I don’t fall within the RACI, it’s not necessary for me to be present on the call. 

Karl will be so embarrassed by me calling him out but we also have a well balanced allocation of roles and responsibilities at home This doesn’t mean we split errands down the middle but we work to our relative strengths and divide the load that way. It’s important to communicate. That and also running a shared calendar.

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

Absolutely! I’ve definitely become more active in the last 12 months and if it’s not necessary for me to be glued to my laptop in meetings when I’m working from home then I will go for a walk. Walking meetings are definitely something I’ve enjoyed and need to do more of this now that it’s warming up!

In my home life, I’ve also utilised my food allowance from Menulog Pay and only part cook dinner for the family so I might make some pasta or rice and supplement this with some takeout which is a time saver.

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

I’m a big fan of podcasts and I have to credit a good friend; Josh Butt (who you featured here on Sept 2020) on this as he was the trailblazer for this channel but I must admit, for the most part, my podcast journey has been purely for entertainment and to unwind. My go-to is mostly investigative journalism and of course anything by Ampel.

I am also an avid reader and use this as a source of inspiration and for self-help. Favourite books are 

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

Mary Donaldson – how she manages everything is amazing.

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

Balance is an ever evolving project that needs to be prioritised and worked on often. What works now might not work in the future so it needs its own framework. 

Weave in some gratitude at the end of each day and you’ll be thankful (pun intended!) you did it.

Get organised. My favourite quote of all time is “Luck is where preparation meets opportunity” so what are you waiting for? 

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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.