Phuong Nguyen is the founder & CEO at Piktina Vietnam, a social commerce platform where everyone meets, talks and shares about pre-loved fashion.
Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to?
I started my career in the fashion industry many years ago in Paris, France – where I studied in Fashion management. From the sales side to the buy side to manufacturing side, I kind of got the full picture of what the fashion industry is all about. I moved back to Vietnam 10 years ago
and continued to work in the fashion industry for the first 2 years. Then, I moved to the biggest conglomerate in Vietnam and experienced what it’s like to work for a Vietnamese company for the first time. Turns out, that experience has taught me more than what I learnt from all previous jobs combined.
It was so profound that I decided it was time for me to start my own journey. I co-founded my first tech start-up after that. It was a ride hailing and digital banking company which I exited 1.5 years ago. Right now, I’m building my second tech start-up, Piktina, which is a recommerce platform that aims to turn secondhand fashion into cash in South East Asia.
We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday?
I usually get up at 6.30am. I’ll take my daughter to school and then go to work. During this trip, I’ll read all the daily newspapers to get basic updates about what’s going on in Vietnam and the world. I’ll be in the office at 8.30am.
My morning is usually used for internal tasks. I’d start my day by looking at all the dashboards of our business the day before. Then, I’d screen through our app and read all app reviews, customer’s feedbacks on multiple channels.
Since Piktina is still very new, I still read everything that our customers send us. Then, I would go through my mail boxes and Slack messages. We are a small team and we all sit in the same room so most of the time, we would discuss quickly about daily/weekly tasks at our tables. We don’t like long meetings.
We even plan each sprint to only one week each instead of two weeks to make sure we are crystal clear and super focused every day. At lunch time, I’d walk to a restaurant near our office for lunch with my management team and this is the time for us to discuss all kinds of things together, from strategy to fund raising to product to culture building.
In the afternoon, I would spend time meeting with external partners, VCs, or simply work on my own thoughts. I leave the office at 6pm and during the 1 hour trip going home, I’d read my daily afternoon news to get more updates.
After dinner, I walk my dog out for 30 mins and then go home to run on my treadmill for another hour or so. During this time, I usually watch/listen to my favourite podcasts/ videos to make running more fun. Before going to bed I spend another 30 minutes to 1 hour reading books. Voilà.
Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach in maintaining it?
I don’t usually use the term work-life balance as to me, work is a part of life, an important part, but still, a part of our lives. Separating work and life makes them seem like two different parts but in fact they are one.
We all have one life to live, we all have 24 hours per day to do it. Difference is how each person spends those 24 hours that makes us different. Some decide to make art, some decide to cook, some decide to run a business and some decide to rule the world.
Some decide to become parents, some don’t want to do a thing, some don’t know what they are doing with their lives and some spend their whole lives searching for answers. So, to me, at any given moment in my life, I’ll always have more than one “job”: the job with my friends, my family, my company, my society and the job with myself.
Depending on which one needs more care at any given moment, I’d prioritise my time and love and care more toward that. I’ve also learnt that our physical health is as important as our mental health and we can only share happiness if we have happiness to share; so whatever job we are doing at any time, we should always make sure that we are ok first. That’s my way to live my life.
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’ve noticed that as I get older, my physical health becomes less and less strong so I pay more attention to my diet and my exercise routines. I read a lot so I incorporate my reading time with my exercise time to achieve both.
Since I am a busy working mom, I “tricked” my daughter into doing exercises and reading with me so that we have quality time together. As a start-up founder, I used to hustle a lot and wanted to get a million things done quickly at the same time and it used to stress my team and myself out a lot.
Now, I understand what it means by saying the life of a startup is not a sprint but a marathon. I guess that I know how to pace myself and my team out better now.
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?
All-In podcast, View From The Top from Stanford, and all the books written by Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh.
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?
Before 30 years old, don’t think about balance. This is the time for you to learn, try and experience as much as possible to find what can unlock your potential, make you truly truly happy and find your true purpose in life later. Throw yourself into something that you love, whatever it is, completely and full heartedly. Make mistakes, be crazy, cry, laugh, go, see, because that’s what life is about.
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