Phynia Dam Hong is a Product Manager at healthtech startup, Eucalyptus, where she is currently working on building a medical weight loss program for its newest brand, Juniper.
Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to?
I’m a product manager at a health tech scale-up, called Eucalyptus. Currently, I’m working on building a medical weight loss program for its newest brand, Juniper, to support people living with obesity.
My career journey has been quite unconventional. It began in the finance industry with investment banking internships and part-time work in private equity during my university years. I often felt like I was in over my head as a student but was grateful for the early exposure to the high-performing, fast-paced environment of IB and PE.
I eventually accepted a graduate role at an investment bank without a clear picture of where it would lead me. However, it taught me valuable skills such as analytical thinking, adaptability, effective communication, and the determination to work through late nights and tight deadlines.
Over time, I realised I wanted a more purpose-driven career where I could see my actions directly impacting individual lives. That’s when I took a leap of faith and joined Eucalyptus as one of its early employees in the Chief of Staff role.
The leap has been one of the best decisions. I got to wear many hats in running a business, from strategy and product development to customer research, growth optimisations, operations and more. After enjoying the elements of growth and product management, I seized the opportunity to transition into the product management team.
We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday?
As a product manager, my days vary depending on the projects I’m leading and whether I’m working from the office (which is three days a week).
My work day starts around 9am with a coffee or matcha latte. I respond to Slack messages, review tasks that I’ve time-blocked the night before and prepare for team stand ups and meetings. Office days are often taken up by company-wide rituals, project syncs, problem-solving sessions or 1:1s with my team lead and manager.
In between meetings, I tackle time-sensitive and less mentally taxing tasks to minimise the disruptions that come with switching between complex projects that demand more focused attention. I try to save more substantial tasks (like diagnosing problems, analysing metrics, customer interviews or research synthesis, spec writing, etc.) for days when I’m working from home and can delve into deep work.
Throughout the day, I make sure to stay hydrated with two to three litres of water and have a light lunch in the early afternoon like a protein shake. Occasionally, I’ll go for a cheeky afternoon run to a bakery for a savoury pastry or a bubble tea joint with work friends for a little pick-me-up. These small pleasures help me maintain my stress levels, especially during hectic work periods. To relieve stress, I aim to exercise at least five days a week. This includes playing in a lunchtime basketball competition with colleagues, participating in oz tag games after work, attending a Barry’s class or enjoying some bouldering.
During particularly busy work periods, I will work after dinner. As a natural night owl, I can get into a productive groove in the evenings, especially when Slack is quieter. However, I’ve recognised the importance of limiting late-night work to improve my sleep quality.
Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach to maintaining it?
Work-life balance, to me, means being able to excel in my career and find fulfilment without making work my sole priority. I want to give equal attention and time to my relationships, health, and hobbies. Achieving a perfect balance is an ongoing challenge, but I’ve discovered some helpful strategies:
- Accept that the balance between work and life won’t be perfect every day: Some days require working late into the night or on weekends, while others offer a breather. Embracing these fluctuations and taking advantage of quieter periods helps me keep going.
- Prioritise, prioritise, prioritise: Not everything on your to-do list needs to get done straight away or maybe even at all. I’ve learned to prioritise tasks that matter and to avoid feeling guilty over what doesn’t get done. In my personal life, I prioritise and plan my personal and social commitments well in advance. They get added to my Google calendar so I can visualise them alongside my work commitments. I’ve also gotten much more comfortable saying “no” to events so I have enough time to relax and recharge.
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?
- Early holiday planning: At the beginning of this year, I booked two extended holidays before work got busy. Before this, I had over 35 days of accrued annual leave because it never felt like a “right time” to go on a long holiday when you’re working at a startup. Recognising how positively travel impacts my mental health, I now make holiday plans at the start of each year.
- Finding activities to truly switch off from work: Previously, I was hitting the gym, but it didn’t provide the mental break I needed — it was easy to read work-related documents and respond to messages from my phone. I’ve since started playing more sports instead that demand my full presence and feel so much better.
- Managing work notifications: I turned off work notifications and hid work apps from my phone’s home screen to reduce late-night work thoughts. If I need to access work apps, I have to search for them. As an inbox-zero type of person who opens notifications immediately, this has helped reduce work distractions during my downtime.
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?
Lately, I’ve been enjoying Ali Abdaal’s YouTube channel. I’ve learnt a lot from his videos which cover productivity, burnout and life in general. His content is easy to digest and often based on research studies, books, and interviews with thought leaders. I am also reading Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker which has prompted me to seriously reassess my sleep hygiene.
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?
These might seem obvious but still serve as helpful reminders.
- Find a job that doesn’t just feel like a job: It’s easier said than done, but when work becomes enjoyable or aligns with your passions, productivity and achieving balance often fall into place. Even if the work itself isn’t always thrilling, consider the people, flexibility, perks, or company mission that can make your job more than just a job.
- Apply equal effort to work and your personal life: It takes effort to prioritise and organise activities to energise you outside of work. Do your future self a favour, block out time for them and stick to these commitments.
- Assess the need to overachieve: This one’s from a psychologist I saw a year ago. Reflect on the underlying reasons driving the need to push yourself to the point of burnout. If it’s imposter syndrome or a similar issue, address it so that you can start believing your efforts are enough without the need for constant overdrive.