Directors, Interviews, Marketing & Comms

Balancing the Grind With Mylan Vu, Managing Director at Hotwire

June 12, 2019

Mylan Vu is the Managing Director at Hotwire, a global communications agency focused on B2B & consumer tech brands.

Over the past two year, Mylan has led the Hotwire Australia team, achieving double digit YoY growth and snagging an award for Mumbrella’s PR Employer of the Year.

Balance the Grind spoke to Mylan about her experience leading and managing the Hotwire Australia team, typical day in the life a Managing Director, maintaining balance in agency life and more.

This conversation is brought to you by Teachable, a powerful yet simple all-in-one platform to create and sell beautiful online courses.

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

I’ve been across agency and in-house PR and communications roles for over a decade, spanning Australia and Japan.

I did a tonne of internships throughout uni at various agencies and found my most interesting work in the B2B tech space, which has directed the majority of my career.

I loved the challenge of finding ‘golden nugget’ stories among seemingly dry materials and corporate accomplishments.

By working with B2B tech companies around the world, my appreciation grows every day for just how deeply tech is changing our world and making it a more fascinating place to be.

As well as working with amazing brands and clients, I’ve also had a privilege of leading and managing incredible people.

In my last 2 years at Hotwire, I’ve led the Australian team, growing from a handful of consultants to now being a 15-strong team of award-winning experts. We recently merged with brand and design agency, Precinct, further doubling the size of our business and significantly broadening our offering to clients.

2) What is your current role and what does it entail on a day to day basis?

As the Managing Director for Hotwire Australia, I am responsible for:

  • overseeing and driving the success of our client portfolio
  • leading and empowering our team of 15 in Sydney
  • collaborating with our global leadership team and other Managing Directors across Hotwire to align our activities with the global business strategy, and
  • taking ownership of hitting our own local KPIs and goals, including financial, client retention, and staff satisfaction targets

3) What does a typical day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

My days generally start and end with calls with our teams and clients around the world on Hotwire’s business strategy, client programs and how we can be going above and beyond for global clients, and/or opportunities to grow the business.

In between, I generally spend 50% of my time with my teams and clients to guide any crisis comms programs, input into strategy recommendations and implementation, build on creative campaigns, meeting 1-1 with staff to discuss their own career goals and paths, or meeting 1-1 with clients to dig deeper into how we can be adding value to their business.

The other 50% of my time is split across meetings and actioning initiatives across the HR, finance, and operations aspects of the business to ensure we’re running effectively and profitably.

4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you prioritise your workload?

Someone once told me that the average agency to-do list starts off full at the start of the day, and ends up being even longer at the end of the day. We laughed about it at the time, but it’s this exact mentality and level of complacency with excessive workloads that inevitably leads to burnout.

Consequently, I generally treat my calendar as a to-do list. I slot in activities – like strategy decks, team update about X, Y, Z, and content creation – as if they were meetings, and I give them ample time to be completed, factoring in the high likelihood of being disrupted by a client or staff emergency 1-2 times a day.

A constantly changing workload is inevitable in agency life, but that doesn’t mean we’re completely out of control of our day – in fact, with proper time and project management, it can be the opposite.

This method helps me to only commit to tasks I can feasibly fit into the day, and also set realistic expectations with the team and our clients on when tasks can be completed.

5) In between your job, life and all your other responsibilities, how do you ensure you find some sort of balance in your life?

I lean heavily on loved ones in my life that keep me grounded – my baby niece and nephew are always able to effortlessly remind me of what’s really important, and why we work to live, not the other way around.

6) What are some of the things you do to take time out and recharge?

It’s easy to get into a spiral of activity and flurry of work where it can start to feel like you’re constantly doing things for others – ‘always’ giving time, energy, headspace, and ideas, rather than receiving. Of course, this is rarely reality but we all find ourselves in this frame of mind from time to time.

I find one of the best ways to recharge is to consciously do something ‘for me’, every day. It could be something as small as getting a coffee or going for a walk, or something indulgent like getting a new set of headphones.

Instead of making these choices based on ‘need’, switching to think of these as a ‘reward’ for everything you do every day can be surprisingly uplifting and motivating, without over-inflating your ego (hopefully!).

7) What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help you strive for success and balance?

Ask for help – particularly when it’s embarrassing! There’s a common misconception that asking for help makes you look weak and incapable. In my experience, it’s been an effective way to show self-awareness, get training to upskill quickly, and then use those new skills to further catapult my career.

Focus on self – this isn’t just in relation to work-life balance, but throughout your day-to-day. A lot of people (I used to be well and truly in this group) worry about what others are saying or thinking about them, but the reality is the only person who is really judging you is you.

If we all focused efforts on being our best selves, even in the off-chance someone is unhappy with that, there’s literally nothing else you can do – so why worry about it?

8) Are there any books you’ve read that have helped you with work-life balance?

Must reads:

9) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

Cancel unnecessary meetings in the morning, and confirm my purpose for meetings I am attending. Time is more than money – money you can get back, time you can’t. We need to be purposeful in how we use it.

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