Natalie Nguyen, Co-Founder and CEO of startup Hyper Anna; an Australian data analysis software that taps into business intelligence and delivers real-time insights from natural language requests.
Natalie is a self-taught engineer who built a viable beta product within six months and raised over $12.5 million in funding. The company’s investors include Sequoia China, Airtree Ventures, Westpac Reinventure and IAG Firemark Ventures.
Subscribe to Balance the Grind’s newsletter so you never miss one of our conversations about work, life & balance.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
The idea for Hyper Anna came to me while I was working as a data scientist. I found that most of my time was taken up by relatively simple data requests from my team, however, the sheer volume of requests meant I was unable to fully dedicate myself to high-value and in-depth data analysis.
I co-founded Hyper Anna in early 2016. We built a viable beta product within six months, and raised over $17 million in the company’s first 24 months.
Today, Hyper Anna services large enterprises across industries in Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I will wake up around 6am. I have a seven-year-old Frenchie, who provides an unlimited amount of cuddles, while I catch up on what’s happening on my phone.
If there’s no external meeting in the morning, I will get to the office around 9am, otherwise it really depends where my meeting takes me.
Throughout the day it does get quite hectic as I’m usually in and out of meetings, from discussing a new product feature to meeting a potential new client. It really varies.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
The reality of building a company from the ground up is that it requires all hands on deck all the time. I make sure I am present in the company and shoulder the roller coaster ride with my team.
The upside of this is that we’ve built a lot of memories together, and that makes us stronger as a team.
4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you manage your workload and schedule?
As cliche as it sounds, good technology is really important. I find using Slack not only allows collaborations and real time discussions, but you can always be there for your team, even if it’s virtually.
Other than that, I enjoy spending time with my team. When work gets hectic, I just take a moment, crack a joke with the people around me, and talk about something completely random and out of the blue. That really helps me to get my mood right back up and get on with the crazy day.
5) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
This is something I’m constantly working on. When I first started Hyper Anna, I simply didn’t have a work-life balance. It was all about bulldozing ahead and building the company.
As time goes by, things start to fall into place. I make sure to decompress after a work day, finding something relaxing to do or learning something new. These days I’m learning poker through an online Masterclass. I love the strategy behind it, it’s really relaxing and interesting at the same time.
It’s crucial to consciously take control of your resting time and recharge, to avoid burning out.
6) What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help you strive for success and balance?
Tackling all problems head on!
I try my best to solve problems. It’s human nature to avoid confronting issues or to pick the path of least resistance, but sometimes it’s unavoidable, especially when your team relies on you to make a decision. I make it my job to push through and solve hard problems.
My team and I stick to the “Get out of the forest” rule, where we always make a decision during a meeting before it’s over. The idea behind it is that if we are all lost in the forest, the only way out is to make a decision to go in a certain direction that may lead to the exit. You might make a wrong turn at a certain point of time, but at least you are moving closer to the solution rather than standing still.
Finally, we take the chance to celebrate our wins as we go, whether they’re big or small.
7) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?
Recently I read Wabi Sabi: Japanese Wisdom for a Perfectly Imperfect Life by Beth Kempton.
Wabi Sabi is about the Japanese mindset and method of accepting imperfection. It follows the philosophy of finding happiness where you are today, rather than postponing your happiness for a time you’ll feel more accomplished or successful. I found this book really interesting and helpful.
8) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?
I find exercise not only helps me to relax and decompress, it helps me to start my day right.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Work-life balance is a complicated concept, there’s no one formula that fits all.
Rather than fine tuning work-life balance per say, I think it is more important to work on finding joy throughout your workday. It’s essential to find joy in what we do, whether it’s a longer lunch break, starting a project you really want to do, or walking the additional mile to your favourite coffee shop. If it lifts your mood, I consider that a win.
If you’d like to have a conversation with us about how you balance the grind, get in touch with us!