Susan Zhang is the Country Development Manager at Amazon; she previously worked on TikTok at ByteDance, as well as Google.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I’m 100% made in China, shipped to Australia for studying and earned degrees in Computer Science and IT. I worked as a software engineer in my early career, before working at Google Sydney and London for four years.
Then I quit Google and moved back to China, worked for two years at ByteDance as Director of Monetization and Corporate Development to help TikTok go global.
Most recently I joined Amazon and returned to Australia as the Country Development Manager, growing international sellers from the US, EU, China and India to Down Under.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
My workday as an Amazonian starts with a coffee at 8am that I sip through while browsing AU/UK news before moving to the study room by 8:30am.
Given that my role entails working with international teams across 3-4 time zones on any given day, I typically start with meeting the Europe team from 8:30am, then domestic meetings and tasks till 12pm, China and SEA business and discussions in the early afternoon then finally India team around 4pm.
I always keep a to-do list on the side of my screen and a ‘follow up’ to quickly cross-off or add new items so I don’t forget. Before I finish the day I will organise the next day’s calendar, send out meeting requests ahead of their time zone and re-prioritize my tasks list. Big stretch and I’m done.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Yes, fortunately. For someone like me, a daily commute by train previously took up three hours whereas now I can comfortably work from home. I don’t need to worry about losing data connections on the train or having to constantly mute/unmute myself for better engagement.
Productivity-wise, it’s a huge plus too, and hey, it makes me happy, which is a great foundation for getting work done, a good mood to pass on to my co-workers as well. I’m pretty sure they can hear the smile and vitality from my voice, talking about positive energy.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
It means learning to prioritise, understanding what works for me and how to bring my best self to work, and in life for the people around me. I think it’s not only time management, but also emotion balance, how to be flexible and leave room for unexpected events, be sanguine and look for solutions and move on.
I’ve gradually understood that work and life are intertwined sometimes. I tend to gravitate towards ‘growth mindset’ to gain invaluable life experience and consider the most important move is the next one.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
Yes, I can now brush my teeth almost anytime I want. Walking along the beach or swimming in the rock pool everyday after work is living my dream. I stopped wearing jeans.
6) Do you have any favorite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
- Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
- My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
G-Suite. Not because I used to work there, but the functionality penetrated into my daily routine: organising tasks (via Keep), chatting with friends around the world (via Gmail), sharing photos with family (Photos) and finding the next hiking spot (via Maps).
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Great question, I should start looking!
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
I think work-life balance means different things to different people. Testing out and customising towards your needs is essential for the life you envision. Be happy.
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