Podcast by InnovatorsBox®

Curious Monica: Season 3

Lead with Kindness and Curiosity and Karma will Follow with Nancy Ngo

Curious Monica – a Podcast by InnovatorsBox®. Hosted by Monica H. Kang.

The Curious Monica podcast features candid conversations with innovators in thriving organizations across various industries. In each episode, host & founder of InnovatorsBox, Monica Kang interviews her friends in diverse fields about what they do and why they love what they do. If you’re curious too, you’ll gain incredible insight into the workplace patterns that can change the way you think about work, no matter what industry you’re in or who you are.

The best dream jobs you find may be jobs you don’t see online. Looking back, Nancy Ngo shares how her career and many opportunities came to her because she proactively sought to learn more about the world. Stepping into everything with curiosity, openness to learning, and being kind helped her become the leader she is today, overseeing multi-industry B2B and B2C communication and marketing.

Her internship at TIME magazine opened her eyes to the world of media and communication. She loved stepping into this world. She had read about it in magazines throughout her childhood. Thanks to her mother’s hairstyling business, she had the opportunity to access all different types of magazines and normalize diverse storytelling early on. She honed her leadership skills as she continued to build her career in communication at Google, IBM, TechChange, the US government, and more in 9 cities and six countries. But perhaps what’s more inspiring than her impressive resume is her humanness. She loves her family and friends, and she ensures that we make time for our mental well-being and dancing if that’s your way of destressing. She invites you to be open to new experiences to make the fullest out of your life.

As we honor Women’s History Month this March, we are happy to share Nancy’s inspiring journey into communication and leadership. Connect with Nancy Ngo on LinkedIn. Looking for stories that inspire you and motivate you?

Subscribe to Curious Monica by InnovatorsBox, where host Monica H. Kang unfolds inspiring stories. Visit curiousmonica.com for more stories.

Guest: NANCY NGO

ESG and Social Impact Communications Lead at IBM

Nancy Ngo is a B2B and B2C multilingual marketing and communications expert that is passionate about building a more sustainable and equitable future through connecting people, technology, stories, and data insights. For more than a decade, she has built a multi-sector and international career at leading companies of many shapes and sizes including Google, TIME Magazine, and IBM where she currently focuses on communicating how IBM upholds its environmental and social values. She earned her Master of Arts degree from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in International Economics, and an undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania in Political Science and Hispanic Studies. As a current resident of New York City and a Washington, DC area native, she has lived and worked in 9 cities in 6 countries.

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Episode Shownotes

1. Title of the Episode:
“Lead with Kindness and Curiosity and Karma will Follow with Nancy Ngo”

2. Host:
Monica H. Kang

3. Guest:
Nancy Ngo, ESG and Social Impact Communications Lead at IBM

4. Key Topics Covered:

  • The importance of curiosity in career and personal development
  • Multilingual marketing and communication strategies
  • Diversity and inclusion in leadership
  • Transitioning between diverse industries and roles
  • The role of media and communication in shaping careers
  • The impact of cultural background on professional growth
  • Strategies for job seeking and career development in the communication field

5. Highlights:

  • Nancy’s extensive experience across multinational corporations like Google, Time Magazine, and IBM
  • Insights into navigating careers across different countries and industries
  • The significance of curiosity and continuous learning in achieving success
  • Nancy’s unique approach to overcoming challenges and seizing opportunities in her career

6. Quotes from Nancy Ngo:

  • “I love being able to make connections with disconnected things.”
  • “You should be treating everything you do like you’re an artisan. It’s like building a painting that can’t be replicated easily.”
  • “Be curious and be kind, and you can’t lose.”

7. Some people suggested that we should learn from:

8. Resources Mentioned:


9. Contact Information for Nancy Ngo:


10. Closing Thoughts by Monica Kang:

Monica Kang emphasizes the power of curiosity, kindness, and continuous learning as key takeaways from Nancy Ngo’s journey and encourages listeners to apply these values in their own lives.

11. Episode Length and Release Date:
Episode Length: Approximately 44 minutes
Release Date: March 5, 2024


00:00

Monica H. Kang
When was the last time you followed your curiosity, tried a new job or tried to build a new skill? For Nancy Ngo, that is the very journey she has gone throughout her entire life and professionally. Which explains why her deep root for curiosity and drive to learn has always been there from the very beginning and has been the secret sauce for her career and personal life success. Today, she is a B2B and B2C, multilingual marketing and communication leader that is passionate about creating a more sustainable and equitable world by connecting people, stories, technology and data insights. Her insights in communication and social impact is forward thinking with her ten plus years of working in multisector and international organizations. And so today, as we dive more into stories about female leaders, I couldn’t think of a better person to reach out. 


01:00

Monica H. Kang
Plus, I have personally got to know Nancy throughout our time since SAIS Johns Hopkins in Washington, D. C. And have got to witness how she continued to navigate those multi industries. She’ll share a little bit more about how she has led companies of many shapes and sizes, including Google, TIME magazine, IBM and more, and including times in Vietnam. But also even her early memories working with her mom about hairstyling. We’re going to talk about that too. Currently in New York City, she has previously lived in DC and also nine cities in six countries, which we’ll talk about too. But all in all, what you’ll hear the most is just Nancy’s pure passion and genuine curiosity for the world. And so I hope this inspires you to tap into your curiosity and try something new. So what are you waiting for? Let’s dive in. 


01:59

Monica H. Kang
Meet my friend Nancy. 


02:02

Monica H. Kang
So very excited to have my friend Nancy here. Nancy, welcome to the show. 


02:08

Nancy Ngo
“안녕하세요” (annyeonghaseyo)! Hi, Monica. Thanks for always letting me practice my Korean with you. 


02:15

Monica H. Kang
I’m really excited to have Nancy today. Nancy, as I mentioned just a moment ago, wears many hats. And one of the things I really admire is just her kind of holistic lens into how she built her career, becoming the leader she is today. And so many questions. But first thing to dive right in is like, how in the world did you first think of building your career and public affairs and communication, starting with also interest with languages, too. 


02:41

Nancy Ngo
Sure. Well, I’ll start off saying that growing up in the suburbs of Washington, DC, I grew up in northern Virginia, I was always exposed to people from many different cultures and speaking many languages. In high school, my particular high school, Jeb Stewart High School that is now known as Justice High School, was named the most ethnically diverse high school according to National Geographic. This is the most ethnically diverse high school in the US. And so I thought it was normal that all my friends and I looked like were straight out of a united colors of Beneton ad. I thought, that ride, it’s a small world in Disney world, I thought that was just how the world regularly is until I left DC. 


03:37

Nancy Ngo
And yeah, that’s been just such a part of my identity and something I’ve always sought out in my career and education as well. And this is why you and I met at SAIS at Johns Hopkins. So being able to constantly practice my language skills and to understand others, their history, their culture, what makes them tick, their ambitions from a cultural lens, has always been something that I highly value in whatever work I do. This is why, I’ve gravitated toward larger organizations that are based in many countries. And I would say that generally, my career in communications and public affairs has really been shaped by just my curiosity more than anything else. I’m one of those people where I am a generalist at heart and I like to learn about a lot of different things. I love being able to make connections with disconnected things. And so if you see me, if I’m riding the train or if I’m waiting in line at the post office or the grocery store, I will always be reading the news, going through social media for better or for worse, sometimes that’s doom scrolling, not good for my mental health. Always. Or I’m on my notes app thinking of ideas of, “oh, this could be a cool campaign tagline” or “oh, I loved the way this color palette looked when I went shopping today”, or I was really inspired by this movie or show or this social media post by an influencer, I follow.


05:39

Nancy Ngo
And growing up in the Washington DC area, I always had access to media publications. So whether that was carrying books and magazines that I borrowed from the library or reading publications that my parents brought home or had at their business, they had a hairstyling business, which you might remember, Monica. They had a hairstyling business in the heart of DC and also in Northern Virginia, in Arlington, where we always got free publications. So growing up, I was just used to having stacks of magazines and newspapers, whether it was the Washington Post or Fortune magazine, TIME magazine, Real simple, Parenting magazine, Sports Illustrated. And that habit of constantly keeping abreast of the news and trends just became part of my daily media consumption. And that led me to having an internship at TIME Inc. for one of my first internships when I was in college. 


06:56

Nancy Ngo
I remember when I interviewed for that position they were surprised that I was so familiar with so many titles across Time Inc. 


07:05

Monica H. Kang
Anyone would be. Yeah.


07:06

Nancy Ngo
But it’s because there would be some downtime between doing hair and, oh, I guess I should back up, too. Another random career fact…


07:16

Monica H. Kang
Yeah…


07:18

Nancy Ngo
So I grew up in a family of hairstylists, so I got my hairstyling license when I was in high school. My mom had an instructor’s license to teach cosmetology, but she never opened up a school. So I was essentially her lone pupil in her school. So all those hours I spent with my mom at the hair salon or at her shop, it definitely became ingrained on in me. Like, how to do customer service. How do you talk to new clients and make them feel welcome? How do you listen and be able to meet their needs and communicate what their needs communicate in a way that helps meet their needs? I’ll say. Because a lot of times, some of my biggest mistakes were when there were breakdowns in communication. 


08:21

Nancy Ngo
Like someone might have said, make me look like George Clooney. And I’d be like, okay, well, George Clooney er years. Or like, we had to be very specific. I loved it. I think it’s been a fun side hustle that I’ve had ever since I was really young and is also a skill that I’ve been able to use to help pay for college and grad school. And to this day, I still cut my own hair. I still do my husband’s hair. I’ll do friends’ hair for special occasions. I did my own hair for my wedding. So, yeah, when my daughter grows up, I will be teaching her how to do her own hair, too. She’ll save a lot of money. 


09:10

Monica H. Kang
That’s amazing. No, Nancy, thank you so much already for jumping right in and kind of giving a snippet. And you’ve already answered some of the other questions I was going to ask, which is like, the early beginning. But going back to some of your childhood comment you mentioned, I want to piggyback on it, right. 


09:26

Monica H. Kang
So growing up in Virginia, and even though you had the opportunity to be around diversity early on, I still assume also being Asian American, there’s still not enough perhaps Asian American female leaders, even though you had access to these magazines to see representation. So I’m curious now, being one of the leaders in the space, how does it feel looking back? What would you tell know young Nancy back then as she was scrolling through these magazines.


09:56

Nancy Ngo
So I’m so glad you asked this question because this is one of the reasons I got into communications and media relations. It took me a while to wake up from just some of the toxic headlines I would see that were directed at young women like me, especially in fashion magazines. I was a big fan of teen people 17 magazine. I’m pretty sure I had a subscription to Delia’s catalogs. Do you remember that catalog? 


10:29

Monica H. Kang
Yes, I remember teenage females. I mean, those are kind of essentials. 


10:35

Nancy Ngo
Yeah, that was our era. So I was just so disappointed in how there are these really toxic headlines on constantly obsessing about diet culture and not enough about role models that were making a difference in communities. I wanted to see more about the Margaret Thatcher’s of the world and Donald Merkels of the world. And so I think that as I was growing up, I knew that I wanted to focus on things that weren’t just about image. Like, I knew I wouldn’t belong in fashion pr, for example, and growing up. Also, you’re right to mention that there honestly weren’t many role models that looked like me. But I also grew up in the era of Connie Chung, and she was my aspiration. So as a kid, I wanted to be a broadcast news anchor, and I even practiced doing so. 


11:46

Nancy Ngo
When I was in elementary school, I went to this magnet school in Fairfax county called Bailey’s elementary, and they had this amazing arts and sciences program and even a studio, a recording studio where, yes, we did closed circuit tv broadcasts. So I’d be dressed up in my tweety bird shirt and pigtails, and I would do my best Connie Chung impression with whatever was the news of the day. Like today, due to inclement weather, recess will be canceled and there will be cheese pizza with chef salad for lunch. And I was so proud because I was living my dream. But also just given that era, too. I remember I watched so much MTV and Mickey Mouse club. I wanted to be a professional dancer as, like, I wanted to be a dancer on in living color. 


12:51

Nancy Ngo
Before the days of YouTube and TikTok where you would learn dances there, I would be glued to the tv, watching MTV or VH one and trying to replicate Janet Jackson dance moves. So you see, my love for dancing came from. It was basically VH one kid. 


13:12

Monica H. Kang
Oh, I love it. Well, one of the things I love you just sharing is just the pure curiosity, the drive of venturing out to doing something new, but also growing that in a passion. It seems to have been something consistent within you very early on. I know that’s the Nancy I’ve seen later. But you’re sharing that. Actually, I’ve been always doing that. I’m curious, how did you first even tap into those values? Because that seems to be a very tangible and important value within you that I know consistently has grown. That helped you be the leader you are today, too. 


13:45

Nancy Ngo
Yeah, that definitely is one of my trademarks for sure, my curiosity and my love of learning. And I think, one, I can think of a couple of sources of that. Number one, my parents were originally teachers in Vietnam, so my dad was a math teacher and my mom was an english teacher in Vietnam. So you can imagine she had an easier time immigrating to the US already having some background in English. So in vietnamese culture, teachers are highly revered culturally. I mean, there are teachers that you may have that even decades later they get invited to their students weddings. Like my mom to this day still keeps in touch with some of her students from when she taught. 


14:40

Monica H. Kang
That’s incredible. 


14:41

Nancy Ngo
Elementary school. Wow. Middle school. So it’s incredible. So culturally, education has already been ingrained in me as something that should be a big pillar in my life. Number two, I lived one block away from the public library in the area I grew up in Falls church, Virginia. So I was one of those kids. And it’s funny, I have friends that would make fun of me for it. And I have a friend from Virginia that reached out to me a few years ago and was saying, yeah, Nancy, I remember teasing you because you had a backpack and a book bag. 


15:27

Nancy Ngo
I was one of those kids that just always had a huge load to carry because not only would I have my textbooks and notebooks and trapper keepers and mechanical pencils in my backpack, but I would have my dedicated book bag full of books that I would check outside of whatever required curriculum I had asked my husband. Now I’m still the type of person where I have way too many books on my nightstand that I haven’t finished. I have too many books on queue on the Libby audiobook app. And yeah, I binge listen to podcasts and audiobooks, too. So that’s just part of me being a media junkie from a young age. 


16:19

Monica H. Kang
I love that. Well, thank you for sharing it. I think it’s a powerful reminder that those curiosity continues to grow and you build upon it. I want to revisit kind of going back to kind of your career journey. So you mentioned already briefly your early exposure of high school, hence why you applied to Time magazine, which I think in itself is incredible. I don’t think most teenagers back then would have thought of like, I want to apply and I think got a chance to work there. What did that first exposure reconfirm your passion and maybe perhaps curiosity to communication? Because I’m sure it’s one thing to still be a fan of the magazine. It’s a whole other thing to actually work there and be exposed to the everyday experience. 


17:01

Nancy Ngo
Sure. So that experience was so eye opening. First of all, it was the first time I had ever left Virginia to work somewhere. I mean, I had studied abroad in Spain during my sophomore year of college, but my time in New York during, I think it was the summer of 2005. That summer was the first time I had ever moved somewhere just to work. And it exposed me to so much, especially the world of media relations and the ever evolving media landscape and how stories get placed in different places. What are the levers that are pulled? What are the personal relationships that need to be brokered that shape a story? And why do certain stories show up in certain places and others don’t? 


18:07

Nancy Ngo
And so it was very eye opening to see how, as an intern in college, I can’t believe they let me pitch stories. As, when I think about it now, that’s not something that usually interns are allowed to do in an internship. But, yeah, I was pitching stories. I was writing press releases. Back then, press releases had a much lower bar, especially before the days of social media. We’d be sending faxes, and I remember working weekends during that internship because we’d be sending faxes to the Sunday morning talk shows, whether that was meet the press or others. And yeah, to this day, given the ever changing media landscape, that skill set is still constant. You’re constantly thinking about how do you want to say what you’re going to say in a way that’s going to resonate to the receiver or the message. 


19:12

Nancy Ngo
And all too often when there’s breakdowns in communication, you got to look at, okay, well, what was the intention of what you were trying to say? Did you deliver it in a medium that was receptive to the recipient and how is it interpreted by the message recipient? So it’s a little bit of communications 101. And I loved it. I loved it. 


19:43

Monica H. Kang
Well, I’m glad you got to have that experience. And as you have pointed out, I think it’s so different when we get a chance to move for work and get to experience. That’s a lifestyle change, too. And in New York, and speaking of which, to your point about how constantly thinking about the who to who the communicator and who the receiver, you’ve had to constantly. Now think about that again and again because now you’ve been in completely different industries since that very beginning, which is you’ve got to work at, you’ve been at Google, different tech firms. Also Techchange, which is an intermerge of fast growing company, us government also worked in Vietnam. And so looking back again, I know just to state again, I mentioned at the very beginning you’re representing here on behalf of your own voice, not any of these companies. 


20:29

Monica H. Kang
Just looking back at the past or present, including IBM. Just curious because I could see somebody looking like, oh my gosh, Nancy, that’s so cool. How did you get to work with all these companies? And if you can bring us back to each of these memory lines, I’m curious what helped you because one, I feel like it would be hard to not only enter one, but to have gone through so many. So curious if you can bring us back to those, what helped you navigate and keep that in mind as you grow. 


20:58

Nancy Ngo
Yeah, it’s a good question because I have in some ways had a lot of random pivots into different industries. But I would say the through lines are, number one, like I mentioned before, just a passion for an international lens and always using that from my upbringing in the suburbs of Washington DC. Number two, a passion for technology and believing in the potential of how it can accelerate progress for different goals. Whether that means it’s helping organizations or countries move toward net zero targets, or being able to bring productivity to your day to day work and minimize some of the things that are a bit more onerous and labor intensive. I would also say that I love language. I love being able to learn different languages of industry trees beyond just trying to get better at Korean or Portuguese or Vietnamese or Spanish. 


22:13

Nancy Ngo
And I also want to work on things that matter to me and to the world in terms of how I found these opportunities. It’s interesting because a majority of the jobs that I have had in my career were not advertised jobs. I didn’t even really formally apply to them. They came from different opportunities. Number one, I would say karmic forces. I would say one thing I’ve learned is be nice to everyone, be kind and help others. Because the world works in terms of a huge network of transaction exchanges, in terms of personal favors. Helping others only just adds more deposits to your bank account of goodwill that you build and building your reputation. And two, that back to curiosity. 


23:25

Nancy Ngo
Oftentimes when I have proactively found my dream jobs of the moment, it’s been from asking the questions what does the world really need right now, and how can I bring my skill set to help fill that need? So I’ll give you example. One particular position that I had working in Vietnam was that came from a meeting I had during a course at sice in Vietnam economic development. So I don’t know if you remember Chris Tran, but he was alum from a year before I graduated, and he was working at VNG, one of the largest tech companies in Vietnam. And I knew at some point I wanted to work in Vietnam in some capacity. And he had scheduled a meeting with the CEO to meet with our seminar group that had traveled to Vietnam during our spring break. 


24:30

Nancy Ngo
And I asked him the question, what’s keeping you up at night? What are your biggest challenges in your job now as CEO? And he said, number one, it’s government relations, because there’s a negative perception of gaming in Vietnam as something that’s harming the youth of Vietnam with gaming addiction and wasting time. And number two was the talent pipeline and the lack of it. In Vietnam. There’s simply not enough gaming developers, software engineers, technical architects, you name it. The positions that they needed to help grow the company were not easy to fill. So I said to him, well, why don’t you use your existing social media and gaming platforms to partner with the Ministry of Education to integrate educational content and content that will help educate your future workforce into your existing platforms? And he said, that sounds great. 


25:36

Nancy Ngo
Why don’t you come the summer and help build that for me? I was like, whoa, didn’t expect that. But that’s been a really key question that I keep asking. What’s keeping leaders up at night? What are their biggest problems and needs? And how can I bring my specific skill set to help fill that need? So communications alone hasn’t always been enough. I’ve always had to ramp up and build expertise. In that case, it was the edtech field, especially during that period of time when Edtech was really hot because of the rise of moocs. Khan Academy had just launched Coursera, EdX Udemy had launched recently. And yeah, when I had joined IBM, I asked the same question when I was starting to see news headlines about a traditional b to B company that was starting to talk about some of the consumer uses of AI. 


26:42

Nancy Ngo
And I thought to myself, well, they just opened up a headquarters in New York. They probably need someone with experience with consumer B to C Pr, which was my experience when I was at Google working on consumer pr for Google search. So I had reached out to some loose connections. A friend I had met in San Francisco and said, hey, remember me? We used to go dancing. Heard you’ve been working IBM for a while. I’d love to hear from you. Like, what are some of the biggest priorities of the company right now? I ended up passing along my resume and a short paragraph summary that she could forward to her network. And within a few weeks, my resume and background got on the desk of my hiring manager, who became my manager, and they basically created a role for me. 


27:55

Nancy Ngo
I emphasize that format because one of my pet peeves, honestly, when people will ask me for my help with connecting them to different people across my network or for advice on finding a job at their dream company, is you got to make it really easy to do referrals because that person that is lending you access to their network is putting their reputation on the line, too. So you got to make it worth their while, and you have to make it easy for them. So I wrote my one paragraph summary in a way that would make it easy for my friend to sing my praises without her having to dig for it. So the top highlights of my resume, plus my resume tailored to what I hoped I would be working on. 


28:50

Nancy Ngo
So, yeah, that’s something that, as mentees and junior folks in the communication industry come to me, that’s something that I try to emphasize. You have to really make it easy because you’re just coming and being like, get me a job at X Company, or can you connect me to this recruiter? I’m not sure that I would do that. And you have to respect people’s time and energy that way, too. 


29:18

Monica H. Kang
I love it. Well, thank you so much for that wide range of insights and reflection, but also solid tips and reminders in what we should do and how we can be more mindful, whether it’s the ask or how we think about our careers. And I love that reminder that really the emphasis of manifestation, you kind of putting it out there and trusting the universe and showing up. And it’s making me curious, kind of diving a little bit deeper into the communication department. For those who are less familiar and for those who maybe, perhaps are looking, maybe to transition into it or starting communication, it still could feel very much like, okay, that’s like, there’s so many different types of skills and jobs. And I think even just in our conversation, first of the conversation, I’m keeping tabs of so many. 


30:04

Monica H. Kang
Like, you got to be curious. I maybe have your little book bag with you, too. Keep track of the media, but just the deep insight into it. And so for those who are entering, what would be kind of like, the quick tips of these are different types of communication styles of jobs or core skills that are important and even more so for the next future, given AI’s influence and how it’s coming change. 


30:30

Nancy Ngo
Yeah, that’s a great question. And I would say, number one, beyond being curious and constantly reading, it’s also writing. You really have to master writing, especially in the age of generative AI, where anyone can just enter something, a prompt in chat GBT. And I remember someone saying to me that no matter what technological advancements there are that claim to replace any single skill that humans have, at the end of the day, as people are building their capabilities and their skills, you should be treating everything you do like you’re an artisan, like you’re building a painting that can’t be replicated easily. And the human ability to be creative and to have good judgment, to understand tone and nuance, that’s something that I don’t see chat, GPT, or any other technologies truly ever replacing. 


31:53

Nancy Ngo
And you can bet that a CEO of a Fortune 100 company will not trust a crisis communication statement or a press release to an AI bot to draft. Maybe a first draft. But the power of editing and being able to see how a message can be communicated in different ways, how it could be interpreted from different audiences, having that empathy to really understand how messages can land to different people is something that I don’t see AI ever being able to replace. 


32:35

Monica H. Kang
That’s really helpful to keep in mind and to build on it. I think I would love to get a chance to highlight some of your heroes and key people along your journey. I mean, everything that you’ve shared also, you’ve already hinted people who have helped you, empowered you, influenced you. Looking back, who are some mentors and experiences, really, people who have helped you be who you are today. 


33:05

Nancy Ngo
It’s a long list, and I don’t want to make this like a long Academy Award speech. I’ll say that one thing that has been extremely helpful for me. I recently started working with a coach. And Monica, I know you have your own coaching business, so this is a good way to highlight the value of coaching. So I’ve been working with this coach for the last year, and it was part of this program called leap. I’m not remembering the full acronym, what stands for, but basically leadership for emerging asian american leaders. And there was one beautiful exercise that we did in that workshop that I did earlier this year, where basically there’s a piece of paper with a bunch of squiggly lines like this. Oh, no, just one squiggly line indicating hills and valleys. 


33:57

Nancy Ngo
And were instructed to map out what have been the ups and downs of your career, arguably also life. And who were the people during the down periods that helped lift you up to get you to the next hill. Wow. And I was like, wow, this is a really deep exercise because it made me remember some really early mentors in my career at Google, my various internships, high school teachers, family members. We all go through tough times and it’s really easy to feel down and out and oppressed about it. 


34:43

Nancy Ngo
But having that type of gratitude practice where you really think about what were the things that really helped get me out of that bad spot and then taking the time to personally thank them, that’s part of just my regular reflections that I try to do, where I will journal about that and reach out to people that have helped me at different periods of my career. And it goes back to the power of karmic forces. I do believe in the power of karma. And honestly, some of that outreach has led to other unexpected opportunities for me too. Working with that coach and doing that workshop have helped me to be a better leader because it’s helped to fine tune exactly what is my purpose? What is the way that I can bring my gifts to the world that are just singularly me? 


35:54

Nancy Ngo
And for me, it’s being able to connect people, stories, data to help make a more sustainable and equitable world. I want to build a world that my daughter can thrive in and be proud of me as a mom in trying to make a change. 


36:20

Monica H. Kang
I love it. Thank you for sharing that. You mentioned your daughter also a few times in your family. I’m thinking, as you’re sharing all of this, how in the world does Nancy manages her time and energy? Because it’s one thing to do this as one person, but you’re also a mother. In fact, a newborn. Congratulations again. Very excited for your family. Tell me a little bit. You manage. How do you make sure you’re present for both, not just work and your family and your personal self? 


36:52

Nancy Ngo
I don’t have a perfect answer. Honestly, I’m still trying to figure it out and it changes day to day. Generally speaking, it’s prioritizing the basics of how do I just function as a human being? I need my sleep, I need to eat regularly, drink water, make time for bathroom breaks, like all of that, like exercise. It’s also being transparent about what my limitations are for a given day and ruthlessly prioritizing. Okay, what is the one thing that cannot fall through the cracks? In a day, it might be a response to a reporter on deadline. It might be making sure a script goes through so that the production process can start, so that a video can be published on time. It could be contingencies like limited time windows of availability with the executives that I work with. 


37:58

Nancy Ngo
So getting something in front of them before they board a plane, it really varies. So I think it’s that need to prioritize. It’s building a support network. You know, my husband and how he’s my rock. And wherever we can get support, I’ve had to learn to ask for it and to advocate for it, whether that was hiring a birth and postpartum doula when I had my daughter or really carving time out for therapy. That’s been a really important part of my journey in becoming a leader, too, because I can’t imagine anyone who could be a really effective leader without being self aware and knowing why they’re triggered by certain things and why there may be certain patterns and behaviors and understanding your motivations and navigating relationships around that. So I am very pro mental health, and I don’t think it’s spoken about enough. 


39:13

Nancy Ngo
I don’t think people are open to talking about this still very taboo, stigmatized topic. But yeah, I couldn’t be the leader and mother I am without therapy coaches. My support network. 


39:32

Monica H. Kang
Love it. Thank you so much for sharing that. And of course, as we celebrate international Women’s history month, it’s already march. I can’t believe how fast time has flown by. But in honor of that one things we’ve asked all of our guests is if you can introduce us to more people so that we are exposed to more leaders of that different circuit. So this month, since we’re highlighting international Women’s month, we’ve asked all our guests if you can share at least three innovators who happen to be a female that we should all learn from. So if you can share me the names, I’ll follow up with you later. So we have the contacts and we can put it in the show notes to follow up. 


40:08

Monica H. Kang
But if you can shout out three people we should learn from who happen to be a female, who would it be? 


40:14

Nancy Ngo
Oh, that’s a hard one because I know just so many amazing, badass women that are doing really cool things. I would say from a communicator standpoint, I went to this amazing Axios communicators event in New York at the end of 2023 where there were two really standout leaders. I highly recommend Molly McPherson is a crisis communications expert, and she regularly posts on TikTok about tips on communications. I’d also say someone I’ve really admired as a fellow asian american communications professional is Lulu Chang Maservi. She was the former head of communications for Activision Blizzard and navigating, working with the FTC for its acquisition by Microsoft. And honestly, my mom, I know it’s really cheesy and cliche, but my mom has just been such an inspiration for me as a serial entrepreneur that has reinvented herself time and time again. 


41:38

Nancy Ngo
She was the person who introduced me to Dolly, the generative AI image generator. Wow. The fact that in retirement she’s teaching me about that and is much more savvy at Photoshop than I am. She’s been an inspiration to me in always being able to stay calm, even no matter what circumstances she’s going through, being able to reflect on her life in retirement now that she’s very into Zen Buddhism. I admire that very much about her. And she’s an amazing grandmother to my daughter. 


42:30

Monica H. Kang
Well, we’re so lucky that she was your mother. So we get to have the Nancy who you are today. This has been so enriching as we wrap up, which I’m so sad. I feel like we can spend another few hours on this. But two rapid questions as we wrap up. One, what is your final? We covered a lot of different insights, but any final words of wisdom you want to share with all our interviewers who’s tuning in today? Wherever they are in their journey? 


42:56

Nancy Ngo
I would say be curious and be kind. You can’t lose love. 


43:02

Monica H. Kang
That and what is the best way people can follow up and stay in touch with you as you continue on your journey? 


43:08

Nancy Ngo
I would say I’m most active on LinkedIn. Find me on LinkedIn. Nancy. No, it’s spelled NGO, just like non governmental organization. 


43:19

Monica H. Kang
Well, thank you so much, Nancy. This was such a treat. Thank you for joining us, folks. We’ll be back again with another story next week, but please make sure to visit our blog and resources where we have all of this so you can follow up and connect with Nancy. But we’ll see you again soon. Thank you. 


43:35

Nancy Ngo
All right, thank you. Bye. 


43:43

Monica H. Kang
Thank you so much for tuning in to another episode at curious Monica. I’m your host and executive director of the show, Monica King, founder and CEO of InnovatorsBox. And a little love shout out to our team who made this show possible for you today. From Innovators Box Studios Audio Engineering and producing Sam Lehmart, Audio Engineering Assistance Ravi Lad; website and marketing support Kree Pandeyl Graphic Support Lea Orsini, Christine Eribal; original music by InnovatorsBox Studios; and executive producing, writing and editing and interviewing, and all that jazz by me, Monica Kang. I hope you enjoyed today’s conversation. Please send us a note for any feedback and suggestions and questions that you have at [email protected] have a wonderful day and see you soon. 

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