celebrating women

Pauline Nguyen: lessons from an entrepreneur


Alison Hobbs Oct 20, 2018

Here at Optus, we regularly host ‘Women in Leadership’ sessions which typically involve a guest speaker sharing their story to our employees, aimed at empowering women in the workplace. Recently, we welcomed Pauline Nguyen to our Sydney campus as one of our guest speakers. I’ll be honest, it’s rare that I come out of a session and feel like I’m on the verge of tears, but don’t worry, these weren’t tears of sadness, instead they were tears of inspiration.

In case you haven’t heard of Pauline Nguyen, she is the owner and co-founder of Red Lantern, the most awarded Vietnamese restaurant in the world. She’s also an award-winning author and international speaker.

Pauline opened by asking the audience “do you mind if I get personal?” adding “I can’t just share the good stuff; I also have to share the bad stuff”. Pauline’s engaging scan of the room left you with an amazing sense of being the only person within her presence. Pauline shared her story passionately; escaping Vietnam on a homemade boat with her family when she was just three years old; being driven by her father, often through force, to achieve top grades in school; and raising her brothers while her parents managed their local store in NSW… her childhood was far from simple. But whilst many could have chosen to resent such early life challenges, Pauline believes strongly that life is a journey and obstacles are an opportunity to create success. Furthermore, Pauline has been able to translate this wisdom into not only her personal life, but also in her day to day life as a leader in business.

From a leadership prospective my key takeaways include Pauline’s view’s that strong leadership is directly correlated to embracing change (check out her tips below) and the power of a growth mindset.

As a leader we must be flexible, calm, and understand that change is the only constant.

We need to embrace change and learn to expect change.

We have to be the change.

We are courageous; we feel fear but proceed anyways.

We are resilient. We can fail fast and get up again – keep swinging that bat.

We feel grit, passion and perseverance for long term goals. We understand that life is a marathon not a sprint.

No strong leader got anywhere by being set in their ways, and saying “we’ve always done it this way”. As much as change can make most of us uncomfortable, it’s also critical to explore those emotions and find out what’s on the other side. Chances are; it’ll leave you better off than if you hadn’t been curious. It’s up to us, as leaders, to initiate, support, and lead change as businesses (especially the technology industry) continue to evolve.

It’s only natural that humans feel truly happy when they are making progress, a ‘growth mindset’. As soon as we become stagnant, it’s easy to lose motivation, focus, or passion. Pauline shared the following ways that she keeps herself on track:

  • Read a lot and always listen to new voices. Don’t just read things once, read it over and over; let the information sink in.
  • Be present in the moment. Especially with your family.
  • Never feel guilty. This has the same vibration as shame. Stand up for the choices you’ve made and stick to them.
  • Don’t spread yourself too thin. Focus your energy on people and areas that bring you the most joy. Energy management is one of the greatest assets of a leader.
  • Be consistent. Professional leaders aren’t moody, they show up consistent every time. The quality of our emotions is the game of life.
  • Be authentic. Stop caring what other people think, this keeps us imprisoned. Instead, find what brings you joy and have the courage to build your life around that.
  • Meditate – and meditate often (2-3 times a day). Many studies show that meditation is a shared trait across many successful CEO’s.

Pauline talked about her attitude and mindset around dealing with times of stress and difficult situations. Rather than playing the victim card and saying, “why me?”, instead, choose to see obstacles as an opportunity to overcome the challenge. When you overcome it, the pot of gold is yours for the taking.

As a female leader here at Optus, I was thankful for the opportunity to hear Pauline’s story, her insights, and have a fresh perspective on what it means to be a great female leader. I look forward to taking her tips and executing them in my personal and professional journey.


About the author

Alison Hobbs

Associate Director, Talent Acquisition at Optus


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