‘Unanswered emails bother me’ – 24 Hours with…Essence’s Chandler Nguyen

Checking and clearing email is a 'sacrosanct' task for Essence's Asia-Pacific vice president for product Chandler Nguyen, even as he juggles multiple geographies and responsibilities

6.00am: Exercise for the mind and body. With a child in primary school, I wake up pretty early every day. The first thing I do is to meditate for about 15 minutes to gain more head space. Then I head out for a run. This one hour not only gives me energy for the day but also puts me at peace.

From the morning run

I try my best to start the day with a predictable routine, as every day is unique and full of surprises with Essence growing year on year – just last year we doubled our APAC footprint.

8.00am: On the way to work, I read The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg. They help me understand the markets, global and regional economies, and how they can potentially impact our clients’ businesses. Often, these competitive developments can have a downstream impact on marketing plans.

8.30am: I like to start my work day early with few distractions. A sacrosanct activity – on which I spend close to one hour in the morning – is to read, reply or archive email that I received overnight from our global clients and teams.

I have made it a habit of deciding quickly what I want to do with an email (archive, reply, need further thought) to ensure that my mailbox is always kept at under five to 10 items. Unanswered emails bother me and I believe in closing these loops in a timely manner.

9.30am: Time for a “climate check”. I love walking around the office and interacting with my colleagues and team.

It helps give me a quick sense of the general climate in each team and identify potential areas that I need to follow up on, with some face time. Seeing me also reminds my teams to flag any urgent issues that require immediate attention.

Besides, cracking jokes and having a laugh with the team in the morning is a fun thing to do.

Mornings with the team

10.00am: Afternoons are mostly dedicated to regular catch-ups with our senior client contacts in the region to ensure that our priorities are on track and I can provide deep dive analysis into any major tier one programmes as and when needed.

The core part of my role is to bring our product proposition to life across markets, inside and outside Essence, and to our agency partners. It involves engaging with senior regional client leads to define what is next for their media strategy, and understand their evolving needs and challenges.

Once the client’s annual priorities are reviewed and finalised as part of their multi-year plan, I work with our specialist functions to make it a reality.

12.00pm: I have not finished the last season of ‘Last Week Tonight with John Oliver’. It is time to get my usual Chinese soup for lunch and enjoy the last two episodes. I love the show on HBO and have been following John Oliver for the past few years.

2.00pm: My favourite time of the day – on-the-job coaching. One of the biggest satisfactions that I get from work is being able to spend time on leading and coaching our team across nine offices and to watch them grow over the years.

Yes, this means a fair amount of travel across the region but it comes with the territory. We use video conferencing every day but it still cannot beat face time.

I get involved with key global, regional or country presentations or campaigns at the start or at the very end, right before external presentations. At the start, I work with the team to create the overall message, the narrative and detailed outline to suit the target audience’s needs.

During the quarterly business review or important post-campaign analysis, I step in again to help structure the overall story and ensure that we selected the most important actionable insights with the biggest impact to our clients.

Keeping abreast of client campaigns helps me stay on top of deliverables, and ensure that seamless and quality work gets delivered every single time.

4.00pm: Time to get in sync. Connecting and brainstorming with the other business and practice leads in the region is absolutely exhilarating and an essential part of the day. As the organisation grows, we have established more specialised capabilities; so having regular meetings on common sets of objectives helps break down silos and find solutions.

6.00pm: Family time. Quality time with the family is the best way to unwind. I have dinner at home with my wife and daughter and we talk about how each of our days went.

Today, my daughter is very excited that she was invited to her new schoolmate’s birthday party next week. As for me, I’m heartened to know that she has already made some friends after just two weeks in a new school.

9.00pm: After dinner, we do a quick check on my daughter’s homework and help her prepare for the next day at school. I am heartened that my daughter can pack for school by herself now.

We leave all of our phones far away for a restful sleep.

Chandler Nguyen is vice president of product for Asia-Pacific at Essence. He lives in Singapore


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