Judith Nguyen Thanh

Head of People & Culture, Mitte

1. Do you remember a time when you were happiest as a child? Where were
you, who were you with and what were you doing?

A lot of moments come to mind: like running with my siblings on the beach, playing in the water, my parents relaxing in the sun. Riding horses on the weekends, spending time in the forest with the girl scouts, learning how to tie knots. I liked and still like being outside, in nature.

2. At what age did you become an adult? What happened and how did you know?

Interesting question: what does it even mean to be an adult? That you have a car, a place and your own income?

For me this was a process that happened over a long period of time and in different phases. Some of those phases might have been: going on an exchange year to Michigan in 11th grade, moving to Berlin, having children of my own.

I’ve always been quite driven by the feedback from others and have had a hard time trusting myself. I tend to second guess a lot. So in the last few years I’ve been working on myself, figuring out why this happens and taking little steps to simply take the wisdom I already have inside myself, without needing a second, third or fourth opinion from family or friends. I guess for me, that could be considered adulthood.

3. What habit or behaviour or belief have you recently acquired? Why is it now in your life?

Habits or beliefs that I’ve acquired in the last years are things that needed to be in my life in order for me to grow and develop into the person I want to be.

A habit that is helping me to get through the pandemic is a very strict structure and a lot of discipline, when it comes to work, food, and self care.

On the other hand I had to learn the hard way, that I need to be more loving and kind to myself, because I’ve got a very strong inner critic. So one habit is regular yoga practice, more quality time with friends and family, journaling and walks in nature.

4. What are the three books that you would unhesitatingly recommend to others? Why?

I’d recommend some of the most recents ones I’ve read. Delia Owens’s ‘Where the Crawdads Sing”, Glennon Doyle’s ‘Untamed’ and Maja Lunde ‘The History of Bees’. All three of them are very different stories, but somehow they’re all beautiful, sad and scary and I’ll not forget them for awhile.

5. What personality trait has got you in the most trouble? What kind of trouble does it get you in?

Haha, I’m excited to answer this one. I guess I am quite impulsive. I mean I never used to think that about myself, but looking back at the things I’ve done and the decisions I’ve taken it’s become pretty clear to me recently. I love that about myself though and it’s bringing the kind of adventure into my life that I need. Without this trait I would most definitely be bored.

6. What is your untrainable superpower?

I would say that I always see the potential in everyone and in everything. I trust things easily. It’s making me open, vulnerable and caring towards others.

7. Have you always had the same political beliefs? If so, why do you think you have held them so long? If not, what event caused you to change your view?

Mhm, hard one. I’ve never been very involved in politics (until i started working in HR and I realized companies are mini-verses and indeed very political and actually pretty much everything is political #headexplodes).

The reason I kept away from a strong political opinion is because I have this belief inside myself, that if I don’t know enough about a topic, I shouldn’t really form an opinion or an belief. That’s kept me from being very outspoken so far, but in the recent years I’ve definitely developed strong beliefs and I stand in for what’s right.

8. When was the last time you felt like an outsider in a group? What/How did you learn?

That’s quite recent, when I changed jobs back in summer 2020. I joined a company that operated very differently to the previous place I worked at (hardware vs software) – I definitely needed some time to adapt. Additionally I inherited a team that was already there for some time and it wasn’t easy to integrate.

What happened is that this experience put me back in the shoes of how new starters must feel when they join a new company and it’s made me rethink how I act around them.

9. What app or tech product have you most recently fallen in love with?

Ahhh, phew, well. I have a hard time falling asleep sometimes and I started using Calm and Breethe for sleep meditations. Also, I do want to mention Mitte.co here, because we’ve been testing the Mitte Home prototype at home and I really love it: mitte.co. It’s a machine that mineralizes and filters your water. It will still take a while until it’s available for everyone, so keep your eyes peeled.

10. What’s the last image on your camera roll? Care to explain?

Well, if the sun shows up in Berlin in January you take a picture.

11. If you were to own a bar, and you could design it how you wanted, what would it look like?

It would be called Cafe Bianco. It would be a mix of co-working, cafe/bar and a woodworking unit. The cafe would be mostly white and it would be built out of used material and feature furniture that me and my brother have upcycled. The woodworking shop would be right next to it, separated from the cafe only by one big glass window, so you could watch people work on the other side.

I have a fully fledged business plan ready haha.

12. Aside from family & friends, if you could invite any 3 people - living or dead - to your final dinner party before the end of the world, who would they be and why?

Hermann Hesse, Theodore Dreiser and Oscar Wilde – they wrote some of the books that I loved most and I’d love to meet them IRL.

13. When it comes to our work and industry: what scares you most?

Currently: the impact the pandemic will have on people in the short-and long run: unemployment, mental and physical health problems – depression, burn-out, loneliness, disconnection…

14. Can you give an example of a time when you had to learn the lesson the hard way?

I mostly feel like I have to learn the hard way for things to stick.

An example I’ve so far not publicly talked about is my burnout in 2020. When I was really unable to function, I knew that I had to do something about it and thankfully found the strength inside myself to get help.

I felt disconnected from everything and everyone, especially from myself. I’d completely lost myself.

How did that happen?

I stopped taking time for myself, for my friends, I was working very hard, I was unable to establish boundaries and I became so sad, that I could not lift my head anymore. It took a long time to get to this stage and there were many warning signs. Now I know what those are and that will hopefully keep me from getting into the same situation.

I suppose it’s one of the reasons I advocate for mental health so publicly. Before this experience I didn’t know how much a mental health challenge can cripple a person.

15. What's a skill that isn’t on your resume, but your former bosses would recognize as one of the reasons you are successful?

Fun-loving. Stupid word I always thought, but I try to keep a light mood at my workplace for myself and other’s I work with and I think that’s making it easy to work with me. (I hope.)

16. What’s the one bad quality you wouldn’t mind in a colleague? Why?

Any ‘bad’ quality has a good side to it. 🙂

17. What role do you find yourself playing when you join a newly formed team? Can you explain why this happens?

The first word that comes to mind is Entertainer! I think I am mostly trying to find common ground as quickly as possible, sharing experience or talking about personal interests, trying to create a safe space for people to open up and also to get to know me. I really like true connections with people, I care about mutual respect and trust. I am uncomfortable with awkward silences and bad moods and I noticed that I try to joke around and make everyone feel at ease.

P.S. Joking on Zoom is difficult.

18. Name one person from your professional life who has had an extraordinary impact on your career. What did they do and what did you learn from that person?

This would be my friend Semir. We’ve studied together, we’ve worked together and without his advice I probably wouldn’t have ended up where i am now. He’s hired me twice in my career (so far) and everytime helped me to figure out which step could be next for me. He’s always giving me helpful and constructive feedback. I’ll be forever grateful. Thanks Semir!

19. If you could add a question for the next person to answer, what would it

Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?

20. Who would you recommend to do the next 20 Questions With … ?

I recently did a webinar together with Marie who works as Head of HR at Taxfix and I think she’d be an interesting guest on your show. Same goes for Deborah Moschioni, who works at Coffee Circle in Berlin. I enjoy and admire reading from people who are very outspoken. Anyway thanks for having me, Hung!

Thank you to Judith Nguyen Thanh for taking 20 Questions for The Brainfood Tribune.

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