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Life Q&A with Ha Nguyen

· 5 min read
Yiyang Hibner

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Q: Who impacted you the most in your life? A: Professionally it would be my personal board of directors - which is a group of trusted advisors, who know you intimately, and who really have a vested interest in your success. They will not only be supportive and be your biggest cheerleader, but they will also give you the hard truth, about where you are in your career and what your development areas are, and if you're ready for the next role or not. My personal board of directors was my sounding board when I was dealing with leadership challenges as a COO or a VP Product, and they also helped me think through career transitions. My board opened doors for me to land a VC role, and also helped me recently think through whether I was ready for a CEO role or not. I wrote more about how my board has helped me, and how you can go about building your personal board of directors here.

Personally, I am married with three amazing boys. I don't think I could do the work I do without a loving and supportive partner. As Sheryl Sandberg says, you need to find a partner who will share 50/50 in household chores, raising the kids, and supporting your career. My husband Cary is an employment attorney who works for himself, so he has more flexibility with his schedule. There have been times when I've worked 70-90 hours a week, and he's taken on more of the household chores and childcare. When I was on Sabbatical, I did lots of solo traveling, and he drove the kids around more. This is what it means to be in a 50/50 partnership: sharing responsibilities equally, even if that means one person takes on more of the load at different times.

Q: You have pivoted your career a few times. From being a startup operator and then to VC and now as a startup fractional COO and advisor, what are some considerations you have made before you officially made the switch?

A: I've always taken stock of my career to make sure I'm still learning and growing. I get bored easily and need to keep moving fast. If I feel stagnant, it's time for a new challenge.

In my first 10 years in tech (2000-2010), I was focused on climbing the corporate ladder. I started as a product manager and quickly moved up to manager, director, and then VP. After 16 years, I felt like I had mastered the product leadership role and was ready for something new.

During my first Sabbatical in 2015, I had a conversation with my old boss from eBay, who had joined a venture capital firm. She offered me a position as an EIR (Executive in Residence). In this role, I helped Omidyar Network’s portfolio companies with product strategy, organizational design, and design sprints. After 6 months, I was offered a full-time position as an operating partner. I eventually moved over to the investment team and started investing in tech startups.

After 5 years of VC, I was wondering: do I want to continue to build? I truly missed building products so I went back to a startup operating role and joined Swimply as their Chief Experiences Officer.

Q: What are some ways that you relax? .. A: I am a big poker player so you will find me in Vegas maybe six times a year playing poker. My website is You can see a few pictures of me there at the final table of the World Poker Tour (WPT) tournament. I also love watching college football so I combine this when doing laundry. Fall is my favorite time of the year, where I spend all Saturdays doing five or six loads of laundry (with a big household) and turning the TV on. I also love cooking and hosting dinner parties. I also believe in human connection so I enjoy meeting people and connecting with them one-on-one. Of course, I love international travel, so I do a lot of international traveling as well. I just came back from being in Paris for 2-weeks where I dropped off my oldest son at college for the semester there.

Q: What are some recent books or tv shows that you recommend? A: I do a lot of audiobooks. Principles by Ray Dalio is a really good book. Every time I did a pivot into a new career, I would read related books, e.g Venture Deals by Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson is great for anyone interested in VC and startups. Another book in terms of being a great c-suite leader is called Startup CXO. Another favorite business book is called Leading with Heart by John Baird & Edward Sullivan, and it’s about how you can really become the best people leader.