Mi Nguyen is the director of global sourcing and product management for Petmate, a manufacturer and distributor of brands in the pet space. Prior to joining Petmate, Mi worked in global sourcing for Pier 1 Imports and J.C. Penney. Mi is a new Women in Retail Leadership Circle member! We asked her a series of questions so you can get to know her better.
1. What’s the best book you’ve read recently?
Phil Knight’s “Shoe Dog” and Arlan Hamilton’s “It’s About Damn Time.” I find inspiration in stories of self-taught entrepreneurship, pioneering ideas, challenging status quo, and the power of the human spirit and strong will.
2. What’s a tip you have for productively leading a team while working from home?
I manage and work with a global team. Our U.S.-based product team has been back to the office for a few months. Managing our Asia team will always be a remote set-up for me. My team also manages the end-to-end product operations and production process with a large network of vendor partners globally. That ecosystem has been global and will stay mostly virtual.
My tips are to keep every player (either internal team members or external vendor partners) engaged in your shared story, purpose and goals; be transparent of challenges and solve them together as a team as they are fun puzzles; and share and celebrate teamwork wins and progress, big and small, frequently.
3. What’s a mistake you made early on in your career?
Trying to be process-perfect. Earlier in my career, I had the opportunity to go through the Supply Chain Management Trainee program at J.C. Penney, and I worked at two distribution centers. One assignment was to manage up to 32 associates at one point across two shifts during a major IT implementation for the company’s fastest-growing business. The mistake that I made was to build out several processes and standard operating procedures (SOPs) that looked great on paper, mostly on my own. I quickly learned from the mistake, and pivoted towards empowering team members who were closest to each process to revamp and implement SOPs. My role was to help them drive execution, remove roadblocks, and make sure as a team we were on track with our shared goals.
4. What’s the toughest part of being in charge?
Finding, recruiting, developing and retaining the right talents that drive the business forward.
5. What’s the best way you motivate team members?
Engage them in strategy building, equip them with data, and empower them to take the driver’s seat.
6. What woman inspires you right now and why?
My grandmother. She’s in her late 80s and was still running a small convenience store until three months ago when she suffered a stroke. Fortunately, she has been recovering, slowly, but steadily. My grandmother lives in Vietnam. She raised six young children while running her own businesses during the war. After 1975, her businesses were shut down since having your own business wasn’t a good thing there at that time. Through years of hardship and perseverance, she got all the children to complete university-level education while getting back into running her own business. Her strong will and optimism, no matter what circumstances life throws at her, always inspire me.
7. What are you looking forward to the most for retail in 2021?
I’m excited to see brick-and-mortar innovations coming to life, especially around the in-store environments that foster an integrated experience blending product, value-add service, and community connection. Wouldn’t it be cool to see more collaborations between retail, hospitality, health and wellness brands not only in digital, but also in the physical world?
8. What’s one thing you look for when interviewing a potential job candidate?
I look for talents that have a passion for and the balanced ability to manage people, product and process.
9. What’s something that you learned about yourself in the past year?
As a leader, I needed to learn how to rest and recharge, fully and intentionally. I’m still not there and still learning.
10. What’s your favorite podcast?
Brené Brown’s Unlocking Us and Dare to Lead podcasts.
11. What values are most important to you as a leader?
Courage, authenticity and strategic vision.
12. What’s the most important thing people should know about you?
I’m passionate about connecting talented and driven people from different walks of life and backgrounds together to build collaborations that drive impactful results and positive change. I was fortunate to have the opportunities to travel to 15 countries, have lived and worked in four, and learned that the best ideas and most impactful collaborations, most of the time, are not formed in conference rooms and formal meetings.
13. What is one habit you adopted while working remotely that you’d like to keep with you as you return to the office?
I started my gardening hobby a couple years ago when my work travel schedule got really hectic. Gardening helped me recharge. With the pandemic and more time at home, I grew my small gardening area to now a backyard “farm” with several raised beds. I plan to keep my daily gardening habit going for the long run.
14. How would you describe yourself in a single sentence?
Global nomad, life-long learner, purpose-driven leader, and student of retail.
15. What’s your favorite app?
16. What do you do to recharge?
Reading and gardening.
17. What’s your biggest accomplishment?
Mentoring young talents, especially women, and seeing them grow, find their voice, own their stories, and make a difference.
18. What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?
There’s no job too big or too small. In every role you’re in, look at the business as if it’s your own, be fully invested and drive it. Always look for role models around you and learn from them. And be a role model. There’s always someone watching and learning from you.
19. What gets you up in the morning?
I’m working with Petmate, a leading manufacturer and distributor of several power brands in the pet space. I’m driven by the fact that my work helps serve and better the lives of pets and pet parents. Pets have always been a stellar source of health, wellness and emotional support to humans, and more so during these challenging times.
20. How would you describe your leadership style?
Strategic, inclusive, hands-on and action-driven.