BABE #128: SANDRA NGUYEN, VP of People & Culture @ Volusion
As the VP of People & Culture at Volusion, today’s babe continues to successfully climb her company ladder - progressing from roles in sales and project management to HR and recruiting. Celebrating ten years at one company is a rare accomplishment in today’s workplace, and we're beyond impressed by Sandra's investment, ambition, and proficiency in her work as the resourceful leader she is today. Thanks for chatting with us, Sandra. You are most certainly a hustlin' babe!
Babe you admire and why?
Sheryl Sandberg. I really found her book, Lean In to be inspirational. In it, she shares her personal journey and struggles along the way. It was real and relatable. There are so many amazing quotes from the book, but a few of my favorites are: “Careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder” and “What would you do if you weren't afraid?”
How do you spend your free time?
If I’m home (which is rare) I love to cook and entertain. However, I’m usually traveling, and shuttling my boys to golf tournaments on the weekends.
Favorite fictional female character?
Sydney Bristow from Alias. I always wanted to be her!
Go-to coffee order?
Extra-hot soy vanilla latte
Three things we can always find in your fridge?
Blue cheese (the stinkier the better), wine and milk
Go-to news source?
Favorite social media account to follow?
@lauraiz on Instagram. Her posts are the cutest!
Last concert you attended?
Ed Sheeran—and it was amazing!
What’s something that not many people know about you?
I’m the only child and first generation born in the United States. My parents immigrated to America from Vietnam in the early 70s.
Tell us about your hustle.
As the head of People & Culture at Volusion, I get to emerge myself in all things recruiting, P&C operations and culture, and help drive our company’s mission and strategy.
What does your typical workday look like?
Every day is different. I like to start my day off by chatting with my team to catch up on social things and then dive right into checking emails and confirming my schedule for the day. I try to keep my mornings fairly open to ensure I’m available for impromptu meetings and conversations with employees and managers as needs come up. Some days are bit more meeting-heavy, whether it’s a planning meeting, problem-solving meeting or something’s-on-fire-and-we-need-to-put-it-out meeting. But one thing is definite: every day is different. I think that’s why I love it so much.
How long have you been with Volusion and what have your job transitions looked like up to this point?
I recently celebrated my 10-year Volusionversary! I started off in sales, then moved into a project manager/design manager role, and progressed into recruiting and HR. I was naturally the go-to person for HR-related matters when we were a company of about 30, which then led me down the HR path. At one point, I was the only recruiter, and I helped grow our company from 50 to over 100 employees. Being the first person in this role was challenging, yet so rewarding! Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there—you never know unless you try, right?
Would you say you’ve worked up to the roles you planned on, or has your career path changed?
The road I journeyed on certainly was not what I planned (in a good way). I never did see myself in HR, but when the opportunity presented itself, it really made sense and was an a-ha moment for me. I think when working for a startup, you just roll up your sleeves and pitch in wherever you’re needed for the business at that given time. At the time I joined Volusion, we needed all hands on deck for sales. Starting in sales gave me some good insight into the business and our software. I truly feel it’s part of the reason I’ve been successful in HR. Being able to understand and grasp the business side of the house provides leverage in being a better partner to all of the different leaders within the company, because you’re able to balance the business needs with the human needs.
Have you always had an affinity for leadership roles?
I think I’ve always had an affinity for leadership roles, as I’ve never been shy to voice my opinions or do things I feel would be a more efficient way (even if it was unconventional). I’m a natural problem-solver and I think a strong trait of being a leader is to be able to problem-solve.
What are traits that every company leader should have?
I feel strongly that every leader should have humility, integrity and the ability to be open-minded. I personally set those standards for myself and for my team.
What has kept you working with the same company for as long as you have?
It makes me proud to say I’ve been here 10 years. I certainly do think it’s rare these days that someone stays 5-plus years at a company, but I feel a sense of responsibility as I joined when we were fewer than 30 employees, and at one point over 400 employees. I really do feel like Volusion is part of my family. I’m passionate about how our culture has evolved to where it’s at today, and it just keeps getting better and better. I know some may look at too long of a tenure as a negative thing, but I don’t see it that way. We’re building ambassadors and founders, and it’s refreshing to see tenured employees here because they believe in the company as much as I do.
How has your gender and/or ethnicity affected your professional experience?
I don’t think my gender or ethnicity has impacted or affected my professional experience. I’ve been fortunate to have such supportive leaders and team members that gender or ethnicity does not matter. I’ve certainly heard some unfortunate stories from others who have not been as fortunate as I have but, honestly, it has never been an issue for me.
What is the gender ratio like in your industry?
The software/tech industry is certainly populated by more males, however there has been a more positive shift towards gender equality and diversity in the industry. It will still take some time, but I do feel it has evolved significantly.
What kind of support system do you have behind you and your work?
I have an amazing support system behind me. My team, colleagues and leaders are so supportive, candid and honest—which is great! On the homefront, my family certainly are huge cheerleaders as well. And they keep me check.
What are some of the everyday struggles with your job that we might not see?
The tough balance that happens everyday between the business side and the human side. At the end of the day, we are running a profitable business, and sometimes need to make tough business decisions that impact our employees.
What advice would you give to a babe trying to break into your industry?
Take some time to learn about the company and understand their mission. Is it something you can get behind and support? HR really isn’t just about the people - it’s a balancing act between business and people. Catch up on business articles and not just HR articles.Once you can get behind it, the HR side of things comes naturally. Have a strong sense of business acumen in addition to HR, and you will be instrumental in driving business objectives across the organization.
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
Always be true to yourself. Don’t be afraid of failure. Surround yourself with positive and supportive people.
Volusion is an e-commerce platform where shoppers have spent more than $26 billion and placed over 185 million orders. Based in ATX and founded in 1999, the leading mobile-friendly website-building platform offers 24/7 tech support with a heart for innovation and entrepreneurship. Launch the biz of your dreams with a free 30-day trial today using code 'babeswhohustle' at checkout!