Co-Founder and Head of Product Design
This was an incredible, positive change for the team. Whitney’s coaching gave me the confidence and support I needed to convince and work with my team towards our own concrete goals and objectives—by asking for what we needed.”
Nguyet is a startup founder and head of product design at Disco, empowering people to own and manage their digital identity. She was formerly VP of Design at Consensys, co-founder and design lead at Civil, and a Creative Director at The Atlantic. Nguyet is a fine artist exploring identity, belonging, and consent drawing on her childhood experiences as a refugee.
What was the moment you realized you needed support?
When I was promoted from design lead to VP of Design at my startup—managing a design team of three (spanning product design and marketing design) while also being a researcher. I realized I needed support because success was not explicitly defined and there were unclear expectations for growth from leadership. I found myself without boundaries, and being pulled in a lot of directions. I didn’t know what my strengths were, the kind of leader I wanted to be, or how to show up to support my team. At the time, my startup was merging with a bigger company so the ambiguity was overwhelming. There were a lot of strong voices around me but no clear leadership, and no product direction. I couldn’t clearly see the path ahead of me, and I didn’t have the emotional support to empower myself. I had an idea of the problem I wanted to solve, but needed an objective perspective to help flesh out the ideas more.
How did you decide Whitney’s coaching could be that support?
My best friend Sarah recommended Whitney after going through the coaching herself. Whitney’s background as a designer and knowing that she uses the design methodology [in her coaching] made me feel confident about her approach. After our first conversation, I immediately felt at ease and became more curious about my growth paths. It was super clear to me after my consultation call that I needed a voice of reason, an empathetic ear, and someone who has a lot of tools and resources to help me through the rough times.
What was the moment you noticed your habits were changing?
The moment I noticed doubts [coming in], I’d open up my Miro board and start design thinking with some questions that Whitney posed. For example, my CEO at the time did not set any success criteria or define what success means—I felt blocked and the ambiguity made me feel powerless. Whitney proposed a set of questions to think through long-term, short-term, and how to define success for me. Working through these questions clarifies the path forward for me and empowers me to take steps forward despite leadership’s lack of direction. And I begin to do this every time since. These actionable recommendations help me to feel in control, and take a step back, and look for opportunities for the next steps. Over time, this feels empowering and helps me to realize what I can control, and ask for help in areas I don’t.
The other really helpful thing was the StrengthsFinder [assessment] results showed that an area I was really lacking in is communication. We dug in together and uncovered many impactful insights that I hadn’t noticed before. Now, whenever I start to feel uncomfortable about something at work, I start to write them out and work through them. Eventually, I either feel better or start to share my thoughts. I hope to continue to improve by sharing my thinking earlier and more often with my team.
How has coaching changed your circumstances or perspective?
I learned to empower myself and my product team to set our own objectives, roadmap, and success metrics despite the lack of leadership’s direction. When the then-CEO announced to dissolve my product group, we had enough work and ideas to propose our own direction to the company owner—thus saving our jobs. We were given the opportunity to pursue our own objectives while identifying and removing blockers, like the leaders and success definition. This was an incredible, positive change for the team. Whitney’s coaching gave me the confidence and support I needed to convince and work with my team towards our own concrete goals and objectives by asking for what we needed. A year later, my product team left the company and started our own startup to pursue our mission because we are confident enough after having gone through that. This is the most powerful move I’ve done. I’m truly grateful for Whitney’s words and support.
One of the many things I learned about myself while working with Whitney is a clearer sense of self-awareness and checking in with myself more often. I learned that my insecurities around communication—from public speaking to communicating my vision and ideas—stemmed from my armor to protect my refugee background, to protect my 8-year-old refugee self. Through one of our coaching sessions, Whitney uncovered my need to reconnect with my 8-year-old self—to ask permission to talk about myself and start to meditate and heal. This was a powerful perspective change in how I see myself and how I show up. I’m learning to be more aware of how I share my vulnerabilities, and question moments when I doubt myself to speak up or share my story. I started to make art again, beginning a new series of work to process and embrace this new perspective.
Thank you so much, Nguyet, for your kind words and reflections on our coaching engagement. My utmost gratitude to you!
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