Newly minted CMO Linh Ho has been through numerous acquisitions in her career. However, it’s the skills that she acquired while becoming a working mom that have helped prepare her for this new chapter.
“It is all hands on deck every day in a start-up,” she says.
Linh cites “directness” as a skill she learned from having kids–and from her kids–which she finds to be equally useful on a start-up timeline and budget.
“They’ll tell it like it is, there’s no sugar coating, no filter,” she says. “At the same time, as a mom you have to be direct and assertive with your children when it comes to their safety or establishing a routine. In the start-up world it’s like that too.”
It’s also the source of a New York Times best-selling book, Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity and podcast.
Linh says this kind of unfiltered exchange leads to mutual growth. For example, she recently spent time with her data science team which is “full of ideas” and has a “ton of energy.”
“They’re doing super cool things, so I’m learning from them as well–and equally as a mom, I’m learning from my kids. They’re so raw and I find start-up environments are raw too.”
How She Makes it Work
“In a start-up you’re on the clock,” says Linh. “And the investors are watching.”
This isn’t so different from Linh’s daily routine. Most days, she’s responsible for getting the kids up and out the door in the mornings, even if it’s after a 5 a.m. conference call or two.
Her husband picks up the kids and makes dinner, and then does a handoff back to Linh for bath and bedtime–except when one of them is traveling.
“Evenings are packed and by 9 p.m. I’m exhausted,” she says, noting that some nights she has to turn her laptop back on if there’s a deadline. She typically gets 4-6 hours sleep.
Her weekend mornings are her “yoga time” or kickboxing.
“It’s my hour or hour and a half on both days, and I don’t give that up very easily,” she says. “My husband can attest to that.”
Women Helping Women Succeed
Linh supports the female entrepreneur community, both as a founder herself, and a mentor to other women through platforms such as the Female Founders Alliance, started in Seattle by Leslie Feinzaig.
“Leslie is basically trying to help other female founders get a leg up where traditionally it’s been a little bit harder for women to get in on funding from the venture capital world,” she says.
Linh extends this coaching and support to her personal life too.
“I would always tell my friends, ‘dream big,’ and I take that from my late father,” she says.
“He came over here as an immigrant with nothing; he was a dreamer and he just went after it. He just gave it a shot no matter what happens.”
Linh’s fearlessness and determination was evident throughout the six years she and I worked together, while both starting our families.
“There’s no limits when it comes to dreaming,” says Linh, about recently encouraging a friend to stop longing for her dream vacation to Portugal, but instead buy a property there. They’d do the research and visualize what it would be like.
“And then if you really want it, then work backwards from it and try.”
Once again, Linh’s outlook is dually relevant to entrepreneurship and parenting.
“You’ve got to give it a shot,” she says. “You’ve got to try and see what happens. Even if it doesn’t go anywhere, you learn so much from trying and it helps make you stronger.”