Linh Ho has some cool ideas, some bigger and some smaller, some realized and some still just dreams.
One was to create an app to connect kitchen-challenged people like herself with talented home chefs. That vision became a reality in 2015 with her creation and launch of Omnummy. The name was inspired by Cookie Monster’s catch phrase “om num num” and is, as Ho describes it, “Etsy meets Yelp to find local home cooks and home bakers.” Ho has used Omnummy to purchase baked goods including a made-to-order Hot Wheels cake for one of her kids.
Another wish is more aspirational. Ho, who is a co-founder and newly appointed chief marketing officer at ConDati, has made promoting women and diversity in the workplace a personal priority. She’s one of three female founders at ConDati, a California-based company that uses AI and machine learning to boost digital marketing performance. And she’s active with Seattle’s Female Founders Alliance, an effort to boost women entrepreneurs and leaders.
“Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have to call out female or diverse leaders? Wouldn’t it be great if we could refer to them simply as ‘leaders’? The reality is, we’re not there yet,” Ho said. “That is why this is so important to me.”
Ho credits her dad as an essential source of inspiration. Her father immigrated to Canada from Vietnam after the war there. He opened his own laundromat, but wasn’t satisfied with running a simple coin-operated laundry business. He expanded into dry cleaning, then wooed hotels and hotel chains, winning contracts with big names. He grew the company into a million-dollar business. He aspired to earn enough to eat dinner at a particular fancy steakhouse, though he didn’t actually eat beef, and to own a house on the water. Her dad, who is now deceased, achieved both.
Ho’s professional successes include working as chief of staff and advisor to the CMO at SAP Concur. She ran global business operations there and played a key role in communications during the $8.3 billion acquisition of Concur by SAP. Prior to that, she was vice president of marketing for a New York-based software company.
And what sort of legacy would Ho want to leave her own children? She’d like them to know that “it’s OK to lead with the heart and get stuff done and grow a business,” Ho said. “And it’s OK to dream big and go beyond your imagination and what resources you have today — to have no boundaries and put it out there in the universe. Sometimes there’s a little bit of magic out there.”
We caught up of Ho for this Working Geek, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for her answers to our questionnaire.
Current location: Seattle
Computer types: The latest MacBook Air with Retina display and Touch ID — I love it!
Mobile devices: iPhone X
Favorite apps, cloud services and software tools: Omnummy app for connecting to local home bakers. Slack for team collaboration. Zoom for video conferencing. Starbucks app (they make it too easy to order). TripIt for any travel. Lately, a Santa Tracker app for my kids (ages 4 and 5 years).
Describe your workspace. Why does it work for you? I have two 34” curve monitors, a big white board and a lot of desk space. I have a family photo and my 5-year-old daughter’s drawing of a colorful unicorn that says, “My favorite animal is a unicorn.” The monitors give me the view of everything I need on a day-to-day basis: calendar, mail, Slack, Safari and any working documents or spreadsheets. The family photo and the unicorn drawing ground me, and they remind me why I do what I do.
Your best advice for managing everyday work and life? The challenge with everyday work and life is this: not every day is a good day at the office or at home, and they’re so intertwined and impact one another.
Find what works for you to get through rough days in life and hold on dearly to it. For me, it’s a few folks whom I know I can depend on like my husband, sisters and friends, it’s hugging my kids, it’s a hot yoga session, it’s going for a walk, it’s comfort food.
Your preferred social network? How do you use it for business/work? LinkedIn and Twitter for work to help amplify anything that may be interesting to my audience.
Facebook and Instagram to give friends insight into what’s going on in my personal life. I encourage work friends to join me on these platforms because we spend more time with colleagues than our personal friends. This helps my colleagues get to know me outside of work, and encourages us all to bring our authentic self to work. By being authentic and true to yourself, you bring your best self into work.
There was a time when people had a work life and a personal life, I find the lines are blurring.
Current number of unanswered emails in your inbox? At this exact time, 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 15 emails. I think this will soon change.
Number of appointments/meetings on your calendar this week? 18-20 hours roughly across 30 meetings — mostly 30-minute meetings.
How do you run meetings? I like to set context and objectives first, and I keep an eye on time. I try very hard to not schedule any meetings over one hour. Plus, by prepping ahead of time (agenda, expectations), you can be so much more productive. Generally, I am the first to call out that there are five minutes left to close out the topic with action items (likely thanks to my previous chief of staff role, where time management was a critical part of my job).
Everyday work uniform? I have a love for fashion, but it needs to be effortless. I will go for whatever is easiest that morning, and more often than not, it’s a dress, scarf and boots.
How do you make time for family? Nowadays with our devices and businesses being always on, the lines are blurry. It’s too easy to answer an email or Slack message anytime anywhere. You have to make conscious efforts to literally tuck your phone into bed (borrowing from Arianna Huffington). We have dinner as a family unless someone is traveling. I am not counting giving my kids a bath every night as family time. My weekends and vacations are dedicated to them. We vacation twice a year, and I make it a point to have 1-2 girl trips with my sisters and girlfriends.
When opportunities come up for bleisure (business and pleasure), I bring my kids. For example, I took my 5-year-old daughter, Chelsea, to London and Paris this summer, and my son, Logan, to New York City when he was 1 — both for business trips. This allows me to do what I need to on business, while spending quality time with them. It is also the reality of a working parent these days.
Best stress reliever? How do you unplug? You’ll find me at a hot yoga studio 2-3 times a week or at a kickboxing gym. In the summer, I’ll be on my paddle board.
What are you listening to? My playlist is very eclectic and diverse. I have French Canadian music, Chinese classics from the 1960s and ’70s, ’90s hip hop and rap, Latin and more.
Daily reads? Favorite sites and newsletters? Site: Female Founders Alliance group on Facebook. I am a member of the Alliance, and it’s a great way for women to help raise each other up, help each other solve startup challenges while also helping pave the way for all our daughters and sons in the future.
Reads: I subscribe to NPR, GeekWire and MarTech Today.
Book on your nightstand (or e-reader)? “HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Managing Yourself” from Harvard Business Review, “Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built” by Duncan Clark, “The Gratitude Connection” by Amy Collette, “Yoga Anatomy” by Leslie Kaminoff and “The Big Green Book of Beginner Books” by Dr. Seuss
Night owl or early riser? I sleep 4-6 hours a day. With small children, my alarm goes off at 6:30-7 a.m. I am definitely more of a night owl than an early riser. I find it easier to focus at night, maybe because I have checked a bunch of stuff off my daily list by that time and can focus on things that require more thinking.
I have had my share of 5 a.m. calls with Europe in the past, and those can be hard on you later in the day.
Where do you get your best ideas? I get inspired by people. The best ideas often come from listening to people with diverse backgrounds and opinions.
Whose work style would you want to learn more about or emulate? My late father who came over as an immigrant and started with nothing. He had to borrow $10 for baby formula at one point. He was a small business entrepreneur who led with the heart while being thoughtfully ruthless (thank you Val!) to grow his business and create efficiencies. He cared deeply for his employees and put family first — always. He was a big dreamer and would put things out there in the universe, and dreams would eventually become reality. It was amazing to watch. I share those values today; I take a people-first approach to leadership, and it’s OK to lead with the heart while getting the business done. We win together, we lose together, and we raise each other up. In fact, I believe the heart (not just the brain), together brings out the best of everyone.