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One great leap to General Counsel with Danh Nguyen

While Danh Nguyen was thrilled to accept the position of GC at Paysend Group Ltd, he was also daunted by the challenges. He reflects on his first foray into the role of General Counsel and provides insights on how to prepare to take the leap.  

Your first experience of any job is bound to be daunting, a new role to learn and teams to familiarize yourself with while also optimizing your processes and workflows. Imagine on top of those tasks also trying to build the legal function and helping your company navigate through murky regulations, tricky mergers, and so on.

The above are all circumstances a new GC finds themselves in on day one. Daunting? Yes. Challenging? Of course. Impossible? Absolutely not.

When Danh Nguyen was approached to be the first Group GC of Paysend Group Ltd, he was excited by the opportunity. Behind the scenes he'd been building 20-plus years of experience across multiple industries, and it gave him the confidence to take on the role.

"Taking all those different experiences and learning from different sectors, industries and organizations, I knew I had the ability, agility and resilience, and was ready to package all those qualities together and try and make an impact here," he says, which serves as a reminder that there is a tremendous amount of confidence to be gained from recognizing the diverse experience you bring to a role.

However, this step is a significant one, something even a highly capable lawyer could find daunting. "This job is new to me, and it's really challenging on multiple levels," admits Nguyen. "I've never taken on a global General Counsel role before, and while it's incredibly rewarding it's also scary because of the scope; it's the breadth of things that makes you stop and think, 'can I possibly do this?'"

That fear could well be a key indicator of your readiness for the role, especially if you're daring enough to acknowledge and internalize it, and stride forward regardless of any residual unease you may feel. To appreciate the enormity of the challenge and what is expected of you.

"There's two ways of looking at it, either you let it overwhelm you or you acknowledge that it's just a part of the journey. My advice? Don't let it overwhelm you, don't let it overtake you."

Key to surviving any initial rough waters is having a strategic plan. Nguyen's plan comprised of three parts, the first being to ensure his team was well positioned. "Make sure the team has the right capabilities to be set up for success. They need to understand what the business priorities are and their role in the team and within the wider organization."

Secondly, he established support systems that would enable the team to work successfully, including onboarding technology and various tools. "It meant they could focus on higher value, interesting and challenging work." An additional benefit was the team was more stimulated and engaged, which proved to be a worthy retention tool.

Nguyen also sought to establish an operating model that would provide the blueprint for his team to work more productively. "We needed a proper strategy that is clearly defined so we're not reacting to stuff constantly, and we are proactively identifying issues and making sure we address those issues in collaboration."

Nguyen's final piece of advice applies to everyone, particularly during the current trying times. Lead empathetically. "Read the signs," he says. "On Zoom you can see people's faces; you can see clearly when someone's not happy or less engaged. That's the time to reach out and say, 'What's going on? Is there anything I can do?'"

Your first few months should set the tone for your next twelve, giving yourself the best opportunity to grow from the GC you are into the GC you will become.

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