This interview was originally published in the January 5th, 2017 issue of The Slant. Want Asian American news, media and culture delivered to your inbox every Friday morning? Subscribe today!
In 6 Questions, we get to know awesome Asian Americans and have them ask another question. We caught up with Millie Tran, the first ever New York Times Global Growth Editor and previous Director of Global Adaptation at BuzzFeed, over the phone. Tran’s experience lies in editorial, marketing, product, technology, and strategy — and dressing like a badass boss lady.
The interview has been edited for clarity.
1. What did your parents want you to be?
Millie Tran: It’s funny, all the Asian stereotypes of wanting to be a doctor or lawyer. My parents are immigrants. I mean, I’m an immigrant too — I was born in Vietnam — but they very much took the opposite direction. They told me “to be whatever makes you happy.”
Especially in Asian culture, there is still the values of going to college, getting good grades, but they kind of left it up to me. My dad took me to the library a lot. And my mom just loved me.
2. What gets you excited to create your work?
MT: On a micro, individual level, learning new things and feeling like my work is connected to the macro thing — and helping journalism succeed. The New York Times is at the forefront of that right now. And feeling like I’m continuing to learn, grow, meet, and be surrounded by brilliant people who love what they do. And feeling like that is connected to some larger picture.
It’s less about “what I’m doing with my life” and more of like “what am I going to do today.” It’s scary but being scared is something that we should all get used to.
3. What do you do when you hit a creative block?
MT: I spend a lot of time by myself. I have to reset — going internal instead of external. Even though I’m spending time by myself, I’m trying to absorb more when I’m by myself. I spend a lot of time reading, watching, consuming as much as I can. And finding inspiration in other people’s’ work.
You kind of have to stand still to know — to know how beautiful everything is around you. Standing still and looking around me.
4. What’s something you’ve been really into lately?
MT: Very into crowdsourcing my friends lately — and asking what they’ve been reading and consuming and what they’ve been doing. Just realizing the community that I have right now. I have been spending so much time building my community but now I want to stop and actually be in my community and enjoy how great everyone is.
5. When did you first feel successful?
MT: I don’t really know what successful means. I think it’s really easy to connect success to professional work and I’m certainly proud of my professional work. But success means feeling like a good daughter or a partner to my boyfriend. I’m always striving to be better at these things. I feel pretty successful now that I’m working on a beach!
6. Bonus question from co-founder/artist at Trinket Studios Eric Huang: What is a food you haven’t eaten yet, but salivate every time you hear of it?
MT: Seeing delicious food and then eating it is… oh my gosh, I feel like that is a measure of success! Iguana is a state animal of Aruba and I’m seeing iguana soup everywhere but I’m not too keen to try it.
7. What’s the next question you’d ask our next guest, not knowing who it would be?
MT: This is a question that I just asked a bunch of my friends and I loved all of their answers. What is a tiny change you made last year that has made your life better?
Millie Tran is Global Growth Editor at the New York Times. She also created a widely circulated deck called “WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WITH MY LIFE???” which can be found here. You can find more on her writing, speaking, and interviews at her website www.millietran.com.