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Mila and I were really excited to have Betty Nguyen on Stellar Women. In addition to being a DJ and rugby player, Betty is part of our inaugural Relativity Fellows program, which welcomes motivated individuals from overlooked communities to learn with us and get familiar with our software.
Betty is not one to shy away from taking the path less traveled. She has followed her passion and skillset throughout her life, from becoming a DJ (who met Joe Jonas) to playing professional rugby to ultimately, embarking on a career in tech. Check out this episode to learn how Betty pivoted and fostered a new path when life threw an unexpected curve her way.
Mary Rechtoris: Hey Stellar Women fans, I'm your host, Mary Rechtoris.
Mila Taylor: And, I'm your co-host, Mila Taylor. Stellar Women shines a light on female leaders making their mark in tech. For today's episode. Mila and I are chatting with Betty Nguyen and Betty is part of our inaugural Relativity Fellows program. Betty, hi! Welcome.
Betty Nguyen: Hi, Mary. Hi, Mila. I feel like I am with e-discovery celebrities. So exciting.
MT: Betty, thank you so much for joining us. We're so excited to have you. To start us off for listeners who may not be aware, what is Relativity Fellows? And can you talk us through the program and talk about your favorite bits of the program?
BN: Yeah, of course. The Relativity Fellows program is a five-month long program and has a big emphasis on learning. So essentially, we spend the majority of our time in a classroom setting learning from product experts as well as industry experts. It’s basically taking overlooked talent and giving them an opportunity to work in the discovery industry. My favorite part of the program definitely has been meeting all the people that work in e-discovery and all the people that work at Relativity. There's so many different facets of it, so you get to meet a lot of really cool people and learn a lot of really cool new things. All the Fellows will be certified users by the end of the program. Some of us will be pursuing our Relativity Certified Administrator certification. All of that is part of the five months.
MR: And for anyone here that is an RCA, I … I have not had the opportunity to take it, but I know it's hard. So, help a girl out and maybe comment some study tips and tricks.
BN: Yes, yes, please. All the Fellows are studying for it right now. So, it's been nonstop the last few weeks.
MT: Goodness, I did the RCU.
BN: All of us currently have the RCU, which is super exciting. We finished like three weeks ago.
MR: That's awesome. That's also a big feat. That was hard for me. To me I was like, oh my gosh. Betty, you haven't mentioned that a lot the Fellows come from overlooked or nontraditional career paths. Can you talk a little bit about your own background and how you got into tech and maybe why it's important to look at candidates who don't have that traditional resume?
BN: Backtrack to when I was in school, I was studying to be an electrical engineer. I kind of thought that was what I was going to be doing. And a year and a half into it, I dropped out to pursue DJing full time. I did that for several years and actually still do a couple of contracts. Before COVID, I was still DJing and then I also pursued a career as a personal trainer. That's pretty nontraditional. But fast forward to March 2020, COVID happens. I was no longer DJing, no longer working at the gym. So, I was looking for something different. And I've always wanted to work in tech. That's what I was studying. And so, I thought that I could go back to it. I pursued a certification. I did Google's IT Support certification. So that kind of helped me get the mentality back [in terms of] figuring out how to troubleshoot things and having the tech mentality. I think that was really important for me. The Relativity Fellows opportunity opened up. I think one of the big things in tech is that it moves so quickly. Things are growing so fast, and I think that you really need new ideas to grow with technology. And when you have everyone from the exact same backgrounds, you don't really get those new ideas that you need to grow. I think that's why it's really important to consider people that might not have the same backgrounds and look at people that like are from overlooked communities or overlooked talent. You need new ideas to grow in technology, and you can't get that all the time when you have the same kinds of people contributing.
MR: And we talk about diversity a lot both as an organization and on the podcast. And that variance and bringing different perspectives to the table makes your teams, your projects, and your company stronger. So, I think that's a really cool point. Have you met anyone famous in the DJ world?
BN: So, the company that I worked for is really cool. And we did a lot of pretty big events throughout Chicago. But I got to meet Flo Rida. That was pretty cool. I opened for DNCE with Joe Jonas. I got to open for them at a show once, which is really cool. Twelve-year-old Betty was like, oh my God, I'm meeting Joe Jonas. That was crazy for me. I got to sit with him, like in the green room and stuff. I've also opened a show for Bastille in 2014, I think. I’ve done pretty cool things and met lots of people. Dan from Bastille said he liked my shoes. So yeah, I got to do some pretty cool stuff. So, I'm really happy to have that experience.
MR: I'm like fan girling right now. I went to the Joe Bros like back in the heyday when they were first coming out. Nick Jonas was also a type one diabetic, so I was sure we were destined to be together. I think he's married, so the verdict’s out.
MT: Oh, my gosh. Yeah, I'm like blushing. And I would say that I have two dreams. One is to be a DJ. And, the other is one that I don't know if I've ever like admitted on air live. It is to be Annie in a Broadway play. I think because I'm 5’2” and I'm an adult and I do not necessarily look like Annie. But they could pop a wig on me, and I think I'm done growing, so I still hold out to be Annie.
MR: You can do it Mila.
BN: One day for sure.
MT: Thank you, guys. You know, I'm going to jump right all over the place and something that I have to ask because I feel like it's my Australian duty to ask on it. So, another Stellar Women guest we’ve had is Inés Rubio. She was also all-star rugby player like you are. I want to chat a bit about rugby and what got you into rugby and your career as an athlete.
BN: Absolutely. I played football in high school, I was the only girl on an all-boys football team, I went to Walter Payton. Go Grizzlies! From there, I had a couple of friends that ended up playing rugby after high school. One of my good friends was like, you should totally play. And after a year of him bothering me to go play rugby, I just had to go sign up and play for a women's team. And it was awesome. Right away, you make instant friends. And I love the sport itself. The game was so much fun to play. I've been playing for seven years now. I play for Chicago Northshore, which is in the Women's Premier League, which is the highest level of rugby in the US. It’s like the best women's competition that you can get into. Because I play in that pool, a lot of those players play for the US Women's National team. That was always my big goal—to get noticed by the US National Team and play for them.
MT: That's so cool. Mary and I are sitting here with big smiles.
MR: Like today, we talked about this in another meeting … Whenever I hear people say they have cool hobbies, I’m like, I pet my dog and I watch shows.
MT: I mean, I was literally Googling the other day, what should my hobby be?
MR: Did you find anything interesting?
MT: No. I have a question just about your thoughts on American football compared to rugby. When I watch it, I'm like, this is a crazy game. With football, no one's doing it. It's all stopping and starting. There's no game being played. I grew up watching rugby,
BN: I watch football all the time, as you can imagine in high school and before I was introduced rugby. I was really into football and watched every Bears game. Now that I play rugby, it is kind of hard to sit and watch a football game because it stops so often. I think there's statistics on it. And I think that in a football game, there's actually only 11 minutes of actual playing because there's so much stoppage. In a rugby game, it's an 80-minute game and there's action for 80 minutes of it. So, I don't know if that's a real statistic or if rugby players just say that to make themselves feel better about playing rugby over football. But that is what I have heard.
MR: Oh, yeah. It's like whenever there's a game and if my boyfriend's watching, he's like, there's only five minutes left. I'm like, no, this could be two hours. In no world is this even a half hour of time. It drives me … It's fun times here, fun times. Anyway, I do want to give a quick shout out. In February, which is crazy that that's already coming up, Inés will be presenting alongside our very own David Horrigan for Legalweek on data protection and data privacy. As that agenda comes out, be sure to check out that session. Okay, Betty, but going back to you, your rugby career stopped professionally in 2019?
BN: Earlier in 2019. In the summer of 2019, I was named captain of my rugby team. At the time, we were marching towards going to the national championship. We've played in the national championship tournament before and in the year previous. So, we were marching toward that again and I really had it in me that I was going to lead the team to a national championship for the first time. And in 2019, the season just started in June. I had been training at that point for like two months leading up to June. And in the very first half of the very first game and in the very first tournament that we played that summer, I got injured. During the very first half, I got into a bad tackle. And, at the time, I didn't think that it was very serious. I actually got myself taped up at halftime and went back into to play the second half. And during the very first play, I realized that I couldn't run. So, I went through the whole medical process. I got an MRI on my knee, and I realized that I tore my PCL, which is a ligament in the back of your knee. That is a season ending injury for sure. At the time, I was definitely in denial and I told all my teammates, just give me like a couple of weeks and I’ll be in shape and I'll be back. But that's not how it ended up happening. I was out for probably like eight months before I could return to the field. And yeah, that was like a really hard time. But during that time, because I wasn't playing rugby anymore, it opened up the avenue for me to start coaching rugby. Loyola University women's program was looking for a new head coach. They hadn't had a coach for three years at that point. They asked me to take on the program. And so that fall, I had the time to commit to it. So, I did.
MR: And, that was not in your plan, right? That was kind of a way to still foster that passion for rugby and your love of the sport.
BN: Yeah, yeah, not at all. So, at that point I was thinking like, okay, I'm going to have a great summer. I'm going to be the captain of this team. I'm going to lead us to nationals. And then that'll be my shot. Like the US national team, if we win nationals they have to notice me then. So, I was thinking that I was going to get into the player pool. I was going to get asked to play at the Olympics. That was kind of my plan. That was how I wanted to get noticed. Of course, that didn't work out with the injury. It definitely steered me in a different direction. But before I took on the role coaching, I definitely thought, my playing career is over. I'll never touch a rugby ball again. And once I started coaching, it really gave me the motivation to keep playing rugby. I love the game so much more now that I'm a coach. It's been like the coolest thing to teach someone how to play. It is so much fun. I've gotten so much out of out of being the Loyola coach. It's like I'm playing again. And, I'm playing at the club level. And that's been really fun, too. And I didn't think that I could do it until I started coaching.
MT: Winding back and obviously you may share as much as you want. When you had that injury, you said you were in this denial phase at the beginning. And then, of course, you get to a point where the denial phase ends, and you get to the point of realization. Like you said, “Oh, my gosh, my rugby career is over.” Can you talk about how you handled that situation before this coaching job, or even what led you to the coaching job? How did you handle that when your path was just completely changed and what your thought processes were? Were you weighing options? Just kind of talk us through that that part of your life.
BN: Because I was in a leadership role for my team, I think that helped me stay a little bit more engaged. I still showed up to every single practice. You know, I was there because I still wanted to help the team out any way I could. Being involved the little bit that I could be was, I think, helpful. It was really hard. I would say that, looking back on it now, I don't think I realized it at the time … Looking back on it, I definitely sunk into a real, like, rut. I was probably depressed for a couple of months there. It was really hard for me. I wasn't motivated to do anything really. Not having rugby made it just so challenging and it made everything else so challenging, So, looking back I probably was in a pretty deep depression for a few months. That was really hard to get out of. And it took a lot of support from my teammates. Like my teammates also told me that I would be able to come back. And at the time, I didn't believe in myself. I for sure didn't think that I would ever be back. Every time I showed up to practice there, like, they would say, “You're going to be playing again. Don't worry about it. It may be in a few weeks or a few months. Whatever it is. But you'll play again.” Fortunately, my girlfriend also plays rugby. So that was a really big help. Like all the time, she told me that I would play again. Having people around you that really believe in you is super, super important when you've kind of lost your path. I had my mind really set on something. I've been working towards it for years and all of a sudden, like everything that I worked for just went away. So, there was definitely a long grieving process with that for sure.
MR: And I think that's applicable for a lot of us listening to the podcast, whether it's your career … maybe you don't get that promotion you worked all those year for, or maybe you have gotten laid off. [You may be asking yourself] do I want to stay in this industry? Do I love what I do? And you're reevaluating when you didn't really have that time or space before. It may be something in your personal life. There's always things that change how we perceive ourselves, and how we envision our life. So, that was cool advice.
MT: And, you could channel the passion and love and interest in the sport in a different and cool and exciting way. You were playing at such a high level that I feel like you probably knew all there is to know about the sport. But then when you take a step back and look at it through a different lens as a coach. You have to learn about the sport again in a different way. And it's cool and it's exciting. You touched on this a little bit before. On the podcast, we talk about this quite a bit in different ways. You spoke about building your support network. We refer to it as building your village, both in your career and in life. So, when your life took this unexpected turn with rugby, who was in your support network and what were some of the things that they did to help and empower you?
BN: Fortunately, a lot of my friends and my family were pretty involved in my rugby career. They took the time out to come to my games and stuff, which is really, really cool. It's really nice when your friends care about what you're doing in your life. So, when I told them of my injury, a lot of my friends reached out and asked me if I needed anything. It showed me that I'd be back. That was always really nice. I think having the reassurance that everything is going to be okay. They’d say, “Even if you don't play rugby again, it'll be okay. You'll be alright.”
MR: As you've gotten into tech and changed careers, when you’re talking about something exciting or cool, who have you added to your village? How have you found new people to recruit to be that support system, whether at Relativity or even in the industry?
BN: In the Fellows program, we all get a one-on-one mentor. My mentor is Laura Adkins. Shout out to Laura! She's great. I love working with Laura. Her big thing is connecting people. She's really good at it and really likes doing it. She's introduced me to a ton of other people. That's awesome. I've been able to make a lot of connections and really gotten to build my village through Laura for sure. Literally. I think one of our conversations on Slack was at 8:00 p.m. on a Wednesday or something. I had a philosophical thought that I wanted to share with her. And I said, “I'm sorry for the late message, but like, what do you think about this?” She responded right away. And she was like, “Lol. Don’t worry about the very late message”—and put late in quotes—“I'll give you my thoughts on this.” We do that kind of stuff all the time. I can bounce ideas around with her, which is really cool, whether it's career stuff or not. It might be philosophical or life or just whatever. It's really cool to have someone where you can just bounce ideas off of like that.
MR: Yeah, Mila and I were talking about this in an unrelated meeting. With COVID, especially that we're all remote, work and life are blending so closely together. You rely on your coworkers sometimes more than before and can say like, “I am feeling really weird. I haven't talked to anyone and I haven't left my apartment in three days.” It's so much more intertwined.
MT: The lines are definitely blurring. It's nice to find. For the longest time, people had their work village and then they had that personal life village. And now it's gotten to the point where you're looking at me right now in my living room and my dog is growling in the background. You're going to see me in this different way because these lines are blurring. And it's kind of nice to have these people at work who can be in your regular village. I think that’s a silver lining of us being in this wacky world that we're in at the moment.
MR: So, Betty, I know you said for Fellows, you're taking the RCA, which I'm sure is eating a lot of your time and energy. The program’s coming to an end, sadly, in January. Is that right?
BN: Yes. Yeah. January 22 is our graduation date.
MR: But it's happy news, too, because you are getting placed in an organization, whether that's Relativity or somewhere else. So, what's next for you? What excites you, whether that’s related to Fellows, work, or rugby?
BN: That is like one of the most exciting things about the Fellows program—it’s guaranteed full-time placement. I think that's so cool. There aren't many things out there that can guarantee that and it's really, really awesome. When I started the Fellows program, I thought that I wanted to be a software engineer. I put all my eggs in that bucket. I was signing up for coding bootcamps and spending all my free time, looking at how to code. And then, you know, I started the program and met a lot of people and talked to Laura a lot, my mentor. I realized that probably isn't for me, which is good because that's around the time that placement was. We went through interviews and now I think I really want to go into product management. I really love the people aspect of Relativity and just working in general. I think that building relationships is one of my strengths and I didn't really realize that until I started the program. I certainly learned that about myself. Hopefully, if I go into [product management], I think that's one of my strengths that I can take into a product manager role. That's career-wise what I hope to go into. And I think that Relativity has been a really, really big supporter in that. That has been really awesome. For rugby, I'm hoping to play again when everything opens back up. I have my fingers crossed for the summer of 2021. I am hoping to take my team to a national championship. I really have to get into shape first, so I need to start working out. But you know, I have six months, so I feel okay about the timeline.
MT: Well, I'm really excited for you. Just from the conversations that I've had, I gather that you are someone who puts their mind to something and goes full force. And that is awesome. And no matter what you do, that will just bring you great success.
MR: Betty, we were so, so excited to have you. Thank you for joining us!
MT: Thank you so much.
BN: Absolutely. Thanks for having me, guys.
MT: And also, I just want to do a quick PSA here for our listeners. If you listen to this, please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts through the mobile app. It really helps us. So, that would be a huge, huge help.
MR: Yes, that would be awesome. And, for Stellar Women, I’m Mary Rechtoris.
MT: And I’m Mila Taylor.
Both: Signing off.