Woman Wednesday: Minh

Q and A with Minh from North Vietnam

“…learning, continuous learning, and investing in ourselves always pay off

Q: Tell us about yourself.

A: I have always been passionate about making the world a better place. This was inspired by my parents, who both had a strong interest in world politics, literature, culture, and people’s lives generally. Since college, I have worked for 30 years in international development on poverty reduction for disadvantaged communities, economic development, and natural resources management. I want to see economies growing, enterprises thriving, the environment staying healthy and beautiful, and people’s lives improving.

I have also been strongly interested in sharing my knowledge and experience and supporting people’s growth. I used to be a dedicated manager and team leader. For the United Nations, I managed and motivated a team of senior, older female, and male staff colleagues to stay strong and deliver during a transitional period for human resources in its Hanoi office in the early 1990s. For the UK Aid program in Vietnam, I was part of and then led a team in 2015 of an economist, climate adviser, and program manager to design and implement projects worth hundreds of millions of US dollars. In addition, capacity building for member countries was one of the priorities in my work on socio-economics with the Mekong River Commission Secretariat until late 2022.

About eight years ago, having survived depression due to a family crisis, I realized I lacked the knowledge and “soft” skills to build good relationships. I had always been kind, dedicated, and responsible, but at times I had also been unaware of other people’s feelings and thinking and in many cases may have thought I was always right. I started to focus my learning on these soft skills, or people skills, to understand men and women more, and above all to focus on my relationship with myself. I learned to love myself, accept myself, and take better care of myself, to be in a much better position to love, accept and care for others, as a woman. I recognized deeply the values of self-love, inner strength, and feminine confidence, and the benefits these can bring to a woman’s happiness and inner peace. After my job as an economist with the Mekong River Commission, I decided to become a full-time happiness coach for professional committed women, who, like me, may have focused and succeeded in their professional lives, but less so in their personal lives…women who would benefit hugely in all aspects of their lives by improving their confidence and inner strength and achieving the happiness they deserve and desire. Here is my LinkedIn page minh-nguyen-050299102 and website www.minhzenliving.com.

Q: What were your younger years like?

A: I grew up in the North of Vietnam when the country was still going through war and then reconstruction. My parents were loving and also strict, and taught me a lot about discipline, hard work, kindness, and respect for others. We were poor, like many other families in Vietnam then, but always rich in our thirst for knowledge and information about our country, and about the larger world. My father would bring back books he borrowed from his university library every week of subjects ranging from history to geography to politics and literature. He would also listen to radio programs from America, the UK, and France (which were considered “enemy” influences then). He wanted me to do the best I could, so he bought me books in drawing, music, and maths for me to explore. I did not do well with art but was much better in maths and English, and I was successful in a highly competitive entrance examination for one of the most prestigious high schools in Vietnam, thanks to guidance from my dad.

Each week I left my family, for boarding school, with high-performing students from all over the North of Vietnam, only returning home with my family on Sunday. It was demanding but also very rewarding. We considered our teachers as our second parents, and classmates as special friends that I still keep in contact with after nearly 40 years, and visit from time to time. I then went to college for teaching English as a foreign language. I did not become a teacher but an administrator with the United Nations office in Hanoi, Vietnam, thanks to my English capacity, hard work, and positive attitude. I also did a second degree, in economics as I wanted to do more substantive work, which I did also with the United Nations as a program assistant managing regional projects. I then got a scholarship to do my master’s in development economics in the UK in my early thirties, with my mum’s strong support in taking care of my small children together with my family. In reflection, I am always grateful for the good education opportunities I had, my parents’ relentless support, and my family’s care for my children.

Q: What is something valuable you’d like others to know?

A: Through the ups and downs of life, I have learned that hard work, discipline, and consistency are important to do well in your work and life. But I have also realized the importance of softer skills such as self-love, understanding of ourselves and others, believing in ourselves, taking care of ourselves, accepting ourselves and others, choosing happiness and positivity, raising ourselves up, and moving on…whatever life throws at us, it is an opportunity for us to explore, to learn, and to further grow. Once we develop the ability to have a basket of tools to use and stay strong and positive inside out, including embracing our vulnerability, we are and will always be fine. And learning, continuous learning, and investing in ourselves always pay off, quickly and sustainably.

Q: What does feminism mean to you?
Working previously for a long time in international development, I have been trained in gender equality extensively. I have also been lucky to work in organizations where women receive equal treatment and a lot of support. However, I feel I did not fully understand the “feminine power” as somehow it was widely believed and propagated (at least before in our society) that women may suffer more than men, or that women are disadvantaged (and this latter view is still true in many societies). Only after I improved my knowledge and skills about men and women, and about relationships did I come to know and fully appreciate that being a woman is a beautiful thing, and in fact an advantage in many ways.

Feminism to me is to recognize and take into account the differences between men and women in all activities and environments, and to give equal opportunities to men and women, as all the gender equality rhetoric often says. More personally, and more strongly than ever, feminism to me is about empowering women to appreciate their unique roles and power, at home and in the society at large, as loving, nurturing, supporting, and compassionate forces. I would not seek to compete with men at work or at home. We all have unique and valuable energies to make the partnerships work, at home and at work. And once we women believe in ourselves more, and most importantly love ourselves the right way, we can be successful and happy in all our important relationships. We can live a truly “zen” balance with the world and our loved ones.

Here is my youtube video on feminine confidence that you may find interesting. https://youtu.be/vQAeX4IsVO0

Other things I like to say:

Life is beautiful! trust yourself! And trust the Universe! And thank you to The Woman Wednesday Blog for featuring me and other women, all working hard in our different capacities to improve the lives of ourselves and others.

Woman Wednesday: Kaitlyn

Q and A with Kaitlyn from South Dakota, United States

“My hope is just to work hard to let my success speak for itself and encourage other young girls that we belong in music just as much as anyone else.”

Q: Tell us about yourself.

A: I am a music educator with a master’s degree in music education. I started my own music school because I wanted to use music to inspire people and teach learn life skills. I have students all around the world and we are currently working on recording our second student-featured album to be released early this summer.

My husband and I are both passionate about music. We actually met in the high school band. We became friends in high school and stayed in touch. A couple years later, we started dating. Now, we have a music school, two kids, and a third on the way. Our music school covers all instruments and voices. I specialize in woodwinds. He does pretty much everything. He started on trumpet in high school, but he can play piano, guitar, and any fretted string instrument.

Q: What were your younger years like?

A: I always had a passion for music when I was younger. Who doesn’t love music? But so many times I was told to only practice certain types of music. I had teachers who told me music wasn’t for me or that maybe I should pursue something else. The biggest reason I got into education was to stop that pattern of thinking. Music is for everyone. There are many ways to learn and various styles to explore. I structure my lessons and classes to focus on improvement, but the outcome of that often looks different depending on the student’s interests and goals. Every student can’t fit into the same mold or method. I train my other teachers to take the same approach and encourage the students to help set the learning objectives in their learning path.

Q: What is something valuable you’d like others to know?

A: Something that I’d like everyone to know is that music is for everyone. I commonly hear things like “I wish I would’ve learned when I was younger” or “I can’t learn music because I’m tone deaf.” These are common misconceptions we place on ourselves due to the fear of failure. I did my master’s research on this and tone deafness affects less than 3% of the population and is most often a result of severe brain injuries. Here’s a quick test to see if you are tone-deaf. Ask someone near you to make a sound like “Ooo”. Tell them to start with their voice low or high and then switch. If you can hear that person’s voice go from a low sound to a higher pitch, congratulations! You’re not tone-deaf.

I have students from ages 3-83 and they all have different journeys that are equally impressive. Anyone can learn to sing or play an instrument.

Q: What does feminism mean to you?
Feminism is simply about supporting women to follow their dreams and know that they are valuable. More than 70% of college music students are male. I was often the only female in many of my classes. My teachers always assumed I was a vocalist because that’s what girls do in music. We just love to sing. When I would tell them I was a wind player, sometimes they’d be surprised. I think sometimes men have felt intimidated by my success as a musician and business owner. My hope is just to work hard to let my success speak for itself and encourage other young girls that we belong in music just as much as anyone else.

MORE ABOUT KAITLYN: My husband and I own Tilghman’s Academy of Music. We have a highly experienced and passionate group of teachers that work with us. We offer music lessons to students in our hometown and also teach students through our virtual classrooms around the world. We offer private lessons and classes. We also do something I haven’t seen any other music school do. We have a subscription service for the independent learner at a very affordable price where we include personalized content for each student. Each student is assigned to a teacher who checks in on their progress, answers questions, and gives feedback when needed. Students have access to our music library and video content to learn at their own pace. Our website includes some sample content of what that looks like. We really enjoy reaching new people with our programs.

Website: www.TilghmansAOM.com

Instagram: https://instagram.com/tilghmans_aom?igshid=NTc4MTIwNjQ2YQ==

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TilghmansAOM/

Woman Wednesday: Cornelia

Q and A with Cornelia from Germany, living in Panama

“Happiness is a decision and gratitude is the key to it.”

Q: Tell us about yourself.

A: I am passionate about well-being and abundance to follow your dreams, live, work, and ENJOY it while being happy, vibrant, and confident. Yes, this is quite a bite to chew, but seriously, when we take responsibility for our own personal situation, that is where freedom begins. So, it starts within ourselves, our thoughts, words, and actions that create the outcome of our own journey. 

Years ago, back in Germany, I was struggling with health and emotional issues. The recommended approaches by the doctors I saw did not seem to solve the issues of the source but only the symptoms. So, I decided to take my health into my own hands, studied naturopathy, entered a completely new world of looking at well-being, and opened my own practice.

This path led me to follow my heart. I closed my practice in Germany and moved to the United States where I founded my own business called Life Balance Passion. I create and share simple steps, routines, and online programs that help people to learn and understand what they can do to achieve what they want to improve. 

Q: What were your younger years like?

A: Protected, shy, and eager to fit in…I grew up as a middle child with two brothers, near I grew up close to Hamburg, actually Norderstedt, which is a little town about 30 minutes from its center. I played instruments, sang in choirs, and played handball several times a week. I always felt like an outsider, a late bloomer, and for sure the violin lessons I went to, were not helping to be part of the “cool peeps.” 

I was afraid of doing things the wrong way. I was playing the violin, playing handball, and in retrospect with all the knowledge and experience of other countries, cultures, and stories, I got very lucky. In my youth, I was often angry about being so protected and not allowed to go out or else. Even though I think that my parents may have been overprotective, I feel that the trust and love that I have experienced from them was a great foundation. I would walk to even as a first year on my own to school (followed by my mum in secret, if I can handle it), she later started working. I was about eight, and my older brother and I had to make our own lunch. In the neighborhood, it was incredibly special that a mum was not at home the whole day.

My first really rebellious action I remember was (when I was about 16) climbing out of the bathroom window to hang out with friends later than I was allowed to be out of the house. Coming back in without being caught was such a success and started in me the seed of independence growing.

The cool kids at school would have parties and boyfriends, and I was still in my little world. I don’t think that it has harmed me, quite the opposite; I had a late start but a great solid foundation of love and trust. I started to be rebellious around 18. Then I moved to southern Germany at around 22 years old to be as far away as possible.

Later in life, in my 30s, other attempts to “be part of” or “fit in” would work for a while but the passion for independence and just being my authentic self without “playing a role and function” was always stronger. After accepting that, life became more joyful and fulfilled.

After studying in Bavaria and coming around, partying and experimenting, I moved to Berlin, studied there, met my first husband and moved back to Hamburg and married. My own health issues showed up, and over the pain and disappointment of not giving birth to the next family heir, I was at the most desperate and sad times in my life. It was my awakening.

I learned about more holistic perspectives of life and became aware that I am an empath, and that is not a bad thing but something beautiful to work with. My husband and I separated and got divorced as friends, peacefully. In my studies, I learned about essential oils and how they benefit me and my emotional state with such an enormous impact. I started to trust and looked deeper into aromatherapy. I started to use them in my practice with clients. Meanwhile, I had studied naturopathy and I learned about so many new aspects and perspectives of life and nature that I felt that I had finally found what I was looking for unknowingly.

My journey brought me to Salt Lake City, I met my wonderful, crazy man (and now husband). Within a year, we married, I moved and immigrated to the US., left my country with two suitcases, and four years later, we left the US.

I had meanwhile built my international network marketing business. Four years later, we left the U.S. with two suitcases, two cats, and 1/3 of a shipping container for a new adventure in Panama. Panama is in so many ways different…the culture and the ways how things get done. When we arrived, we had to get our papers done. It took about four months, and then the Pandemic hit. We had here strict curfew, defined days when were allowed to leave the house, defined by passport numbers at what time. At that time, we lived in a high rise and ordered fresh produce, fish, and meats via WhatsApp. For workouts, we ran down and up our stairs. Alcohol was not allowed. The government was afraid of domestic violence. People jumped out of high risers, so it was an intense time. Feelings were up and down; that’s when we started fostering cats or kittens, and that’s also how our bunch of two grew to a crew of four. As soon as we were able, we moved to the historic district where we heard that there was kind of a community. Since then, we have been living here in the beautiful district of Casco Viejo, which is finally waking up from sleeping during the pandemic to a touristy vibrant party area. Life in Panama is slower, louder, and warmer. We have two seasons: rainy season or dry season, temperatures between 26-32 C, and humidity around 80-90%. It makes me humble to see what people are struggling with here and even though I feel that our adventure of exploring other countries has not found an end here, I am incredibly grateful for this experience in beautiful Panama.

Q: What is something valuable you’d like others to know?

A: Make a decision and make it count. It is YOUR personal story and path. Nobody can tell you who you are and how to live your life. You will make mistakes, and run into obstacles and pain. Embrace them and find gratitude in the experience they have given to you. Happiness is a decision and gratitude is the key to it. 

Q: What does feminism mean to you?
I grew up very protected, kind of naive, and in the knowledge that the generation of my mother fought for their rights. For me, I never felt a disadvantage for being a woman. My mother never differentiated between me and my brothers. I grew up with the confidence that I can do and accomplish ANYTHING I want, so I took it for granted and stood my ground.

Living in Panama, and being exposed to other countries and cultures opened my eyes to the fact that we still live in a world that does not treat every person like it is: a person, an individual, a wonderful creature. 

The unbelievable torture, traditions, and rights that are still to this day practiced in some cultures to subdue and treat women and girls like property is hard to comprehend from where I come from. It makes me feel naive and furious, and the unspeakable injustice rattles me deeply.

MORE FROM CORNELIA: I am often asked: “Cornelia, what is it that you do?” My answer is always the same: I provide simple tips, routines, and programs for working women, as well as clean solutions, provided by nature for you and your business. Well-being and health don’t have to be complicated. It starts with a mindset and a decision.

A big part of my success so far has been sharing tips, routines, and programs with other women in wellness-oriented businesses. The difference now is the way of sharing…instead of traveling around Germany…we now share in online courses and video classes.

Not sure yet if and where we will go next; let’s call it “laid-back digital nomadism,” only moving every couple of years.


Instagram: @cornelia.mikolash


YouTube: https://youtube.com/@CorneliaMikolash

Woman Wednesday: Wendy

Q and A with Wendy from Cambridge, England, now living in the West Midlands, England

“I want my children to be full of experiences; and learn what they love, what they hate, what excites them, and what bores them; and ultimately, what makes them happy”

Q: Tell us about yourself.

A: I have always been passionate about creating adventure in my life by cultivating a mindset open to continual learning. After spending almost 20 years taking my administration and project management skills from beginner to expert, working mainly for purpose-led organisations, I embarked on the adventure of starting my own business. Admin Fairy: The Agency (AFTA) was born two years ago, motivated by my desire to work flexibly for the time freedom to spend with my family and take my career into its next chapter.

As someone who always led the improvement of company processes and implemented systems to help teams work more efficiently, it felt natural to dedicate my business to delivering operational excellence. Speaking of family, my daughter will tell you how frustrated I get when I see the state of her room! Organisation is my middle name. Things have a place, though we are mid-renovation–so this can’t apply to my whole house, which definitely bothers me.

I am calmer when there are systems in place and feel that same level of satisfaction providing clients with this. For instance, I am currently providing virtual assistance and wider operations support to one of my clients, ‘Half the Sky.’ By saving them 15-30 hours a month and the cost of an employee, I help them meet their goals, as they can use that time to secure more clients for equality, diversity, and inclusion training. I find value in aiding their mission of creating a positive impact in the world by providing improved efficiency and profitability, and more widely helping them reach their full operations potential.

Q: What were your younger years like?

A: I’d describe my childhood as fairly normal, growing up with my mum, dad, and brother in Cambridge, UK. Most of my family still live in or around Cambridge and, growing up, we didn’t holiday abroad, so my life experience was limited. A key factor that has impacted my life is never feeling pushed to find out what I was good at or passionate about. This saw me heading off to university to study early childhood studies, not because I loved kids, but because I had no clue about what I actually wanted to do. This meant that it took me a long time to figure out what I wanted to do in life.

Yet, that underlying value of care has translated positively into both my family life and business. For starters, we didn’t have pets growing up (other than fish) and now I have a house full of pets we take pleasure in caring for. We have a cat named George and a dog named Ruby and have previously had fancy rats, and hamsters…we’ll have a small zoo one day.

Taking pride in the value of care has led me to selectively curate a dedicated team at Admin Fairy: The Agency (AFTA). Purpose-led organisations can trust that I will assign only the very best experts in their field, matched to their specific needs, to elevate their business operations and help them reach their goals with ease. Our support truly is bespoke, just like each business. Also, by taking care of the operational areas within a business, I allow the CEO to grow and make change, through the improved efficiency and profitability that results from implementing optimal systems. I am grateful for how this value of care growing up translates into who I am, what I do, and why I do it.

Q: What is something valuable you’d like others to know?

A: I want my children to be full of experiences; and learn what they love, what they hate, what excites them, and what bores them; and ultimately, what makes them happy. I want them to approach life, as I do my own and through Admin Fairy: The Agency (AFTA), with the adventure of continuous learning. I want them to feel safe in the knowledge that this means they will make mistakes, but that this won’t matter so much if they’re passionate about what they’re pursuing. I want them to be passionate about something, so much so that they want the world to know about it. I want them to know that they will have to work hard, but not at the expense of fun or rest. Just as I learned that it was okay to change my course in life by starting my business, I hope others can learn that it’s okay to change their mind, as often as they need to, until they find what works for them. For me, that’s helping purpose-driven organisations provide a greater positive impact in the world by leading them on a transformational journey to operational excellence.

Q: What does feminism mean to you?
Feminism to me means having the power and freedom of choice. Other keywords that define this term for me are opportunity and strength. I believe in a world where we support each other, celebrate wins, and dive into the positives collectively, as women and as humanity. Having the choice to start my own business and existing as a female entrepreneur feels like a win on this front. The notion of support and community are ones I feel best placed to support by sharing my professional administration and project management expertise. This inspired me to create a Facebook group, ‘The VA Collaboration Corner.’ It serves as a community that provides virtual assistants (VAs) with the opportunity to connect, and share wins, ideas, knowledge, and experiences to help each other grow. As part of this free membership, I will also be providing relevant educational information, including associate opportunities via a newsletter.

Thank you for taking the time to read about me. Please feel free to connect with me:

VAs can join the group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/vacollaborationcorner

Admin Fairy:The Agency (AFTA) Website: https://www.adminfairytheagency.com/

Admin Fairy: The Agency (AFTA) Social Media Links: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/helloadminfairy/

Facebook group for VAs: https://www.facebook.com/groups/vacollaborationcorner

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/adminfairytheagency/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/adminfairytheagency/

Connect with Wendy: Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/wendyraynerhall/

Woman Wednesday: Katie B.

Q and A with Katie from Oxfordshire, United Kingdom

“You don’t need to talk to be heard.”

Q: Tell us about yourself.

A: Hi, I’m Katie and I’m a certified hypnotherapist and single parent to two boys. I live in Oxfordshire in the UK, but I’m a Manchester girl born and bred. I used to be a Samaritans Listener, which I loved doing. It always feels wrong to say I loved it because it involves answering the phone to people on the verge of suicide or at a crisis point in their life, but I really did enjoy it. It taught me that there’s great power in silence and a lot of the time that’s all people need–for you to be quiet and to really listen to them, to really hear them. Unfortunately, when I got divorced, I just didn’t have the time to commit to it anymore, but I do hope to pick it up again when my children are older. Having had that experience, I discovered a love for listening to people and their problems and that set me on the path towards searching for other ways I could help people.

I’m fascinated with how the mind works and, having experienced anxiety and depression in my life, I’m interested in learning about alternative ways to deal with mental illness and traumatic events. That led me to hypnotherapy. I specialize in enabling high-achieving professional women to overcome emotional trauma to they can reignite their confidence, but I do also practice in other areas too. The reason I chose to niche in this area is because I’ve experienced quite a lot of emotional trauma and, having done a lot of work to heal myself, I want to help others who have experienced similar events in their lives. I also love books and have quite a large collection…of ones I’ll probably never find the time to read, but I live in hope. I particularly love to escape into a world of spies and espionage, which is as far removed from my life as you can get. My favorite author is David Baldacci and I have most of his books. I’m not sure why I love the world of espionage so much, but I do wonder whether I have an untapped yearning to work for MI6. Too many Bond films as a child, I guess.

Q: What were your younger years like?

A: I always say I had a very normal and boring family, but as you get older, you realize that it was never as boring as you think. That said, there’s nothing negative that stands out from it which, having worked for the Samaritans, I’ve discovered is rarer than you’d think. I was a child of the 80s and I’m really grateful for that as I feel we had the best of times then. Being able to stay out all day on your bike with your friends, and no phones for your parents to check up on you. You just had to be home for tea. We had such freedom, but I can’t imagine letting my eldest son go out without his phone and not being able to track him. As a child, I always wanted to be a lawyer and was preparing to apply to study law at university, BUT I got a part-time job when I was at college, working in a restaurant, which I absolutely loved, so in the end, I applied to study hotel management instead. In my final year at Uni, I lived with a law student, and seeing how stressful revising for exams was, I have never been more thankful that I didn’t choose a degree in law in the end! Funny how life turns out.

Q: What is something valuable you’d like others to know?

A: The power of silence. Seriously. I learned this as a tool with the Samaritans and cannot underestimate how powerful it can be. I was taught to never be scared of it and it’s a tool I use now within hypnotherapy. When I was volunteering with the Samaritans, I once took a call from a very angry teenage girl who, eventually, just stopped talking but didn’t hang up. I could tell she still needed to be on the phone so we sat there, in complete silence, for 10 minutes, at which point, she told me she felt a lot better and she rang off. It makes me laugh now to think that was all she needed, but just shows how you don’t need to talk to be heard.

Q: What does feminism mean to you?
Equality, pure and simple; women being treated equally and respected as such. That said, I’m not averse to a man holding the door open for me….but I reserve the right to hold it open for him too.

Thank you for taking the time to read about me. Please feel free to connect with me: