Fi Nguyen is our November Member Of The Month. Fi is a talented IP Attorney and Founder and Principal of Girl Friday IP. She supports creative thinkers to secure their ideas and designs. After dipping her toes in the IP commercialisation pool at one of Australia’s largest medical research institutes, she realised that IP still remained a foreign concept for most business owners and start-ups. Girl Friday IP was founded to translate IP legalese and bridge the knowledge gap.
Fi is both giving IP law a radical shake-up, and is your best bet if you ever need to bake a pavlova in a flash. She’s cool under pressure and wowed us all in season three of The Great Australian Bake Off.
Fi joins us for a Q and A that will leave you feeling inspired and thinking about your next big idea.
What are you reading at the moment? The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. I’m a big advocate that big things start with small meaningful steps. The book is all about how ideas, products and messages reach a take-off point, spread like wildfire and can make a big difference.
Who is the most remarkable woman you’ve ever met? A Vietnamese refugee who arrived in Australia in 1983. She knew little English, sat her matriculation exams, qualified for electrical engineering and was one of two women in her engineering class. She worked two full-time jobs while studying, graduated near top of the class and then went back to uni for her MBA. She is one of the most selfless people I know. This woman is my Mum.
What is a quote/motto you live by? It’s important to know what you know. It’s even more valuable to know what you don’t know. Besides I think it would be a boring life if you knew it all. (Google would probably agree.)
Why did you join Future Women? I’m a news junkie and constantly on the lookout for quality reading material. I found this and more at Future Women. Being part of a community of like-minded, passionate women is a real privilege.
What was the biggest challenge you overcame when starting Girl Friday IP? I started Girl Friday IP with the intention of breaking away from the conservative image and attitudes associated with the intellectual property industry. To do this, I’ve had to work to overcome my own crisis of confidence and learn to embrace the opportunity and privilege to make Girl Friday IP what I want it to be – not what others think it should be.
What advice would you give to women who are considering starting their own business? Be authentic. Authenticity in everything you do will help you stay true to your purpose and the people you want to engage with. It won’t feel like work when you’re doing what you love and being true to yourself.
Throughout your career, when have you been most vulnerable? And how did you get through it? Spending a lot of time working and travelling on my own. This is still a work in progress. Everyone thinks it’s really glamorous being your own boss but it’s not. It can be really isolating. The benefits of your usual 9-5, especially working with colleagues and friends, should not be underestimated and always appreciated.
We heard a rumour you were a quarter-finalist in The Great Australian Bake Off. What strategies did you use to remain calm when the pressure was on? It was surreal experience to be on The Great Australian Bake Off. If there was ever a place to learn how to deal with pressure, it was the Bake Off shed! The best thing to do was to focus on the actual baking task at hand and it helped drown out all the peripheral stuff. And collaboration over competition with the other bakers was a huge help. The other bakers were such generous people and I’m proud to be able to call them friends.
IP law is a fast paced and constantly changing area. How do you stay up to date with the law, legal precedents and other decisions that affect IP? I’m a huge consumer for news in the IP space. Online articles, magazines, journals, email newsletters – you name it and I’m probably a subscriber. With the increasing accessibility of digital media, there’s no excuse not to stay up to date with IP news or news in general. My passion for sharing this news through my social media channels and blog posts, also helps keep me motivated to staying informed and connected.
“Be authentic. Authenticity in everything you do will help you stay true to your purpose and the people you want to engage with.”
What is the most unusual or interesting piece of IP you’ve been asked to advise on? I’ve been really lucky to learn about all sorts of businesses and industries. From the coffin making business (yes, you read right!), food and wine brands to high tech robotic technology. I can genuinely say that I have never been bored in this job.
Do you have any tips for the community on how to protect their own IP? Doing a little homework before launching into all the fun business stuff like branding and websites. The great thing is it doesn’t cost you anything but a little time! It can help you scope out your potential competition, how you might position your business and importantly whether you can launch your business without running into any obvious issues. If you have something you think is worth protecting, have a chat to a pro – we can help work out the best IP strategy for you and your circumstances.
What do you believe are the biggest challenges for women in the workplace? In respect of the Patent and Trade Mark Attorney profession, sadly female representation at partnership and leadership levels is really poor. Several factors contribute to this imbalance, but the evaluation metrics in particular have been skewed in favour of the traditionally male dominated culture. Swimming against this tide of gender bias is a workout.
You have one piece of advice to give for young, ambitious women. What is it? Aspire to inspire those around you. As you learn and grow professionally, you’re in a prime position to inspire and mentor others, both women and men, starting out on their journeys and coming up through the ranks. Real change comes from all of us paying it forward to perpetuate positive experience and learnings.
If you weren’t principal of Girl Friday IP, what would you be doing? I’d probably be a pastry chef, though not a successful one since I’d be tucking into my own goods!
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