Day in the Life

A Day in the Life: Chief Operations Officer

For our Day in the Life series, we look at the daily work habits, schedules and routines from people in a variety of roles and careers around the world.

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Sarah Heering, Chief Operations Officer at Muzik

Sarah is a media entrepreneur and tech startup founder, and is currently the COO of headphones and wearable tech company, Muzik.

I live and die by my calendar, if something is on my calendar I generally try hard to get it done. My day now consists of 4-8 zoom meetings with various team leads, outside partners, and fires that arise daily. I’m juggling most of the day and that’s how I work best. 

I keep a pen and paper next to my computer at all times and rearrange priorities on the fly. One thing I focus on is being present while I’m talking with anyone. I find multi-tasking is sometimes necessary at times but it’s not me at my best. 

Thereby, I try to only put things on my calendar that ladder up to the company’s strategic vision and supporting our milestones. 

Katie Walmsley, Co-Founder & Chief Operations Officer at BenchOn

Katie Walmsley is the Co-Founder & Chief Operations Officer at Australian start-up BenchOn, a business only sharing economy platform.

My days are usually chaotic and very rarely run smoothly. I have 2 young children so once I get them sorted my focus is the business.

Being a co-founder of a start-up there is rarely anyone to delegate to so I spend my day responding to the MUST DO list and then return back to work after hours to finish off the tasks that did not get done during daylight hours.

Start-ups keep their head count low so not only am I responsible for COO duties, I manage all operational tasks and procedures, administration, customer service, accounts, HR, some business development, technical requirements, testing and whatever else needs to be done. There are never enough hours in a day.

Francesca Pinzone, Co-Founder & COO of Umbo

Francesca Pinzone is the co-founder and COO of Umbo, a social enterprise that works to reduce inequalities for families living in regional and rural Australia by providing allied health services online.

I start my first job pretty early in the morning – with my husband and I getting our three kids up and out the door to either school or daycare! 

After kisses and hugs goodbye, I start with a coffee, head to the office and then check emails and make a bit of a plan for the day. Because I wear a few different hats in a few different organisations, I try and compartmentalise my days so that I am focused on the tasks at hand within each role.

There is no such thing as a typical day, especially now since the COVID-19 changes, however as a snapshot yesterday included:

  • Sending out employment contracts for new clinicians joining Umbo
  • Reconciled some of our accounts – the joy of a small team!
  • Collecting and analysing evaluation data on an online training program and utilising that to inform changes to the program
  • Reviewing consultation training proposals to help allied health providers become online ready
  • Liaising with students and tutors – especially now with changes due to COVID-19
  • Planning classes for upcoming weeks at university
  • Reviewing social media content for sharing
  • Reviewing Medicare changes that are relevant for our business in light of COVID-19
  • Pre Covid-19 after work I then would be picking kids up and taking them to karate or football training.

Diony McPherson, Co-Founder & COO at Paperform

Diony McPherson, Co-Founder & COO at Paperform, a web platform that enables anyone to create online forms or product pages, which she launched with her husband in 2016.

As Dean and I are founders, spouses, and parents, family and work are absolutely integrated. Here’s yesterday for me:

7am – get up and see the family, Dean’s already been up with our two kids (aged 10 months and 2 years) for an hour and he lets me sleep in a bit as our youngest, Freddie, wakes up 3 to 5 times a night. 

We’ll have a coffee, see how we’re all doing, play, and then do a standup to plan the day and ensure the priorities are flagged. The kids have a strict routine, and Dean and I adjust our work to suit what is most important. 

We usually have a nanny, but don’t currently due to COVID19, so we’re a tag-team when it comes to childcare and work. Having that standup and clearly defining who is working at what times and what we need to get done is pivotal in setting expectations, and setting expectations is essential for mitigating anxiety. 

There’s no room for ego; you have to be clear about what you must achieve and step up in supporting your partner in achieving their goals.

8am – 10:30am work: check in on the team (USA is just waking up for us as we’re based in Sydney), sort out admin, work on projects with legal, finance, support, opps, etc. My role involves a lot of moving parts and facilitating other people’s work. 

I have to prioritise serving others – that’s my main role, to ask “What do I need to do to help this person or team get their work done?”. Our team has recently almost doubled in size, so there’s a lot of storming and forming. Dean takes the boys for a walk or entertains them somehow.

10:30 – usually nap time for the boys. We each spend 10 – 15 minutes putting a baby down to sleep. A really lovely part of the morning (mostly!), and it’s amazing that they mostly sleep at the same time.

10:45 – 1pm more work: usually I jump into a larger project during this time and focus. Or Dean and I might have a founders meeting to hash out a complex concept.

1pm – feed everyone, big and small – the boys are usually awake around now.

1:30pm – 5pm Dean usually works on dedicated dev stuff. He needs time to go down the programming rabbithole without interruption. 

I’ll take the boys out (would go to my mum’s or a friend’a before covid19 hit), bake with Sterling, cook, play with play-doh, read them stories, jump onto Slack while the boys play by themselves. It’s important that they learn to play by themselves and not have attention all the time.

5pm – touch base with the Europe based team briefly, but mostly Dean and I have some family time with all of us together before dinner. Dinner is around 6pm, and then the boys have their bedtime routine from around 6:30-7pm. 

Our boys aren’t great sleepers (I’m pretty sure it’s genetic!), so a solid routine is essential for getting them happily to bed. Only an absolute emergency will interrupt this family time.

7:30 – clean the house! Dean and I both have our respective chores, which we smash out pretty quickly.

8pm – 10pm – check in with the team and get more work done! Sometimes I finish earlier than this, around 9pm, but currently with no nanny there is a lot of work to catch up on in the evenings. 

I usually work in front of the tv in the evenings and have something fun on in the background. Watching 30 Rock again at the moment.

10:30-11pm bed.

That’s our daily routine, weekends are a little looser with work and we make more time for family. Our family is number one priority by default, unless a major issue arises, and then of course that temporarily takes our focus while we put Disney Plus on. 

That’s our expectation for our team too – their families are the most important thing, so we understand when life happens and they have to jump off work for a while. We know they take pride in their work and trust them to come back and get things done. 

I’m admittedly more on-edge at the moment trying to get everything done with a growing business but without a nanny. We’d usually have help with the kids from 8am until 1pm three to four days a week, but it’s just not possible at the moment with social distancing in place. So, my expectations have to change. That’s life.

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.