Day in the Life

A Day in the Life: Strategy Director

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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Stephen Mariani, Associate Strategy Director at The New York Times

Stephen Mariani is a San Francisco-based Associate Strategy Director at The New York Times, where he crafts brand, creative and media strategies for NYT partnerships.

Compared to client side – and even agency side – the publisher side moves fast. On a typical day, we would receive a Request for Proposal (RFP) from a media agency or client partner, then I would take lead – with partners across T Brand and Sales – to form a team to respond to the RFP. 

Most of the time, when I am part of that responding team, the partner is looking for branded content ideas that would live on (or across our diverse ecosystem). 

To inform those ideas, I create a strategy, unearthing audience, cultural, brand and competitive insights. Normally, I have to do this in a matter of hours – not days. 

From there, I brainstorm with our creative team to come up with content ideas – from branded content articles to custom podcasts – that help promote the brand in question. 

Bec Madden, Strategy Director at Archetype

Bec Madden is the Strategy Director at Archetype, a global marketing agency partnering with category creators and industry leaders around the world.

Since coming back from maternity leave, I mostly work from home, which makes it so much easier to balance the grind. I feel like this allows me to be less hectic and focused to deliver, while also being able to focus on the small people in my life in a more meaningful way.  

Since coming back, I have forgotten my old ways and have well and truly joined the 5am club. Kind of unavoidable with a 11-month-old, but I’ve really learned to love it – I’m so much more productive and energised (go figure, I’m definitely not getting more sleep).

This morning, for instance, I woke up at 5ish to feed the baby, followed by a Zoom bootcamp session for 45mins for that much needed exercise fix. Once both my children got off to daycare my day really began. 

I meditated with Deepak for 10 minutes and then hit the ground running with a strong coffee in hand at 9am. Honestly, the combination of exercise and meditation has really changed the game for me and I’d recommend it to anyone – never looking back to my late nights, late rising ways! 

Depending on what I’m working on, my day-to-day changes all the time. From going deep on research and planning a client’s strategy through to creative reviews, I’ve often got my head down in the work, with blinkers on until I’ve cracked an insight or milestone and I’m ready to move on. 

Part of the balance here for me is really ignoring or tuning out distractions. If I responded in real-time to everything in these moments, I’d never get anything done. 

I try and chunk out my day, micro sprints if you will, to switch up my mindset but also fit things in. In the afternoon I’ll try and focus on more menial tasks if I have them before getting one last deep dive into a strategy. Sometimes I’m up late but in the downtimes I’m finished and out the door to get the kids at 5.30. 

Alexandra Geddes, Director of Strategy at Service NSW

Alexandra Geddes is the Director of Strategy at Service NSW. She is also a regular speaker at conferences on citizen engagement and experience, transformation initiatives, and more. 

My day starts with my kids (aged 5 and 7) jumping into bed for a morning cuddle. We then have the well-worn routine to get them ready and to school before the bell rings. 

Sometimes this is successful and sometimes not. I’m working from home full time at the moment, so my husband and I tend to take turns to do the short walk to school.

I’ve found that remote working has increased collaboration and engagement – but that means I’m on calls for most of the day. The challenge becomes the need to prioritise the work that needs to be done between meetings. 

When the kids return from school, I love hearing about what’s happened during the day and preparing an afternoon snack, before heading back into the home office for the next round of meetings.

We have fantastic support from grandparents who help with after-school care – it makes such a difference to have that assistance and allows for our parents to often stay for mid-week dinners with the family which we all love.

More often than not, I log back on for an additional few hours after the kids’ dinner and bedtime stories. Not great work-life balance, but I’m working on it.

Melanie Johnstone, Strategy Director at Splendid Suggestions

Melanie Johnstone is the Strategy Director at Splendid Suggestions – one of Australia’s leading B2B IT marketing consultancy – working with customers such as Microsoft, Intel, Citrix and Brennan IT.

I drop the kids off at school, most days, between 8am and 8.30am. I try to be at my desk by 8.30am. Tim Sands, Splendid’s Managing Director, and I then usually have some friendly banter via chat or video call on Microsoft Teams where we share what’s happening for the day and outline any key priorities for the next few days and how we will share the load.

My day is likely to be peppered with any mix of internal and client facing meetings such as strategy briefings, discussions, workshops, presentations, new business meetings or general check-ins and updates on live projects. We’re also highly collaborative, both internally and externally, with clients like Microsoft, and we chat and work together on documents via Teams.

I try not to work really long hours – instead, I put myself in a really efficient headspace so I can achieve what needs to be done every day. That means just a quick lunch break (around 5-10 mins tops), give or take a few minutes while my Greyhound, Odin, sniffs his few favourite trees and leaves a message for his neighbours.

Then I’m back to it, so I can wrap things up by 4.30-ish to do the school pick-up and evening shift at home.

Erin Morris, Strategy Director at Young Folks Digital

Erin Morris is the Founder & Strategy Director at Young Folks Digital, a digital marketing agency based in Mornington, offering digital marketing strategy, content marketing and workshops & training.

As a creative business providing a service, our skills and knowledge are our currency — without them, we have no value to deliver and therefore nothing to sell. For this reason, it is of utmost importance that we look after ourselves — as the saying goes: “you can’t pour from an empty cup,” and this is truly relevant to creatives.

Starting the day sweaty is one of my top priorities. Whether that’s a run along the beach or a pilates class, exercise in the morning always sets me up for a solid day ahead.

Then, I cruise into the studio and start my work day chatting to the baristas at Commonfolk Coffee (we’re so lucky to have one of Mornington’s hippest coffee haunts right next door to our studio).

Our team meet at 9:30am to check in on project work, flag any wins and any challenges, and set the priorities for the day. Then, from 10am to 2pm we have uninterrupted work time (aside from lunch, of course) usually to the tune of Brain.FM with some essential oils diffusing.

We’re a creative business, so it’s important that we allow ourselves space and time to get into a good creative flow — that’s when the magic happens. During this time I might work on developing a marketing strategy for a client, work through some data analysis for a recent campaign, or write content marketing copy.

After 2pm there might be meetings or more collaborative work with the team. The energy in the studio really shifts from calm to energetic at this time.

When 5pm rolls around I’m seeing off the team and writing down my list of actions and goals for the following day. After that, I head home to cook dinner with my partner Ben and unwind.

Gorgia Brewer, Content & Strategy Director at Resolve Content

Gorgia Brewer is the Content & Strategy Director at project agency, Resolve Content, where she manages a team of innovators, strategists, and content curators.

Each day is so different, which is such a cliche. I think that is my favorite part about working at an agency – no client is going to want to talk to you about the same type of project or have the same request which always keeps me on my toes.

Like everyone as soon as they become client-facing, most of my 9-5 hours consist of meetings talking about new projects, pitches, or escalations from the team. I’m often leading presentations to clients, so most of my day is taken up presenting. 

My favorite conversations are those with a new client, where we get to absorb every inch of their business and find a journey to the outcome they are looking for. 

More recently, new business has become an evolving conversation that relies on relationship building so we are working really hard on being proactive with any new clients. New business is a hugely important piece of the puzzle for us, so the majority of my day is dedicated to that.

I actually work best outside of a 9-5, where I find I have the ability to be creative and focus without the never-ending stream of emails coming in. So you’ll often find me on the couch, watching my favourite drama of the moment while researching a new client, reading a new strategy book, or finishing up a recommendation.

Aside from that, I have an amazing team that can sometimes run into roadblocks so I do everything I can to make sure they can run their projects as smoothly as possible so they can keep our clients coming back. 

As important as new business is to us, returning business means we’re doing our jobs right and so I take that extremely seriously. They also need support, so I make sure I’m available for any questions or concerns they have as much as I can. 

Blake Moseley, National Digital Strategy Director at Hogarth Australia

Blake Moseley is the National Digital Strategy Director at creative production company Hogarth Australia, where he helps advertisers, creative and media agencies navigate the digital advertising ecosystem.

I usually wake up at 6am, meditate for 10-15mins. Sounds cliché, but it’s what I need to set my day up for success. I aim to get into the office by 7:30am with a coffee in hand.

I like to try and get in there before the day is in full swing. I go through my emails which came through the night before from our global offices and spend 10mins rewriting my to-do list for the day.

The rest of the day is spent either in client and agency meetings and strategizing campaign responses with my peers. During my downtime, I make sure I spend my time reading recent research and industry articles to ensure I’m always equipped with the latest best practices and knowledge in creative production and media trends.

On most days, I try and leave the office by 5:45pm so I can go to the gym. More often than not, I’ll reply to a few emails later in the evening through dinner and jump on a call with our global teams, if required.

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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.