Balancing the Grind with Abigail Swabey, Co-Founder at Source2Create

Abigail Swabey is the Co-Founder of Source2Create, a marketing media house she launched 6 months ago alongside tech-media journalist, Jennifer O’Brien.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I reside in Australia and have done for over 20 years, originally from Bristol in the UK. I came to Australia at 17 to settle my grandfather’s estate which has a story of its own; once finished, I stayed on a working visa and started a whole new adventure.

After several trips around Australia, fruit picking and working in bars, I settled in Sydney and scored a temp job at Reed Business as a member of telemarketing directory sales. A few months later, I became the Sales Manager of a Construction Magazine – and that’s how it all started.

In 2001, I started working as the Sales Manager at a boutique media house on an Electrical Magazine. Realising I wasn’t half bad at selling (definitely not a profession I would ever have chosen), I started looking at publications that I found interesting in up-and-coming media companies so that I could launch into my new career.

I came across ZDNET. This was my introduction into the tech market and a whole different world opened up to me.

Over four years at ZDNET, I was the Sales Manager across the Print Division for Technology & Business, Clevel Magazine and Builder. I managed a small team of sales reps, initiated new business opportunities, scored industry firsts, analysed gaps in the market to launch different products into, set and smashed budgets. My time came to an end at ZDNET when we sold off all the print publications and became an online media house.

In 2006, I was headhunted to work at IDG Communications, where I stayed for nearly 15 years. I started as a gun for hire. My job was to take all the money out of the market with clients that IDG didn’t house — pick a competitor, take all their clients, and then move onto the next.

I then moved into publishing while keeping a very sturdy ongoing clientele. I remained the Publisher of CSO Australia for more than nine years. Fascinated with IT security, I built up a great community, found a market niche and stuck to it.

Also while running CSO I noticed more so than not it was always men in the roles of security and men who would put their hands up to speak at my security & industry events, with this realisation came my new mission.

The mission was to put forward as many women into IT Security roles as I could, working with major networks and associations to do this, while also making sure females were on event lineups, etc.

Something I soon found to be a key passion of mine, elevating women in security into the limelight in Australia. This led into one of my favourite roles of running the Australian Women in Security Network (AWSN) Women in Security Awards.

Another area of passion for me was and always has been “my clients”. While working at IDG, my clients used to tell me that I wasn’t a ‘typical’ sales person. In fact, I wasn’t a salesperson at all – I rarely asked the client to spend with me.

Instead, I would advise my clients what was in the market, what I had to offer, my ideas for their programming and campaigns, consult with them and their teams, then they could make the decision. I listened.

After nearly 15 years at IDG, and my clients encouraging me, I got the courage to leave and start my own business, Source2Create (S2C). It’s been nearly 6 months and I haven’t looked back. I get to do what I love every single day. Yes, sure – Some days are better than others but by far the good outweighs the bad.

S2C is a marketing media house of which I am a co-founder alongside tech-media journalist, Jennifer O’Brien. We deliver innovative, creative and engaging content to end users as a service. I get to work with cool clients, innovate, build and deliver creative and unique ideas. The beauty of it is that I get to work with some amazing people in an environment of my choosing.

2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

I try to keep the same routine so I don’t fall into my old habits of working every waking minute. I wake at 6 am, grab a coffee and then start training at 7am for an hour with my Personal Trainer, or I walk the dog.

At 8:30 am, I’m sitting on my verandah, throwing the dog a ball or two (of which he never brings back), while drinking my second coffee and taking it all in before I start work at 9.

For the first hour of my work day, I write my ‘To Do’ list, catch up and check in with clients. I then post my daily LinkedIn content, put together programming for new business, check on project delivery, and then brainstorm new ideas for clients.

Before you know it, it’s lunchtime where I might take a break and continue watching the Law & Order: SVU marathon with my Event & Project Manager Charlie-Mae, or have an entertaining picnic on my verandah in the sun.

When back at my desk, I might build a few ads, double check ABM lists, put together booking forms and statements of work, balance project cost, run a few con calls with project partners, and finally check all my social media.

It gets to 6pm, lights out in the office space, and time to cook dinner for my family and the dog (who has been asking for the past hour). At 8pm, dinner is all done, some family connection time all sorted, so I quickly check any urgent emails before I go and relax in a hot bath, watching my favourite TV shows and unwind before doing it all again tomorrow.

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

My current role as a business owner means I can work from anywhere, at any time. I have a section of my house that’s an office, nicknamed ‘control centre.’

In it, I have multi screens; three sit down/stand up desks; a thinking couch (for my idea creations); a huge whiteboard; plants and my dog’s basket. I have cut travel out of my day-to-day unless it’s imperative.

For example, I only travel if I need to visit a client, or our podcast /video studios. Taking away the travel time gives me more time to focus on my health, which is why I exercise everyday.

Before I launched Source2Create, I worked more than 70% from home as the travel into the office was taking around three hours. For me sitting idle in a car while I could be working, exercising, or researching for the next innovative client idea, was just a waste – I saw the value of a good work/life balance back then.

Now, I can make even more of a conscious effort to strike a balance as I can be my own boss.

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

This is one of life’s difficult questions of which I’ll never have the answer for. I used to envy people that could work a strict 9-5 and then switch off completely. I never understood how those individuals could just flip the switch, not talk about work, take any late calls or finish off any last minute work.

Perhaps it’s my worst trait that I’m ‘always on’, but I can’t stop thinking about new ideas, different types of programming, answering emails and working out better ways to be the absolute best for my clients. However, when I do leave my home office space, I turn the lights out and to me, that signals the end of my work day – and I tune into my personal life.

The perfect balance for me would be to have 2 days on and one day off, the day off would be spent hiking about in one of our many national parks or beach walks to clear my head so that the weeks are always productive.

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5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

In the last 12 months, I started exercising every other day to improve my strength and mobility as I have had a serious spinal surgery, just over two years ago. It’s taken this long to build my health back up.

Since the quarantine period, I have spent a lot more time with my husband and my teenage kids which has brought us closer as a family. I also started to say ‘no’ which is actually very empowering and not something I was ever familiar with.

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

I haven’t read a book for a while, but my most recent purchases have all been from my security community. Unmasking the Hacker: Demystifying Cybercrime by Amanda-Jane Turner; A Hacker, I Am by Craig Ford. Security is something I love learning about and both these books make the hard stuff understandable!

Daring to Drive by Manal Al-Sharif, is a truly inspiring book of one woman’s journey into security in a world where its unheard of; and when I launched my business, I read Crushing It by Gary Vaynerchuk.

Newsletters I’m not really a big fan of and with podcasts I listen to Risky Biz, Future Women with Jamila Rizvi, Uncover, and Startup podcast.

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

I can’t live without my phone, because I use this for both work and take photos with. I am an avid photographer and my phone is lighter than my Cannon Camera when I go on walks.

I have a rubbish memory for passwords, so the app I can’t live without is definitely Lastpass, a password manager. I also can’t live without Pinterest –I get so many ideas from it including travel, ad design, new ideas and sites to visit.

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

Michelle Obama because I find myself fascinated in her continuation of using her influence for empowerment of young women through education around the world.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

There are a few quotes that have inspired me that I would like to pass on to your readers.

  • “Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.” – Dolly Parton
  • “You will never feel truly satisfied by work until you are satisfied with life.” – Heather Schuck
  • “Work is like a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls – family, health, friends, integrity – are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, or perhaps even shattered” – Gary Keller

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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.