Balancing the Grind with Adam Washington, Practice Lead, Consumer at Orchard

Adam Washington is the Practice Lead, Consumer at creative and technology business Orchard, where he is responsible for the management and growth of the agency’s consumer business.

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

My earliest experiences were in the wild west of late ‘90s internet culture and the .com bubble. My side project critiquing video games grew into a large Australian games site, which in turn introduced me to the world of digital media and comms. 

Back then, we fought hard to establish the same credibility as our print publication peers (“aren’t you just a website?”) and digital media buys were never more than 1% of a campaign’s spend. So, it’s no understatement to say we figured it out on the fly.

Having sold the business and returning from a stint overseas, I explored the other side of the industry I knew (selling the ad space) and joined my first agency (making the ads). I suppose I enjoyed it, as I’m still at it some 16 years later!

In my current role with Australian and US agency Orchard, I lead what we call our ‘consumer’ division (the other half being our health specialisation).

Our services include brand, campaign, social media, website and app development, alongside our customer experience consultancy. It’s a varied gig, including key focuses on existing client retention, growth, day-to-day management and new business development. 

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

Our 18-month-old boy has replaced alarm clocks in our house, so most mornings start with his 5.30am announcement that it’s time for the day to begin. As new parents, we’ve just about adjusted to early mornings (and the rest of our free time) no longer being our own, so pre-work prep and early morning exercise are swapped for the mania of breakfast, dressing and dashing out the door.

Most days, there’s a roughly 60/40 split of internal and client meetings. Morning meetings tend to be focused on commercials and ops, with remaining free time shifting to our client’s problems, briefs and opportunities. It’s the client work that’s still the most interesting part of my job.

Reviewing each week’s calendar on a Sunday evening, client workshop and presentation dates shape my focus for the coming five days, as these are always the most critical deadlines for the team to meet.

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

Yes, and post pandemic, more so than ever. 

The days when hours spent at our desks are an accurate reflection of performance are, I believe, long gone. We’re all wired differently – some of us work better at night, others in the morning – and the nature of our work also informs the contexts that enable it most effectively. For employers, I know trust is a key issue in this new world, but when this comes up with industry peers I ask: If you don’t trust your team, why did you hire them?

Culture, particularly in agencies, is critical, and this was perhaps our biggest concern as we began remote working at scale this year. But in the wake of Covid, we’ve seen we’re able to work as effectively, with better balance in our professional and personal lives, without sacrificing culture and interpersonal connection. 

Early in my career, my former CEO told me, “Adam, I don’t pay you for the hours at your desk. I pay you for the outcomes you achieve.” I still think that’s an enlightened point of view, and one I try to carry forward today.

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

For the past seven years, my wife and I have worked together, so you’d think work life balance would be even harder to achieve! But I’ve rarely struggled with it. 

In part, that’s because we both love what we do, so it often doesn’t feel like work. Like the nerds we are, we speak about the problems we solve for our clients even away from the office. So, it rarely feels like a chore. 

I’ve also always felt passionately about my handful of hobbies, and prioritized time for these, which has kept me from feeling resentful of work in my personal life. I think that’s a critical element of self-care for us all.

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

My answer couldn’t be more cliché, but yes, the gym! 

I’ve gone every second day for the last six months, these days at night after we’ve put our son to bed. Nobody needs another op ed about the benefits of exercise, so I’ll keep it short, but it really has done wonders for my productivity, fitness and happiness. Here’s to keeping it up.

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

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

My Apple Watch and AirPod Pros (which motivate my fitness, and ironically cut down my screen time), and my PlayStation and Xbox (my windows into extraordinary art and other worlds)

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

Barack Obama. He’s spoken about it before, but I look up to anyone who can run the free world for eight years, while being a great father and husband. I’m just trying to make apps and ads!

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

People will tell you that doing something you love means work never has to feel like work again. I don’t think it’s that simple.

In my experience, it’s resolute commitment to the thing you love – grit, determination and persistence in the face of setbacks or adversity – that brings most happiness and the greatest results.

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This conversation is brought to you by marketing data consultancy Venntifact, helping organisations build and enable high-performance digital teams to harness data and technology assets, empowering digital innovation.

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.