Adrienne Tan is the co-founder and CEO of Brainmates, a product management agency offering training, consulting and product events.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I started my early career as a Research Assistant at the Faculty of Building, University of Technology Sydney believing that academia was the best place to be for someone who had just completed a Masters’ thesis on the Economics of Marriage and Divorce.
I also did some part time administrative work at a company called On Australia in the late 1990s to supplement my enormous paycheck as a Research Assistant. On Australia was a joint venture between Microsoft and Telstra, bringing content and internet services to Australians.
To cut a dull story short, while I was at On Australia, I loved working in Tech designing billing systems with my engineering pals. This kick started the next phase of my career as a Product Manager.
I cut my teeth as a Product Manager at AUSTAR, delivering Internet access to regional Australians. But I had this hankering to make something of my own and Brainmates was conceived in 2004.
I am the CEO of Brainmates, Australia’s first Product Management agency offering training, consulting and Product events to the Product Management community.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
Every day is unique.
Today I jumped on various calls to speak to our clients about how to lift the Product Management capability in their organisations. I edited our Product Management eBook, a collection of talks from our conference Leading the Product.
I designed a workshop I’ll be running this Wednesday, I updated our Product Leadership course material, and I met up with my team to make sure we’re on track.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
I’d love to say that I have a balanced life but my job is all consuming. There is so much I want to do and will always push myself to give that little bit more. When I think I can’t, somehow I do. But I love my job so I am energised by it.
We’ve transitioned our business to become a digital business so the whole team works remotely. We train online, we run events and conferences online, we coach and consult online.
COVID-19 has been like a tidal wave and has pushed us quickly to transform our business and I’m very proud to say that we have done well in the current environment.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
My life is my work and my work is my life. My family is heavily involved in my business. My 11 year old son is well versed in Product Management. My parents cater for the team.
I don’t struggle between work-life. If you are always pushing for balance, you’ll be miserable. I think you just do what makes you happy. I designed my life to make me happy.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
Well working from home has been difficult. I am energised by having people around me. That’s been a huge shift in my routine.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
Favourite books have to be by Ben Horowitz. And if you want to learn about pricing, the work from Profitwell is also awesome. I read a lot to keep up to date with my craft. I write a lot as well so that fuels the need to read a lot.
Check out the podcast This is HCD as well. Loads of great content on there.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
My stupid phone. I am attached to it. But saying that, it has helped me manage and grow my business so perhaps it isn’t that stupid after all.
8) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
I am a fan of designing my life. I think the concept of work-life balance needs to be deconstructed and designed with more specific goals in mind. Simply saying you want work-life balance without describing what it means, makes it incredibly difficult to attain.
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