Albert Boukarim is the Head Of Operations at EntryLevel, a company on a mission to empower 1 billion people to discover, reskill into, and nurture a meaningful career.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I am a generalist entrepreneur and I have worked in a variety of industries and roles, though I have definitely found a preference for young companies who are just about to go through a growth spurt.
I studied Engineering and Commerce in University, and one of my first roles was as Head of Global Marketing at Streamvision, during which I tried channelling all the new skills I learned into launching two of my own startups with varying degrees of success/failure.
I then tried to pursue the other half of my degree, working as an Engineer in two companies, Aquamonix and Railius – but in both instances my employers recognised that due to my startup experience, I was more valuable in management.
At Aquamonix, I was made Operations Supervisor of two factories, and at Ralius I was made the Project Manager, overseeing Inclined Lift construction projects.
When the opportunity arose to work at a startup again, I was excited to return to that space as the Head of Operations for Entrylevel, a company aiming to reskill 1B by 2030. My role sees me acting the glue between all the different departments in the company, ensuring that all the pieces of work they are doing fit together into a complete picture.
This is actually one of the things that I love about Operations, that it enables me as a generalist and lets me dip my fingers into all the different areas of the business.
2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
A lot of my role is checking up on and maintaining processes. Operations is all about making sure things are running as smoothly and efficiently as possible.
We actually just launched a new batch of training programs this week, and in the days leading up to the launch my days would often be going through checklists with our developers and learning designers to ensure that everything was ready to go.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Yes, EntryLevel does allow for both flexible and remote working. I personally prefer to stick to the 9 to 5 routine because so much of my work depends on my ability to interact with the other departments and third parties, who are most likely to be around at that time, but also because it’s good for me to have a set routine where I can tell myself and others that I am switching off at 5.
That said, having that option to be flexible really does allow me to be way more adaptable when something comes up at work or at home, allowing me to work around it without having to use up leave or something.
I feel the same way about working remotely. I like to come to the office regularly and see the team, but the flexibility to work from home when I want to is priceless.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
For me personally, it means finding a routine I’m comfortable with and effectively communicating that routine with the people in my life, inside and outside of work.
Having a routine helps people to know when I can be reached. When something affects that routine, it also means managing the expectations of people at work as well as my friends and family. That’s a little extra effort, but it’s worth it for the flexibility to adapt to curveballs in my schedule.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
I have experimented with a lot of habits last year and many have failed. A lot of people have recommended things like blocking out a day where I don’t book any meetings, or scheduling a specific time in the week for a certain time or habit, but I felt like I was constantly making exceptions so I stopped doing it. Maybe this works for some people but that kind of strict ruleset wasn’t working for me.
I found that the habits I was most likely to keep were monitored on a weekly basis. I like setting out the things I want to do on a Monday, and just checking in on how I’m tracking throughout the week. I find checking a list whenever I have downtime a much easier habit to keep than doing something at the same time every day.
This is how I track and report my tasks at work, my fitness schedule and my personal to-dos. Ticking things off can be super satisfying and while I don’t always manage to tick everything off the list, if I can get 90% or more crossed off by the end of the week, I’m usually pretty happy.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
I read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey for the first time last year and enjoyed it. I highly recommend The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt for anyone in an Operations role.
The ‘My First Million” podcast is also really popular around the office.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
I’m a big fan of Asana, and use it for a lot of my task tracking and goal setting, but to be honest, for the longest time I just used a pen and paper notepad that I wrote in every day.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
I don’t have anyone specific, but I’d love to read a book by someone who runs some kind of high volume manufacturing plant or product line, which I always imagine has to be a kind of crazy juggling act.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
I think it’s worth mentioning that what you define work-life balance to be is constantly changing, and it’s worth revisiting your priorities every now and again. I remember at points in my life where I was juggling 5 or 6 projects and feeling fairly content, whereas now the idea of doing that seems crazy to me.
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