Designers / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Alex Skougarevskaya, Senior Design Manager – Confluence at Atlassian

Alex Skougarevskaya is a Senior Design Manager for collaborative workspace tool, Confluence, at Australian tech company, Atlassian.

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

I come from what I believe to be a more traditional design background.

I completed a BA Design from CoFA (UNSW), interned as a graphic designer for a magazine, then moved to web design, visual design, branding, advertising, marketing, ecommerce, UI, UX, product design – you could say I’ve had every job title in the industry.

Right now I’m a Senior Design Manager for Confluence, Atlassian’s tool for remote-friendly team workspace where knowledge and collaboration meet.

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

I run a team primarily based in the US, and I’m located in Sydney. 

  • My day starts at 5.45am. I’m usually on a call by 6/6.15, with a member of my team where we have a 1:1 meeting, I run 30-45 min 1:1’s with my 7 reports, weekly. 
  • It’s then followed by a 45min session with my triad: Head of Product and Head of Engineering for Confluence Experience – my peers.
  • Followed by a 30 min window where I help my husband, get our three girls; 9, 5, 5, get ready to go to school. I walk the kids to the gate and I’m back on a zoom call at 9.05am, this time it’s with our Program manager, to run through the key meetings and deliverables of the week. There have been many times where I’m doing my kids hair as I’m chatting with my team – the juggle is real.
  • Jump into a workshop 90 min, deep diving into a particular feature. The US work day finishes around this time, so I take the opportunity for 30 min for lunch and walk the dog to the park. 
  • Back to it for a few Sydney meetings like a monthly mentoring session I have with a senior IC from another team and lastly a sanity sync with a few of my peers from around the company.
  • I wrap up my day at 2.30, walk the dog, get ready for the afternoon with the kids. Occasionally I will jump back online around 9-10 to check on pages I’m watching and respond to slack messages. I listen to meditation and read, and aim to be asleep by 11.

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

Yes. We have recently announced: TEAM Anywhere, and it’s been awesome in so many ways.

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

It’s a moving target and sometimes you get the balance right and sometimes you don’t. With three kids and two parents working full time, work-life balance is an ever moving target.

Practically, it means sharing the load, Dan does the morning, lunches, drop offs and I’m on pick-ups and taxing to various activities.

Weekends are golden with very little structure and as much family time as possible, with the occasional sleepover for the kids at the grandparents’. We work hard and we take regular holidays.

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

I had to become a morning person. This is something I still find challenging. Things that have helped me are routine, constant communication with my husband, and putting everything and I mean everything in my calendar – when I should stop working, time to focus on things like this article, time to respond to Slack. It’s been a game changer.

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

Book: Untamed by Glennon Doyle, Atomic Habits by James Clear, Make Time by Jake Knapp.

Podcasts: Australian Design Radio, Reply All

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

Airpods Pro, Calm App, my dog Frida.

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

A woman with young children with a high powered job. 

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

I read this recently and it resonated: 

Balance is a verb, not a noun. And work–life balance is not something you fix. It’s something you’re constantly practising and rehearsing and reflecting on.

Juggling research and family life: honest reflections from scientist dads | NAture

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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.