Balancing the Grind with Alexander Southwick, Senior Social Media Director at Bastion Effect

Alexander Southwick is the Senior Social Media Director at integrated communications agency Bastion Effect where he looks after social media for Xbox.

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

I’ve been working in and around social media back since 2008 where I got my first gig working for an SEO Company doing back links, from sites like MySpace.

I was also lucky that early on in my career, I reached out to David Redhill, the local CMO at Deloitte at the time, for some career guidance, which he was kind enough to share. It has really helped me in my career and continues to do so.

His advice was, “Look to do as many different jobs as possible over the next few years but do them for long enough to be able to argue your corner when it comes to dealing with a full-time specialist in that discipline.

With this advice in mind, I’ve been lucky enough to work in a combination of agency, publisher and client-side roles, which has brought me to Bastion Effect.

At Bastion Effect I’m the Senior Social Director, responsible for working across the region to execute all elements of social media for Xbox. As a lifelong gamer this is my absolute passion, so feel very lucky to be able to navigate the ins and outs of the gaming landscape working with an excellent client!

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

I’m the father to a beautiful little girl, so most days really start with her waking up and helping her get ready before sending her off with her mother to day-care!

Every day is different, but since she became part of our life I’ve really learned to go with the flow. When possible after they’ve headed to day care I’ll try to get out and do an hour walk with our dog, where I’ll listen to a podcast and try to get a bit of fresh air! 

After that I tend to get straight into work, I’ll try to catch up on what’s going on in the different regions I work in (Japan, Korea, India, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand) using Feedly to read some news whilst also taking a look at what’s relevant in terms of social content for those markets.

Every day changes depending on what’s happening, gaming / social are both pretty dynamic industries so I try to make sure I’m staying up-to-date with what’s happening as much as possible.

I feel very fortunate that I get to work across such a broad geographical region, each market has its own nuances and opportunities so I try to dig into them as much as possible to be able to support Xbox but also for my own growth too. 

Most days tend to end around 5.30 – 6pm depending on when my wife is due back with my daughter as I like to cook, but I will always work to ensure I get my inbox to 0 before I log off!

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

Working on the Microsoft account and then Xbox has meant that I’ve always been able to work remotely given the suite of tools (Microsoft Teams, OneDrive etc) that have been available to me.

With the changes brought about by COVID-19, my employer Bastion Effect was also quick to pivot to allow the team to work from home and provide staff with the necessary equipment to do so (monitors etc).

Within the industry and as an employee I’ve also seen a shift in how working from home is perceived, which I think is a great thing. In the past it felt like there were always inverted commas around saying you were working from home.

Since being able to work from home it has meant that I get much more time with my family, with no commute it means that I can be there in the mornings to help get them out the door, and in the evenings, I can help prepare dinner.

At the start of pandemic when my wife and I were both working from home it did feel a bit like spinning plates to balance having our daughter who was 12 months+ a dog and two people in our home, however we were able to make it work, and I think that comes down to how supportive people were both at the agency and on the client side.

Looking forward, Bastion is still allowing for flexibility but bringing people together in the office to ensure that the camaraderie of being a team still exists, which is important. However I think the connotations of working from home is now very different to what it was pre COVID-19.

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

There’s a great quote that tends to stick in my mind when it comes to work, “some people work to live, other people live to work”, I sit firmly in the ‘Live to work’ category.

I love what I do and before COVID-19 I would struggle to switch off, however with a young daughter in the house she’s been amazing at helping me to switch off, there are moments in life you can never get back.

I think that as life continues what work life balance means will continue to evolve, but I feel fulfilled in knowing that I can do my job at the best of my ability currently but also be there for my wife and daughter. 

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

At the start of 2020, my health was a mess. I was seriously overweight and struggling to focus but with the shift to working from home and some words of encouragement from my neighbour (“you’ve gotten fat”), I worked hard to integrate fasting and walking into my routine as much as possible, as well as cooking at home. UberEats is a slippery slope, especially when you’re busy and I think it’s easy to lose track of how much you eat out when you’re at the office.

Since integrating both into my day I’ve been able to get on top of my health and feel much more focused at work. Outside of health I’ve also started studying Japanese to try and learn something new that I can use at work. I’ve got a long way to go but it’s a nice way to learn and use in a more practical day to day sense.

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

There are a couple of podcasts that I love listening to for different perspectives.

  • Marketing Today – Alan B Hart
  • Everyone Hates Marketers – Louis Grenier
  • The Indicator – Planet Money
  • Stuff You Should Know
  • Behind the Bastards

In 2020 there were a couple of great books I got through on Audible as well;

  • The Infinite Game: How Great Businesses Achieve Long-lasting Success – Simon Sinek
  • Leadership Strategy and Tactics: Field Manual – Jocko Willink
  • Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds – David Goggins
  • Radical Candor: How to Get What You Want by Saying What You Mean – Kim Scott
  • What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful – Marshall Goldsmith, Mark Reiter

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

My Apple Watch, since I got into my health, has been invaluable. I think it makes a big difference to motivation to be able to see how you’re tracking against your goals, paired with Strava it keeps me honest about when I’m moving enough, and not enough at all!

I’ve also become a big fan of Pocket Casts, which is a podcast app that has some handy functions that make listening a little bit easier. I like to crank them up to 1.5x speed to try and get through more podcasts but it also tracks them nicely.

Feedly has also been great to pull all of my news sources together vs clicking around aimlessly to find news. I spent a lot of 2020 trying to finesse a lot of the processes around how I collect and process information out there so these tools have really helped collate a lot for me.

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

I think that any notable people throughout history would be amazing to hear from as what constitutes as work has evolved over time. I imagine striking the balance has also evolved so to hear from people like Gaius Julius Caesar or Alexander the Great would-be super fascinating, if you asked them, they’d probably have told you they had the world on their shoulders! 

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

Take the time to call friends, family, and colleagues, don’t rely on email, texts, or IM’s only. It’s important to speak and maintain connections with people, and you can tell a lot from speaking with someone how they’re going.

Taking the time to pick up the phone and call someone to say happy birthday vs texting them can make all the difference to their day, likewise, giving your grandmother or grandfather a call can really brighten up their day too. 

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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.