Alexandra Geddes is the Director of Strategy at Service NSW. She is also a regular speaker at conferences on citizen engagement and experience, transformation initiatives, and more.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I studied Commerce/Law at UNSW and spent almost five years working in corporate law with a focus on advising on public listings and mergers & acquisitions. I had always been interested in decision-making that benefits the broader community, so I joined the government to see how I might be able to contribute.
I’ve loved the variety of my roles in government, from working in innovation policy, driving planning system reforms to being an advocate for small businesses.
As a policy nerd, there’s not much more exhilarating than the challenge of drafting legislation, negotiating amendments with Members of Parliament and sitting in the parliamentary chamber during a vote late at night, finally seeing an Act of Parliament become law.
I’ve worked at Service NSW for the last two years where I’ve been able to put my passion for delivering an excellent customer experience into practice at scale. Service NSW is the front door to state government services, making interactions easier and faster. My current role is as Director of Strategy.
I recently had the privilege of leading a key-note initiative designed to ease financial pressures on individuals and families. The Cost of Living program consolidated savings from across the NSW Government into an omni-channel experience.
It’s made such a positive difference to the lives of hundreds of thousands of vulnerable community members. The appreciation of customers has been heartwarming.
They’ve shared stories about how accessing the program has been the difference between heating their house on cold days, being able to replace a broken appliance or simply put some food on the table.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
My day starts with my kids (aged 5 and 7) jumping into bed for a morning cuddle. We then have the well-worn routine to get them ready and to school before the bell rings.
Sometimes this is successful and sometimes not. I’m working from home full time at the moment, so my husband and I tend to take turns to do the short walk to school.
I’ve found that remote working has increased collaboration and engagement – but that means I’m on calls for most of the day. The challenge becomes the need to prioritise the work that needs to be done between meetings.
When the kids return from school, I love hearing about what’s happened during the day and preparing an afternoon snack, before heading back into the home office for the next round of meetings.
We have fantastic support from grandparents who help with after-school care – it makes such a difference to have that assistance and allows for our parents to often stay for mid-week dinners with the family which we all love.
More often than not, I log back on for an additional few hours after the kids’ dinner and bedtime stories. Not great work-life balance, but I’m working on it.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Yes! And I love it.
I have bouts of being successful in putting limits in place so that work doesn’t impinge on family time and other times when I really struggle.
What works for me best is blocking out time in my diary, both for work tasks, but also personal and family needs. What isn’t in the diary doesn’t get done.
I keep my list of the personal tasks/goals that I want to achieve on Evernote. I categorise them into ‘Priorities’, ‘Next Week’ and ‘Next Month’. Reviewing these lists keeps them on my radar and motivates me to get things done. I do get a sense of satisfaction from deleting items from my lists!
The current COVID situation has meant that I haven’t been visiting the gym recently and I do miss it. I am determined to get back into the routine – it was just as important for me mentally as well as physically. What worked for me was having non-negotiable session times locked into my diary each week.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
The current pandemic really blurs the boundaries between work and personal/family time. I’m very conscious that my kids see me working a lot and constantly being on calls.
Whilst that is positive role-modelling, it can be hard for them to understand that even though I’m at home, I’m still working and can’t play with them at every opportunity. The benefit though is that I am around more and can steal special moments that I wouldn’t be able to, if I was back working in the office.
Working from home can feel a bit like cabin-fever at times, so I love to do my work when I can, sitting out in the sun on the deck amongst the greenery. Changing the location of where I work can have a really positive impact on how I’m feeling that day.
Something that I am trying to do more of, is to go for a regular walk around sunset with a friend. This creates a perfect opportunity to take a breather and is something to look forward to. We focus on appreciating the amazing light at that time of the day and having a good chat is so good for the soul.
I feel very lucky that I’ve got such great support at home from my husband who does so much around the house and with the kids. He is also our in-house chef which means we are spoilt at dinner times. This really takes the pressure off and I couldn’t do my job properly without the arrangements we’ve set up.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
In the warmer weather I love to take my kayak out into the harbour for a paddle. I immediately feel more relaxed and connected to the environment around me. I can feel the stress leave my body and it can be one of the only times that I’m in complete silence. It feels luxurious and it’s special me-time.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie is a powerful novel that is hard to put down and beautifully explores themes of family, love, loyalty and sacrifice. I highly recommend it.
One of the favourite books I love reading with my son is Dr Seuss’ Oh The Places You’ll Go – it so accurately describes the up and downs of life, but with such positive messaging, making it such a good life lesson to appreciate from an early age.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
I’m mildly addicted to Twitter so I can be exposed to a whole range of ideas and opinions between doing Mum tasks.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
I would love to hear what advice my grandmother would give in today’s crazy world. She was an immigrant from Italy in the 1950s and had to establish a new life, in a new country, with a young family and so little support. She and my grandfather would have endured hardships I can’t even imagine.
To be honest, I don’t think work-life balance would have ever been a consideration for her. I feel lucky now that we have so many more options and tools available to us.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
We need to be kind to ourselves, especially in these challenging times. I think making small incremental changes each day or week is the way to go.
I also try to find something each day that brings joy – the smell of spring flowers, connecting with friends and family, talking with the kids about what we are grateful for that day… it’s little stuff but it matters.
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