Ali Fleming is the founder and director of Ceiling Agency, a communications and brand consultancy based in Sydney, Australia.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
Absolutely – I got my first gig in PR & communications when I was 18 years old as a showroom assistant. It was at a highly respected fashion PR agency in Sydney and really was a great learning ground for me.
Next up, I moved into the world of design and advertising. However, after being in agency environments for a couple of years, I set my sights on a career in house – for four years I worked within the PR & Communications team at L’Oreal Australia across brands within the luxury portfolio – Lancôme, Kiehl’s, Giorgio Armani Beauty and YSL Beauty.
At the end of 2018, I knew it was time for me to step out on my own – that’s when I started ceiling agency, a communications and strategy agency based in Sydney.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
At this very moment in time, I am actually on maternity leave, which is a whole new level of juggle (it involves a lot less laptop and emails, more “coo-ing” and revisiting some classic picture books).
Right now I have a solid network of incredible freelancers ensuring the show goes on across copywriting, brand and strategy work. When I go back to work in late July, an average day consists of an early morning walk and breakfast (my favourite meal of the day).
This is followed by a check in with each of my clients, mapping out the coming month of projects, writing and developing content for brand channels, touching base with the freelancers I work closely with, writing what seem like never-ending to-do lists and slotting in Pilates at Fluid Form whenever I can.
It’s fun and busy and rarely the same. Now throw a baby into the mix – life is all about balance and I’m excited to find my “new normal”, whatever that ends up looking like.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Great question – because for me, it’s been a journey to get to the point of flexibility in my work environment. I have always worked in “offices”. So, when I started ceiling, getting an office seemed like the epitome of success and really was a central goal of mine.
So I did – I got the office, the furniture and… the overheads. As time went on, and as the client list grew, it almost felt redundant having this one place to travel to each day. I learnt over time that good work is not a by product of sitting at a desk 9-5.
Good work is the outcome of authentically connecting with whatever you do, and driving your focus on achieving both qualitative and quantitative outcomes in whatever your field. I like to see my clients face to face and from that, I found strategizing, planning and outputting became so much more productive working from a flexible headspace and, more often than not, remote environments.
It makes way more sense for me and the way I want ceiling to run and grow as a business. While it isn’t for everyone, I do challenge all growing businesses to give it a go.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
Work-life balance is the ability to switch off when you need to. It’s about creating boundaries between your work self and your “other” self.
After experiencing burn out, I knew having boundaries between work and life was essential. Work-life balance almost has to become a habit – something you actively factor into your life.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
In a work sense, creating boundaries has been a big change for me – knowing when to switch off and call it a day. When I worked in the corporate world, I would often find myself standing in the shower at 10:30pm at night answering emails.
Not only was this habit a huge waste of natural resources, it’s terrible mentally and makes going to sleep a task and a half. When I started ceiling, I knew that I wanted to find more holistic and healthy habits that still meant producing fantastic work, but not forfeiting my health in any way.
Of course there are times when you have a deadline or an event you are working towards and pulling late nights is a non negotiable, but I wanted that to be the exception, not the norm. Also, fresh air every day – it does wonders for your mindset.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
The list is endless when it comes to books, in particular. However, I’m a fiction gal – they are my escape, more than where I look to for business guidance and the like. From a podcast perspective, I am currently listening to How To Fail With Elizabeth Day and Impact Theory with Tom Bilyeu.
My husband has also made me a loyal fan of the Blindboy and Joe Rogan podcasts too. They are each entertaining, but also challenge me to think differently.
I love the daily newsletter from The Hustle – a good daily newsbite, with a bit of satire thrown in for good measure. I’m also one for a good old magazine and can never go past the latest issue of Vanity Fair or Wired.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
My Google Pixel is never far from my side – emails, WhatsApp, podcasts, whitenoise (for my little one), life organiser in one device. Nor are my Beats wireless headphones. Apps wise – I can’t live without Trello, Xero, Google Drive and obviously, Gmail. I’m also guilty of spending far too much time on Instagram.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Pip Edwards and Claire Tregoning – founders of an incredibly fast moving fashion business, and balancing mumahood too.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Work-life balance – whatever it is and whatever that looks like for you – find it and find it sooner rather than later. Your mind and body will thank you for it. I’m all about putting in the time and “earning your stripes”, so to speak, but at the end of the day – your health should be your number one priority, because without it, you’re really no use to anyone (especially yourself).
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