Balancing the Grind with Amelia Hamer, Director of Strategy, Australia at Airwallex

Amelia Hamer is the Director of Strategy, Australia at Airwallex, the leading financial technology platform for modern businesses growing beyond borders.

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

I started my career as an equity research analyst in London, working at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. I then moved into venture capital, working at DST Global, a major investor in companies like Revolut, and Stripe.

After a number of years overseas, I decided it was time to move back home to Australia. I changed focus and pivoted to government, working as a policy adviser to the Minister of Financial Services for a couple of years. 

Having done several advisory roles, I knew I wanted my next role to be more hands on – more of an ‘operating’ role. That’s what brought me to Airwallex.

I wear two hats in my role at Airwallex. As Director of Strategy for the Australian commercial business, I look after go to market strategy, revenue operations and sales enablement. I’m also the interim head of the Australian commercial team, which involves managing a team of 40 or so across sales, account management, partnerships and marketing. 

Moving to an operating role has been a transition for me, but it’s been really valuable as a career shift. I’ve only been with Airwallex for four months, but because we’re growing at scale and the business is run in an agile way, I’ve already seen the changes I’ve implemented or overseen come to life, which is really rewarding. 

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

I find exercise is a great way to start my day and set me up for success. There are a lot of great studios in Melbourne so I can easily schedule pilates or HIIT workouts in the morning before work. I used to do a lot of Brazilian jiu-jitsu and I’d love to get back into that when I have the time. 

I’ll usually head into the office as for me it creates a good separation between home and work. 

I have a packed schedule most days, but I make a conscious effort to cap how much of my day is spent in meetings. It’s obviously very valuable to check in with my team and plan what’s coming up, but if you’re in back-to-backs all the time, you risk having blinkers on and charging onwards without giving things proper consideration. It’s important to me that I have the time and space to reflect on what I’m doing so I can be confident it’s the right call. 

I normally head home around 8pm and have dinner followed by a TV show and at least 15 minutes of reading before bed. I’m trying to make a more conscious effort to get to bed earlier so that I don’t have to catch up on sleep on the weekends!

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

In the past I had a tendency to over-commit to what I can achieve during the week outside of work – heading to a gym class every day, and so on. You can over-exert yourself or set yourself up for disappointment when you can’t fit in all in.

To me, finding a work-life balance is about finding what you can do consistently rather than overly-ambitious. It’s about ruthless prioritisation. What’s important is assessing what are the things that are absolutely essential, doing them efficiently and effectively, and then considering where the marginal returns to effort are highest. Sometimes, doing “more” can even be counterproductive. This applies in both a personal and professional capacity.

I’m making a conscious effort to mindfully structure my work-week and my downtime in a way that maximises my energy, so I can do the best job at work, but also make the most use of my spare time. Both suffer if you try and do everything without working out what actually really needs to be done. 

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

Setting a routine that works at my pace is the best shift I’ve made. There’s a lot of pressure, especially from social media, that 5am starts and intensive gym routines is the key to success. It works for some people but certainly not for everyone, and definitely not for me! You can still be healthy, active and productive doing it the way that works for you.

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

I read a lot of history, economics and social science. On the business side of things, I can recommend the corporate strategy book Good to Great by Jim Collins. He has this idea called the “The Hedgehog Concept”, which is about finding the sweet spot at the intersection of three areas: what you’re passionate about, what you can be the best at and what drives your economic engine. I think this is a great framework for thinking about a competitive advantage and company culture, and is also applicable to thinking about your career and your life. 

I’d also recommend Changing World Order by Ray Dalio. He has a framework that conceptualises what is happening in the world in terms of recurring cycles. It made me reflect on general biases that you see people fall into all the time.

Inflation is the most obvious recent instance – in the last ten years there was a strong recurring narrative that low inflation was “the new normal” and would continue regardless of how low interest rates stayed or the size of fiscal expansion.

But even before higher inflation kicked in, if you looked back on even a 50 year period, that narrative was demonstrably false. If you think that the world today is somehow special or different from the past, you’re probably wrong. 

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

Somebody with the kind of job where it’s not clear when you are switching on and off and how to manage that. Take the Swedish songwriter Max Martin. He’s been writing hit songs consistently since the 90s for everyone from Britney to Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran.

I saw an interview with him where he said he would get out of bed during the night to record melodies while he was writing “Baby One More Time”. I’d really love to understand more about how he can be so consistently creative over so many years and how he manages his day and work-life balance. 

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

I think a lot of women shy away from tech and financial services because these areas can seem too dry or technical at face value. And that can be a barrier because in reality fintech is about giving people and businesses the tools to solve problems. So when we’re talking to customers at Airwallex, what we’re really discussing is their business, and how we can help them solve pain points and achieve their goals. 

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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.