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Balancing the Grind with Amélie Fortin, Director of People & Culture at SparkBeyond

Amélie Fortin is the Director of People & Culture at SparkBeyond, an AI-powered research engine, capable of finding complex patterns in data by understanding their meaning.

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

Currently, I’m a People and Culture Director at SparkBeyond. I lead the People and Culture efforts for our AI Analytics Discovery Platform business unit, working with talented people across 8 countries. 

Prior to SparkBeyond, I worked in different P&C roles in the Tech and Fintech industries in London. Earlier in my career, I was a HR Advisor for a large logistics company in Canada, where I’m originally from. 

After graduating from my business degree and experiencing the world of work, I decided to take a step back and go and travel the world solo. My adventure lasted around a year and a half and during that time, I lived in Banff (Canada), Bali (Indonesia), Adelaide (Australia) and London (UK). 

I have now settled in the UK and would recommend travelling and exploring different sceneries to anyone. It teaches you so much about the world around you, gives you perspective and you get to try new foods in the process! 

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

No two days are the same in the startup world, but I can describe my rough routine. 

Days when I’m working from home, I wake up at around 7.30am, get ready and take my dog Louis for a walk in the park.

I then make myself a cup of coffee and read the news before starting my workday. 

The rest of the day is filled with internal meetings (except on Fridays where we observe “no internal meetings Fridays”), interviews, chat with colleagues, deep work, walks and tea breaks. I also try to push forward different projects and not fall into the day to day hustle that makes you forget the bigger picture. Muting different communication channels helps me do just that. 

I stop working between 5-6pm and go for another walk with Louis. I then cook a very simple meal since cooking isn’t my strong suit and watch some TV to relax. I incorporate physical activity for most of my days so if I haven’t trained in the morning, I’ll try to use 30 mins after work to do either a weight or hiit session. 

I am guilty of checking my emails in the evening, but I rarely take calls after dinner. I’ll also go out with friends in the evening a few times a week.

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

Flexible work has always been an integral part of SparkBeyond’s DNA. Employees do not usually adhere to the regular 9 to 5 and have the flexibility to manage work around their personal life. 

For me, I enjoy occasionally having my nails done during lunch time when the nail salon isn’t jam packed, working from home 3-4 times a week, bringing my dog to the office and going to the pub early with colleagues on a Thursday. 

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

It can be easy to normalise being under an extreme amount of stress or working long hours, especially when facing a workload that seems infinite and during Covid times. 

Work-life balance for me, means that I end the week feeling satisfied with all aspects of my life including work, personal relationships, mental health and physical health. It’s also important for me to accept that I can’t always achieve a perfect balance, and that’s ok. I do boxing a few times a week and this helps me disconnect mentally.  

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

I have started to walk 10K steps per day, sometimes having to do a few laps around my local park but sticking to it most days. Fresh air helps clear my mind between meetings. 

I have stopped accepting all meetings. Video meeting fatigue is real and setting clear meeting agendas and desired outcomes will help the team be more efficient and reduce the amount of meetings. 

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

I will stick to book recommendations since I am new to podcasts and newsletters. 

  • From Impossible to Inevitable by Aaron Ross and Jason Lemkin if you’re interested in hyper-growth companies and how they operate
  • Happy by Fearne Cotton to learn about the importance of happiness and breaking the taboo around mental health 
  • The Audacity by comedian Katherine Ryan for a laugh and life lessons. Her podcasts are also great! 

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

I use the app Calm to help me meditate and fall asleep fast and Spotify for music and podcasts recently. 

Body by Ciara app for quick at home workouts I can easily fit anywhere in my schedule.

 I also cannot live without Deliveroo.. Definitely helps me balance the grind.

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

Louis Theroux because I love his delivery and he had the opportunity to interview a number of very prominent figures. 

Maybe also my current boss. He has important responsibilities, but still finds time to disconnect whilst camping in the woods with his family on occasion and remains very approachable by all, even during busy periods.    

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

In my opinion, the most effective way of achieving a balance is to establish your boundaries from the get-go.

People operate and thrive differently so if you make this clear to your employer or team from the start, they’ll know how to get the best out of you and when not to contact you. And, being unreachable at certain hours is totally acceptable!    

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About Author

Balance the Grind is a work-life balance publication on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.