Designers / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Amy Ridley, Content Designer, Experience Design at Gensler

Amy Ridley is a Content Designer of Experience Design at global architecture, design, and planning firm Gensler, and also the owner of Unscripted Studio.

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

For sure! I’ve zigged and zagged a lot in my career to find something that I am truly passionate about. I graduated from the University of Newcastle with a Bachelors degree in Business Marketing.

Since then, I’ve worked in many industries including advertising, fitness, law, engineering, and now work as a strategist and writer for a global design agency, Gensler in San Francisco.

I’m a part of the digital experience team; helping clients find solutions that bridge physical and digital worlds. Working in San Francisco, I predominately work with major tech clients in the Bay Area such as Adobe, LinkedIn, Google, and Facebook, and Apple.

As a strategist, I help them imagine the future of their business’ and think about how to transform user experience. As a writer, I help them craft narratives for different platforms such as film, social, digital installations, and publications.

I also have my own side-hustle; Unscripted Studio, a platform for women to find their own path, drop comparison and define their own version of success. 

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

What a time to ask this question! With everything going on in the world, including a global pandemic and more recent events of surfacing radical inequality and injustice, I feel like “normal” has been thrown out the window. With all the chaos, I believe this is an incredible and powerful time to be alive as we create new normals.

So, I’m still trying to find routines but a recent workday looks something like this: Wake up early and go for a run, listen to a podcast before getting into work mode. I find having that quiet time in the morning and being outdoors helps me clear my mind and feel grounded for the day ahead.

The rest of the day is usually a blend of meetings, virtual collaborative workshops, and heads-down work. Oh and coffee! When possible, I try to schedule two breaks throughout the day to read, go for a walk, and give myself time to stay educated about the world.

With everyone working from home, it’s been really important for me to take digital breaks to reduce screen fatigue. In the evening my husband and I cook dinner, catch up on Netflix, read and relax.

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

We’re all exploring new modes of working with hybrid and remote becoming a huge part of the future office experience. A lot of our clients are progressing toward a more flexible and fluid workforce which will be an interesting space to watch in terms of the impact on work-life balance.

I’ve loved working from home, working in loungewear and having a more fluid schedule. However, I’ve had to be mindful to keep boundaries between work and home life. It’s very easy to slip into working on the weekends or working late because the two places aren’t separated anymore.

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

I’ve always valued and prioritized work-life balance. Growing up in Australia taught me a lot about valuing time with family and friends and enjoying life near the beach. Having this as a foundation has been so important in moving and working in the U.S.

On average, annual leave is a lot lower and the pressure to hustle and perform often feels a lot greater, especially working in the tech-capital of the world. Work-life balance has to be an intentional decision and looks different for everyone.

For me, working in a creative industry, my best ideas happen when I’m rested, grounded, and open. That means taking breaks, getting outdoors as much as possible, spending time with family and friends, and unplugging from digital to read or write.

I am religious about making time to exercise and get 7-8 hours of sleep to get rid of stress and fuel my body with energy. It’s so easy to get caught up in the rat-race of doing and always producing that we sometimes forget the importance of pausing and finding things that fuel us and inspire us.

I’m also thankful for platforms such as this, where we can have these real conversations and learn from each other, thank you, Hao! (editor’s note: you’re more than welcome Amy!)

Working from home and need inspiration? Grab a copy of our Workflow book, featuring beautiful photos and inspiring stories from workspaces around the world.

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

2020 has been and will continue to be a year of change. For me, it’s been a wake up call on a lot of levels. I’ve learned to slow down; to rest, recharge, swap out hours of TV for reading, and find things that bring me joy like cooking, designing our apartment.

I’ve learned the importance of therapy and receiving counsel through high-stress and uncertain times. Most recently, I’ve been more intentional about my own awareness, posture, and education around racism.

The past two weeks, the U.S. has exploded through protests and active movements to stop police brutality and break over 400 years of systemic racism. As someone who didn’t grow up in the U.S, but have the privilege of being here, it’s my responsibility to educate myself, start having tough conversations, and work out my role in helping bring change to a broken system.

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

Yes! I’m a podcast fanatic. Some recent ones that I’ve been tuning into are: 

  • Brene Brown, Unlocking Us; intentional and intellectual conversations around human vulnerability 
  • NPR Code Switch; this has been extremely educational to understand systemic racism particularly in the U.S. and our role to help progress change. 
  • Seize the Yay – one of my Aussie favorites, great lessons in entrepreneurship and chasing a life you love. 

Books: I just finished Educated, Together, and am about to start White Fragility. 
Publications, most of them are for the creative agency world, but I really love The Drum, AdAge,Ellevest, and Rachel Cargyle.

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

My Apple Watch, Strava, Spotify, Things, Pinterest. 

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

Two people. Barack Obama and Serena Williams. Both lead very high-profile, influential, and high-stress jobs in very different ways.

I really respect them both for their relentless commitment to their craft whether in sport, business, politics, parenting, and activism. They have both achieved and continue to achieve so much when the system and country they were raised were stacked against them. 

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

We find ourselves at an incredible moment in history and I believe this is a defining time for our generation. Define what work, life, and balance mean for you individually. We are all different and what works for me may not work for you. Run in your own lane, pursue your own dreams, and be intentional about making your work and relationships matter. Educate, listen, read, watch, talk, just don’t stop doing the work.

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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.