Andy McKeon is the Chief Marketing Officer at Olympic sports organisation US Ski & Snowboard, and also a board member for LiveTiles and FBF Originals.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I’ve always tried to seek out interesting roles in areas I was passionate or curious about. Often that has involved travel and adventure. So far I’ve lived in Melbourne, Hobart, Portland Oregon, San Francisco, Amsterdam, New York, Sydney and Silicon Valley.
At uni, I studied economics but wasn’t passionate about it, so I tried my hand as a creative person in advertising agencies. The highlight working on the Nike account at Wieden + Kennedy in Oregon.
After years of making ads I wanted to switch things up and dive into the tech world so I set my mind on working for Steve Jobs at Apple. After that, six brilliant years scaling Facebook and Instagram.
You can’t live in Silicon Valley and not try a startup so I gave that a crack. Ski racing has always been a passion of mine so I’ve also helped the US Ski and Snowboard Team first as an advisor and then as their Chief Marketing Officer.
I also keep busy sitting on two boards – LiveTiles an enterprise SAAS company and FBF Originals, a sock company with some great NFL and NHL licensing deals that is pivoting towards consumer eCommerce.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
Until the great COVID-19 lockdown I was pretty much on a plane every week. Usually domestic but sometimes to Europe or Australia. No two days are ever the same for me and I love and sometimes hate that.
The love – it’s never boring or repetitive. There are always new people, locations, experiences, food, culture and work challenges. The hate is that it’s hard to get into a rhythm of exercise and sleep and I’m away from my family.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
What a time for this question! It’s no surprise to anyone but it feels like the world just had a major shift. All our board meetings that were scheduled to be in person, have shifted to a video call.
For that two or three-hour meeting it’s probably just as productive on a VC although I do feel like you miss out on the longer and more intimate discussions over dinner or even over a drink.
Remote working is also a challenge for me and my wife as our young kids are currently at home as their schools are closed. Certainly, more distractions than in the office. I also wonder about corporate culture and the bonus interactions longer-term if people are full time remote.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
I’m not sure there’s a magic bullet for work-life balance. There’s a movement that thinks the notion of work-life integration is perhaps a better approach, especially if you have a more demanding career.
Ideally, and it’s easier to write about than practice, I’d be a good dad, husband, employee and friend. It’d be a life where I’m fit and can enjoy hobbies, people and passions enough to refresh, excite and nourish me. Where I was able to enjoy a complete break from work so I can return fired up, productive and energized. But also realising that we are more than our jobs.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started/stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
A while back I was pretty stressed out and unhappy. A few things happened including spending a few days with Paralympian Oksana Masters. She had such a hard upbringing and a bunch of physical challenges but she is so positive and such a badass I just decided to try and be happier for all that I did have.
I stopped drinking diet cola drinks and have tried to prioritize sleep and exercise. Those two things are so easy to give up if you are cranking at work. My body has paid a price from years of sitting so I started an online daily yoga routine, just 20 mins, to try and undo the years of office work.
To complement that I got a standing desk that I try to use for a few hours a day. Also, I’ve been trying to say ‘yes’ to more things. In the past, I’ve turned down some great opportunities because I thought I should be working and I regret that now.
Finding time to be grateful, for things big and small, each day has also helped me during challenging times.
At Facebook I also started a fun thing, The Lunch Project. Strangers and friends of friends were always reaching to connect so I started saying yes and invited them to join me at Facebook HQ for lunch.
I realized I had a 45-minute window each day and I had to eat so I tried to make it as interesting and as useful as possible. Over time I was able to sit down with a bunch of different Olympic medalists like Sally Pearson, students, tech entrepreneurs, influencers, models, musicians, titans of industry and friend’s parents. I totally encourage people to rethink their lunch break.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
Recently I loved reading Ashlee Vance’s biography on Elon Musk, especially learning more about the SpaceX beginnings. For work, podcasts Reid Hasting’s series Masters of Scale with company founders is fascinating and valuable. For news I keep an eye on the New York Times and The Economist. To take my brain into a different place, SkiRacing.com.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
I have to say I love my Fitbit. Seeing the data does make me more aware of my daily steps but especially my sleep – or lack of it… Recently the strap broke and it took a week to get a new one. My sleep definitely took a hit. Guess I’m a sucker for hard numbers.
Two years ago, I had a bit of a big ski crash and busted myself up pretty well. That forced me to swap my dirt-bike for a Peloton bike and I have to say I’m surprised how much I love it. Even a quick 15 min ride and get your heart going and clear your head.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
I’m fascinated by people who have big jobs with an overwhelming amount of things they have to be on top of. Recently I asked Mark Zuckerburg at a weekly Q&A at work how he does it and didn’t get a great answer from him. More of a laugh, especially from his PA.
How does he juggle all the work issues he has to be over – Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus, the Chan Zuckerburg Initiative, LiveRail, then be a present dad and husband, plus he’s also volunteering his time, reading books, keeping fit, doing interesting yearly challenges like visiting every state in the USA, etc..
So if you could follow up with him and learn his secrets I’d appreciate it!
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Nobody has it all figured out. Keep trying new things, especially as you progress through different phases of your life. Monitor your data and how your body and brain feels and make changes if need be.
Some basic themes do keep recurring. Exercise, diet and sleep really do help. Build movement into your day, even little bits help. Maybe too much information but at Facebook when I had to go to the loo I’d take the stairs to another level. At the airport I try to avoid moving walkways, escalators and elevators.
You are more than your job. Help others. They will be the ones looking out for you one day. And, take your vacation. Nobody will thank you if you don’t.
Before you go…
If you’d like to sponsor or advertise with Balance the Grind, let’s talk here.
If you never want to miss one of our conversations about work, life & balance, subscribe to our newsletter.