Balancing the Grind with Andy Wright, Managing Director of Streamtime

Andy Wright is the Managing Director of Streamtime, a project management software company for the creative industry. He is also co-chair of the Mentally-Healthy Change Group for the creative, media and marketing industry and runs the community Never Not Creative.

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

I’ve spent most of my life in the creative, media and marketing industries. While I started out as a tennis coach, I quickly moved into marketing with Dulux and then some old school internet companies in the UK (Ask Jeeves and Lycos).

When I moved to Australia in 2006 I found a way into brand consulting and design and I’ve been around this industry ever since. I’ve worked on rebrands for the likes of Medibank, Australia Post, Queensland Art Gallery, as well as strategic and service experience projects for the likes of the Australian Workers Union, Telstra, ANZ Stadium and Google’s mobile operating system, Android.

In 2014 I co-founded a creative agency called For The People. It was there that we rebuilt a brand called Streamtime from scratch. During that time I became very close with the founder and so it’s been a natural progression to move over and run that company instead. I’m still very close to the creative industry as Streamtime is project management software used by many creatives from all over the world. 

I also co-chair the Mentally-Healthy Change Group for the creative, media and marketing industry and run a community called Never Not Creative who’s mission is to address the gaps in the industry around mental health, supporting emerging talent and making sure creatives are recognised and rewarded for their expertise.

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

Work is incredibly varied right now, which is something that I really enjoy. I can take today as an example. 

Nothing can really start until the kids are out of the house – back to school full time from this week ?. 

  • Answer a few how-to questions from Streamtime customers. 
  • Upload a new episode of the Never Not Creative podcast with the help of the amazing Rawin Keo (NNC community member)
  • Take a look at how our ARR (Annual Recurring Revenue) is tracking. We took a hit based on COVID and so I pretty much check this 2-3 times a day at the moment for signs of recovery. Good news is that we’re stabilising for now.
  • Jump onto Zoom for a lecture with Visual Communications students at UTS (University of Technology Sydney) about mental health and your future self.
  • Write the answers to the Balance The Grind interview questions ?
  • Make some small adjustments to the new website. We just launched the new site this week and so there are a few things that we wanted to polish after getting it live. There’s always more. Digital means, never stop optimising, tinkering, improving.
  • Then it’s onto updating the explainer video for our site. We’ve released a bunch of new features since creating the current video so I’m working on an updated storyboard and script so that we can then brief someone to update it. We like to work only with our customers. Keep the love in the Streamtime community – if they invest in us, we should be investing in them.
  • Kids get home from school, so it all goes a bit mental for a couple of hours until we sit down and eat dinner. 
  • I jump onto a call around 6pm with our UK team for a weekly meeting and catch up. It can get a bit challenging managing teams on opposite sides of the planet, so it’s important to put the effort in and make sure we’re all connected. Funnily enough, being in isolation has actually helped us to stay connected and engaged better with those in the team who usually work remotely.
  • Following that is a demo with a new customer in the UK. Demo’s can last anywhere between 30 minutes and an hour. This one goes a little longer as it turns out we have some people and past clients in common!
  • Then I sit down and upload some video content that’s been edited for the Never Not Creative website. They’re 30 second video’s from our Asking For A Friend event, where we let people in the creative industry ask anonymous questions to an industry leader and a psychologist.
  • Finally… I sit down, start a fire and do some drawing on my iPad and my wife and I plan our daughters birthday party that’s coming up next week.
  • And to finish, reading and bed. Reading helps me to get to sleep without fail!

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

We’re very flexible. I’m a big believer in making sure that work doesn’t get in the way of life. At Streamtime it’s great to be able to put that into practice. I wrote a longer piece about this topic here – Super-charging a company culture that puts people first.

It’s also meant, that with the lockdown, we were able to adapt pretty seamlessly. We all worked from home 1 or 2 days a week anyway, so most of our equipment and processes were set-up already. For some, it meant almost 2 and a half whole hours back in a day without a commute. 

Everyone’s very diligent about letting each other know where they are and what they’re doing. So if you need to pop out, or suddenly pick up a child from daycare, or just go for a walk to clear your head, you just pop a message on Slack and everyone’s informed.

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

Work-Life balance has meant many things throughout my career. My philosophy has definitely changed. I used to be the one famous for sending emails past midnight, working till 2, 3am in the morning and wearing it as a badge of pride. I was enjoying my work and so I believed the balance was in my favour. 

But, ultimately, it’s not good for you. And, unsurprisingly, what you think might be a good idea at 2am in the morning, is probably not a concept that’s so positively received by others who got a normal nights sleep. 

I was introduced to the science behind this by a psychologist I met at an event we both spoke at last year. In a nutshell, we need sleep to help regulate the amounts of Cortisol in our body.

Cortisol is what helps activate our fight or flight response, and it’s also what helps to give us that second-wind if you’re still working at midnight. But, if we don’t sleep well and we’re training our body to use Cortisol in the wrong way at the wrong time, it’s ultimately bad for us.

Obviously, I’m not a doctor, and this is my best explanation, but this article – The Effects of Cortisol on Your Sleep – does a much better job!

I’ve also believed that as long as I love what I’m doing then work is life and life is work, but I think that’s only really true for a few lucky people. Sometimes it looks to others that you’re lucky enough to do what you love, but inside it may feel completely the opposite. It means we can get trapped, just in order to keep up the appearance of the dream.

Personally, I need to constantly keep things fresh, find new challenges and new solutions. Sometimes that’s to my detriment as well, but it does keep me motivated. 

I’m now a big advocate for making sure that people have other things in their lives that aren’t work. You might not find them straight away, especially if you’ve been running hundreds of k’s an hour because of work, but they do exist. Work can be gone in an instant.

You need to know that you have life to fall back on, fill in the gaps, or even better, show you that it’s much more reliable and fulfilling than the concept of ‘work’. Sometimes we forget that once we get to the realms of a 50-60 hr work week.

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

I have to come clean. There’s one routine that has taken a hit. That’s exercise. 2 years ago I’d been through quite an extreme exercise regime.

I got pretty fit and strong, and then I started to develop a few injuries and exercise was painful. I’ve struggled to get back into a routine. I’ve always been a bit up and down with exercise which I know isn’t good for me.

On a positive, with lockdown and recently moving into a new house, I’ve been spending a lot of time drawing by the fire. My Netflix viewing has gone right down. My bed time has improved a little. And I’m finding a great way to relax in drawing and listening to music. 

I’m not very disciplined when it comes to routine, but I’m hoping I can keep this one alive as I’m really enjoying it at the moment.

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

How long have you got?!

Ok, I’m going to try and get as much in here as I can without getting too fluffy on the description.

  • First, a plug. Never Not Creative is a podcast I run and we’re into our third season. It talks to creatives about mental health, the industry and getting ahead.
  • Reply All. An all time favourite. 2 guys, Alex and PJ, in New York, using the internet to explain things and share incredibly entertaining stories.
  • RadioLab. A bit like Reply All in a way, but more grown up and factually correct, but equally entertaining! The scientific explanation of anything and everything.
  • On the subject of science, Science vs, is a great listen with an Aussie host exploring the myths and facts of commonly accepted ‘truths’.
  • If you prefer stories, then these podcasts are the equivalent of ‘not being able to out them down’. Homecoming, Sandra, Life After, The Message, all amazing stories that really use the podcast format and sound to bring the story to life.
  • Other favourites include, Australian Design Radio (interviews with creatives from Australia and all over the world), 99% Invisible (more design), That Peter Crouch Podcast (need my football fix), Heavyweight (incredible real life storytelling), Under The Skin (Russell Brand, love him or hate him) and I still love a good episode of This American Life now and again. I’ve also been enjoying some really good real-life serials recently, The Teachers Pet, Death in Ice Valley and West Cork are all great.

Favourite books:

  • I’m a big fan of Scandinavian crime. Anything by Henning Mankell, Samuel Bjork, Maj Sjowall. I’ve also been getting through audiobooks recently and have started picking books based on narrators! Makes a huge difference who is actually telling the story. Favourite series has been by Adrian Mckinty and narrated by Gerard Doyle, all about crime in Ireland in the 80’s. 
  • As for non-fiction, hands-down these 2 are must reads. Lost Connections by Johann Hari is the best book I’ve ever read on mental health. Utopia For Realists is a future that I hope one day will come true, by Rutger Bregman.

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

RIght now, I can’t live without my iPad Pro. From reading to drawing, to staying connected I’ve really been getting my money’s worth out of it. 

To go with that, most used apps have become Procreate, Slack, Audible, Breaker (for podcasts), Kindle, Skillshare (since lockdown) and of course the normal social apps.

I’m also a big fan of Notion that we’ve started using a lot for work, but I also use it to plan trips and write blogs.

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

Anyone with kids who thinks they’ve found it. I think I’m closer to it than I’ve ever been, but has anyone actually nailed it? Do we need to have? 

I’d be interested in hearing from people like Mel Perkins from Canva, Mike Cannon-Brookes from Atlassian, but also some creative leaders like Jony Ive, Jessica Walsh, James Brown.

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

I think we should always be thinking about it, but never obsessing. The thing is, we can’t control everything around us. If you’ve ever tried to balance on anything you’ll find that you’re nearly always wobbling. 

It’s because things around you change, constantly. 

It’s because the concept of balance is such an incredibly fine line that it’s virtually impossible to find stability. 

So be comfortable with passing through varying states of balance and imbalance and just know that there’s always another lever you can pull to make yourself feel better.

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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.