Interviews / Marketing & Advertising

Balancing the Grind with Annette Micallef, Content Marketing Manager at FCB Group

Annette Micallef is a Content Marketing Manager at FCB Group, Australia’s leading workplace legal and human resources (HR) solutions business.

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

While working full time in local government and with little tertiary education, my manager at the time encouraged me to do a university course – back then I was young and just didn’t have the confidence in myself to follow my dreams.

With the support of my team and my amazing manager, I enrolled in one university subject – it was a dip-my-toe in approach – I still wasn’t convinced that I could do it, but after completing the subject and getting a high distinction, I soon realised that I was fully capable.

I studied full time and sacrificed a lot along the way – while all my friends were enjoying the summer weather, I was stuck inside writing essay after essay (I enrolled in Summer school to get my degree quicker). And it was all worth it; I completed a Bachelor of Communication majoring in Public Relations with a distinction average!

Fast forward many years later, and I’ve held various roles in an array of industries – retail, energy, face-to-face sales and marketing, not for profit – all this experience has led to me my current role as Content Marketing Manager for FCB Group – a group of companies (FCB Workplace Law, FCB Smart Visa, enableHR and HR Assured) that offer employment and HR solutions for businesses.

I absolutely LOVE what I do for the company; I’m responsible for dreaming up and producing outstanding content that educates, informs and inspires people who are interested in our brands or are already working with us.

I work with a bunch of talented people across the business; a team of creatives, digital specialists, product experts, developers, legal experts and more to produce this content. 

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

It’s busy, to say the least! I normally try to get up early and start my day with a workout and I always have a coffee – always!  Once that’s done and dusted, I’m onto mum duties (quickly make a Vegemite sandwich for my son’s lunchbox, feed the puppy, and drop my son off at school). Then it’s time to work. 

I need to be highly organised to pull off the number of projects we have on the go. I rely on my old-fashioned handwritten to-do list as well as a project management tool, Jira, to allocate and manage tasks and deadlines.

Once I have reviewed the key tasks for that day, I have a daily check-in meeting with the entire marketing team to discuss projects or tasks, and of course a little bit of social interaction! 

Every day is different (which I love). Proofreading and subediting blogs and articles, briefing the team to produce an eBook, meeting with an employment law expert to deliver a webinar – these are just some of the activities in my day.

One of the more routine tasks I do is spending time building strategies and finessing our marketing and communication plan – it’s a working file that is scalable to meet the needs of the business and any industry changes. 

In recent times, the industry has experienced so much change – workplace legislation and case law (think JobKeeper, industrial reform, amendments to the Fair Work Act, changes to Modern Awards).

I need to be informed and understand what is happening and how these events are affecting our key stakeholders – this information is invaluable and helps me to quickly devise a strategy to produce communication and content that informs and educates.

But producing content is a team effort – the entire marketing team works together to do this. I feel so lucky to work with such a wonderful group of talented people.

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

Yes! FCB Group has always had a remote working policy in place which proved to be a vital lifeline for the business when the pandemic hit Aussie shores and Government lockdowns were enforced.

The majority of the company was able to perform their duties remotely. And, while the height of the pandemic was an incredibly difficult time for all of us, it certainly wasn’t a time to back down and surrender – for the team it was the complete opposite – we worked harder than ever to survive, and we made it to the other side stronger than ever.

As a team, we broke many records, delivered more successful campaigns in our history and all of our efforts converted into dollars in the door.

It’s been over a year since I began working from home and I have been lucky enough to continue this arrangement, and recently I’ve started to transition to a hybrid working model. This means that I complete most of my work from the comfort of my home and head to the office in North Sydney once or twice a week depending on what I have scheduled. 

I have realised just how much I thrive in this type of working arrangement – I really am happy, I am even more productive, and I feel like I have my life in order (which is important to me because I am a self-proclaimed perfectionist and a little OCD).

I am saving hours each week travelling to the office which I am now spending on more meaningful activities – it’s a big deal when you’re balancing mum duties and working full time.

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

To me, work-life balance is ensuring you have harmony in both your personal and professional lives. I know that if I am happy in my personal life, I am more efficient and productive at work – this is something I focus on which might sound selfish to others, but I am conscious that if I don’t take care of myself, I cannot care for others and be my best.    

I make sure that I am active every day – I schedule in time during the week and on weekends to go for a walk, cycle, or a gym session. I am an outdoorsy person and often spend my weekends in nature – this is where I find I can relax and when my best ideas come to me!

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

I have always been health conscious – I eat well, exercise, and I have never smoked but I have always been a terrible sleeper – I used to live off four to five hours of sleep a night (sometimes less).

I know that is shocking, but I only realised just how bad that is for my health (and my appearance) when in lockdown – the situation forced me to sleep more as my options were limited (no gym sessions at 4:30am but UberEats, Netflix and trips to Woolworths yes!).

I have permanently changed my ways and have chosen to swap out late nights and early rises for extra Zs. I am finding that I only need one caffeinated beverage a day and I feel fresher and sharper.  

I guess other changes would be to my routine. When I worked 100 percent location based, I made a huge effort in my appearance; makeup and outfit were perfect every day! These days, I’ve swapped the corporate wear for comfort – workout gear and less makeup rocks! 

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

Yes! I really enjoy reading in my downtime. My favourite book of all time is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (an oldie but a goodie and such a wonderful message).

I finished Busy As F*uck, by Karen Nimmo – I highly recommend this book because if you are a busy person it really puts things into perspective. Other books I am currently reading: The CEO Code, by David Rohlander; The Guest List, by Lucy Foley; and Cat Flap, by Alan S. Cowell.

I subscribe to so many online newsletters that offer advice on various topics from property investment, online investing and crypto to health, beauty and fashion.

I find that I am overloaded with information in my inbox, that most of them end up unopened or sadly (and sorry) deleted. But if I do have some spare time, I mostly always read mindbodygreen – it’s easy to read and packed with health tips and advice.

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

Like most busy people, my phone is glued to me – it really is my lifeline and probably a sign that I need a digital detox. 

I lost my Fitbit and have not yet replaced it. I am considering getting an Apple Watch, but I do worry about how I will always be “on” and “connected” so I am still thinking this through.

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

This is a good question! While there is not one person who springs to mind, I do seem to follow and gain inspiration from successful female founders, leaders and trailblazers!

I am motivated by women who have created their own success stories, who have made a difference, created something joyful or amazing, who have juggled real life stuff, have managed tough situations or experienced challenges and overcame them.

It gives me hope that I too can be awesome and achieve my professional and personal goals.

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

Absolutely I do. 

Work: I was raised in a European household and my parents had strong work values – work was life. While I believe that having a strong work ethic is important if you want to succeed, I also believe that your job or work doesn’t define who you are and finding that balance is crucial if you want to live a happy life. It has taken me a long time to realise this.

Life: Just be you. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. Show others your most authentic self – when you do, everything else just flows and you shine. 

Balance: If you’re struggling to find balance in your life, you need to change that situation and only YOU can make that happen. I believe that the most important thing you can do is to take care of yourself.

Don’t feel that you’re being selfish or self-centred when you finally do take care of yourself. When you invest in yourself, you’re enhancing not only your own life but also the people who are closest to you. Everyone wins! 

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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.