Interviews / Marketing & Advertising

Balancing the Grind with Ara Ko, Business Marketing Lead, ANZ at Pinterest

Ara Ko is a Business Marketing Lead, ANZ at Pinterest, where she helps advertisers and marketers understand the value of the platform.

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

A majority of my career has been in marketing communications at a media agency where I got to work with really talented marketers and phenomenal brands around the world i.e. Coca-Cola, LEGO, Tiffany & Co. H&M, Johnson & Johnson. I was really lucky to have the opportunity to move to the US, and live in New York City for 4 years. It was a time of tremendous growth and learning, I loved it!

When it was time to come back home to Australia, I shifted into tech, and spent a couple of years at a tech start up of sorts leading the marketing solutions team, however the company closed its doors in 2019 and I was made redundant.

I was lucky enough to get a call from Uber Australia shortly after, and joined Uber as the Incubation lead for the Eats business, but Covid19 hit and believe it or not I was made redundant again in the middle of the pandemic only a year later.

This was absolutely a blessing in disguise as I was in desperate need of some time off from work and a moment to reset. This is how I ended up at the last positive place on the internet, Pinterest!

I am an avid user and have planned most of my big life events on the platform, and continue to use the platform for daily inspiration around home interiors, urban garden ideas, healthy recipes, inspirational quotes etc.

My current role is the Business Marketing Lead for ANZ and my job is to help advertisers and marketers understand the value of the Pinterest platform and why the Pinterest user is a valuable audience to reach and engage.

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

I’m based in the inner west of Sydney and therefore in lockdown, my days are spent between my bed, the living room, my study and various parks within a 5km radius. I have a mini schnauzer named Seymour who ensures that I get out for walks and fresh air at least twice a day, which has been great.

COVID has really changed the blueprint of my workday, but overall I enjoy the flexibility.

My marketing team members are based in various parts of the world – Brazil, Canada and the US, and depending on the project UK too. This means that I have out of ‘office hours’ meetings regularly, but it also means that I can take advantage of during office hours walks, the grocery stores are quiet and the sun is out.

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

I am a fully remote worker as I started in 2021 during the pandemic, but there were a couple of months where we had the option of heading into the office if we wanted/needed to. That was great in terms of meeting the local team face to face and feeling the culture of the business first hand.

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

What work-life balance means to me is that I have the autonomy to deliver on my company’s business goals AND live my best life. The two can absolutely coexist but it’s a challenge. 

In my current role, I am probably my biggest obstacle on the work-life front. I have to be quite strict with my schedule, particularly when it comes to the life part of the balance. Because I am working adjusted hours to collaborate with team members from around the world, I need Google calendar to make sure I log off and get a work out in, go grocery shopping etc.

Pinterest’s mission statement is to bring everyone the inspiration to create a life they love, so they are all for work-life balance and have various programs to support us in this area.

We have a program called Pintentions which are days where the whole company gets paid time off to reset and recharge, we have a global event called Knitcon where we all come together (IRL and virtually) to be inspired, learn new skills and try things from one another and creators.

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

I think this became a bit of a trend, but I limited news consumption and changed the settings on social media platforms so I didn’t see ‘sensitive content’. I wanted to know the facts and not be bombarded with negativity and trolls. It was my way of managing my mental health and staying informed.

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

I’m definitely biased when it comes to podcasts but I love Double Impact, a podcast featuring my husband (Tristan Burrell) and a great friend and co-host of the podcast, Greg Kearney.

They are on a mission to watch movies from their childhood and see if it holds up today. It’s fascinating to know that most movies from the 80’s and 90’s do not pass the Bechdel test, which asks whether a work features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man, and the two women must be named, I know.

Without a commute a lot of my reading and podcasts have moved into listening to more music and watching new TV shows.

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

I mentioned Google Calendar, but I have to mention Pinterest. I am obsessed. I love that I can continually build upon my collection of ideas for my home, health, fashion, beauty, and more recently and most importantly haircuts for my doggo.

Other apps I can’t live without are Spotify because no one can stop me from listening to 90’s boy bands at “work” anymore, Calm because my brain are a little noisy sometimes, Facetime because we all need to stay connected and Medium because I enjoy the vast amount of topics, POVs and rabbit holes I get into.

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

Rihanna. I mean talk about a unicorn. Starting with music, and now with films, fashion, beauty, and she looks like she is having the best time. I’d love to know what her work-life balance looks like.

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

Work is such a big part of our lives. We spend so much time with our colleagues and so much energy delivering deadlines and achieving the goals of the companies we work for, but I truly believe that our relationships with friends and family (this includes colleagues, family, friends, and your community) and all the wonderful experiences that comes from our relationships, travel and life’s ups and downs is the secret sauce to life.

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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.