Balancing the Grind with Ashleigh Bruton, Head of Social at Digitas Australia

Ashleigh Bruton is the Head of Social at digital marketing agency Digitas Australia, where she lead the social strategy and execution for a wide variety of clients.

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

I actually fell into my career by complete accident.

In my last semester of university, I was volunteering with a charity called Bear Cottage, helping them run events. At one of those events, my soon-to-be manager approached me and offered me a role running experiential events for Foxtel Media.

That’s where I uncovered the influence Foxtel talent had over their audiences and how this translated to the digital world, which led me into working as an influencer strategist, developing the social offering across a wide variety of clients such as Woolworths, Nissan and Bupa.

Fast forward a few years plus a stint in New York working publisher-side for Penske Media and I was offered my current role as Head of Social at Digitas Australia.

Today, my job is to lead the holistic social strategy and execution for a wide variety of clients, ensuring everything we produce connects Media, Data, Technology, Strategy and Creative.

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

Most days I’m woken by my dog, Brandy, begging for a walk, so I usually make myself a coffee and take her to one of the nearby trails while listening to a podcast or catching up on the latest news (cough TikToks).

In a non-lockdown world, I would typically head to our offices in Pyrmont or, as it stands currently, retreat to my WFH set up to start the day. I usually spend the first hour of the morning replying to emails or seeing if there’s been any social crises overnight. I love a slow start to the day.

The rest of my morning is usually spent in WIPs and stand-ups with my amazing team of strategists, community managers and paid specialists to get across the latest projects and briefs.

Every day is different, but my afternoons are typically spent meeting with clients, working on social strategies, nurturing our vendor partnerships with platforms like Facebook and TikTok, or lurking some of my favourite Slack channels, most of which aren’t actually work related.

Slack is one of our secret weapons when it comes to connecting our three offices across Sydney, Melbourne and Auckland and, whether it’s #digitas-overheard or #digitas-yelling, it never fails to provide a good laugh.

Connection is our superpower at Digitas, so there’s always a team catch up, brainstorm or workshop to attend to ensure we’re putting our best work forward and continuously pushing each other to push the boundaries of what we can deliver for our clients.

The day usually ends with me writing my priority list for the next day, another walk with Brandy and some very important research (cough more TikToks).

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

Absolutely. Digitas was fully equipped for flexible working arrangements pre-pandemic, so when the world was forced to adapt, it wasn’t a difficult transition for us.

As part of the Publicis Groupe, we’re fortunate to reap the benefits of Publicis Liberté – a flexible working program which prioritises behaviours over policies, allowing us to work to our individual strengths, whatever they may be.

As a team we already were actively using Slack, had stand ups in place and regular all agency forums before the pandemic so we didn’t need to learn a whole new way of working when we shifted to working from home on a regular basis.

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

I think work life balance is a sliding scale. There will always be times when things are busier than your usual day to day, but taking charge of your work-life balance isn’t something you should ever apologise for.

I have never been one to work a traditional 9 to 5 and I don’t set my hours by a clock. Sometimes, that means I unwittingly work until 9pm because there is work that needs to be done. But I also feel empowered to run errands during the workday if my personal life demands it.

Equally, I never shy away from taking a call from leaders within our business in the middle of the Woolworths checkout or during a midday hair appointment because that’s the only appointment I could make.

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

Like many of us who have been living with one foot in and one foot out of lockdown, I’ve both started and stopped many routines in the last 12 months, some lasting no more than a few days and others lasting a few months.

My favourite has been using the subscription meditation app provided by Digitas. That, plus switching off and getting some fresh air and exercise, signals the end of the workday and helps me shift my mental state.

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

I could spend hours on this topic.

I usually read hard copies when it comes to fiction and prefer to do audio books for non-fiction. A recent favourite of mine is Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, but my all-time favourite is What I Know For Sure by Oprah – one I personally recommend to anybody needing a hit of inspiration.

I also consider myself a bit of a podcast fiend. My current obsessions are The Pathway with Tim Deeks and, if you enjoy things that go bump in the night, I highly recommend Spooko, which is co-hosted by my uber talented colleague, Thomas McMullan.

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

As the Head of Social, it goes without saying that I can’t live without my phone for all things Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Reddit and, as I mentioned earlier, our eclectic Digitas Slack channels.

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

I read absolutely anything about Michelle Obama. As a mother, a wife, a lawyer and the former First Lady, she surely knows a thing or two about work-life balance. Plus, her ability to navigate incredibly tense situations with grace is something I’ll always admire.

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

Work-life balance means something different for everyone.

Today, a lot of young employees in our industry seem to believe being busy is synonymous with being important or delivering value to your organisation. What a business is really looking for, though, is people who not only deliver on the work required but who are able to manage back up the chain when that task is unrealistic.

My biggest piece of advice for anyone starting out in this industry is to break down that façade of being busy, define what work-life balance means for you as an individual and then chase that balance until you get it right. As I said, it’s a sliding scale for each individual, so do what you need to do to take care of yourself, your mental health and your own personal goals.

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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.