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Interviews / Founders

Balancing the Grind With Ali Lalak, Co-Founder of Cloud Nine Global

Ali Lalak is the Co-Founder of Cloud Nine Global, along with her sister Kate. Living on opposite sides of the globe (in Sydney and Paris), the two sisters run Cloud Nine Global, an exciting new Australian travel brand.

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

I started out as a journalist working on a busy daily newspaper, then followed a lifelong passion for the arts into working for theatre companies doing content, marketing and social media (including a stint managing social accounts for some of the biggest shows on Broadway).

Eventually my love of travel overtook everything, and lead me to life as a freelance content producer and travel writer. I’m now in charge of marketing for Cloud Nine Global, which is pretty much my dream job, and manage our digital platforms, plus I do freelance work as a content producer and project manager for several other clients.

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

One of the great things about what I do is that no two days are ever exactly the same. At Cloud Nine, we’re passionate about offering our customers a well rounded service, which means also providing access to lots of great travel content from packing tips to latest news to destination inspiration.

This means I spend a lot of time research and reading travel stories, taking and searching for beautiful images, and writing articles for our online magazine.

Some days I get to work in the studio with our amazing product photographer, who is also based in Paris, and on the best days I get to work face to face with my sister (when one of us is visiting the other), although our (very, very long) daily phone calls to keep up to date on everything when we’re apart are almost as good.

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

Absolutely! Flexibility is very important to both of us and we were keen to prove that (technology being what it is, these days) we could literally run a business from opposite sides of the world.

It means that we rely heavily on email, WhatsApp, FaceTime, Dropbox, Google Docs and Slack (among other apps) but it also means we can work from anywhere, which is pretty amazing.

But the more time I have spent working freelance, the more ‘conventional’ my approach has become to this, surprisingly enough. People joke about freelancers working in their pajamas, but I could never do this!

I get up and get dressed for work every day, not in a suit but in something that makes me feel good and reasonably professional. And I try to start and finish my work day at normal times. It helps a lot!

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

This has been very much a work in progress and I am only now (after years of working freelance) getting better at separating work and life.

I work from home a lot, so it can be tricky. And I like to respond to deadlines as best I can, so sometimes I’ll find myself tapping away on my computer late at night or all day on a Sunday.

But for the most part, I try to set myself “office” hours each day, and do my best to stick to them. It doesn’t always work, and I still find myself thinking about work a lot, and often checking my emails last thing each night and first thing each morning. But I’m definitely getting better!

My goal for 2020 is to take some time off (even just a long weekend) that is totally switched off. Wish me luck;)

5) What do you think are some of the best habits or routines that you’ve developed over the years to help you achieve success in your life?

I’m a passionate list maker and I couldn’t possibly do my current job without this. In addition to my work with Cloud Nine Global, I work with a number of other freelance clients and so it’s not unusual for me to have multiple projects on the go simultaneously across various times zones.

It requires a very deep level of organisation, which is not necessarily my strongest point, so I try to keep track using lists of daily and weekly goals. At the beginning of every week, I draw up a chart on a piece of A4 paper, which is divided up into days for the week, and I fill out the tasks accordingly, so I can get a visual overview at any moment.

6) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?

Sorry I can’t think of any off the top of my head! I tend to get most of my inspiration online and am often searching around looking at articles and blogs, which I find helpful.

7) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

Every day has to start with a really good cup of coffee (I like to grind my own beans, which I get from a shop in Palermo that I discovered on a visit there in July). And a call with my sister really helps to make sure we are aligned on priorities and know what we need and want to do that day, and week.

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

Honestly, working mums totally have my admiration! I’m a “puppy mum”, and some days that feels challenging enough, so I often think how amazing mums (with human children) are – especially our own mum, who did an amazing job raising four kids while keeping up advanced tertiary study (including a PhD) and part time work.

This is not to say that I don’t think dads (or people without kids) aren’t great at managing things too, but I feel like working mums are really the masters of work-life balance and I would love to read interviews with any of them.

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

Sometimes it’s really hard to find balance, especially as things in life always change. One week, you might feel like you’ve got it together and all worked out, and the next it feels like you’re spinning plates whilst riding a unicycle. I think the key is to be kind to yourself, and take it a day at a time.

Try to be organised and to plan ahead, but also don’t feel like you have to be super woman. Sometimes a work deadline means you have to do take away for dinner and the laundry might pile up for a few days. Big deal.

It’ll all work out, and reminding yourself that you’re actually doing a good job really helps. I also thoroughly recommend working with people who are supportive – I’m so lucky to work with my sister, who is hugely inspiring and actually really is a bit of a wonder woman.

But I really like that we can show each other when we don’t feel like we have it all together, and sometimes it makes all the difference.

If you’d like to have a conversation with us about how you balance the grind, get in touch with us!

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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.