Brian Keenan is the SVP Planning & Head of Business Intelligence at Weber Shandwick, where he leads the Australian strategic planning and BI functions as part of the agency’s local management team.
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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I originally wanted to be a trial lawyer, as I loved those heated courtroom scenes in movies and TV shows. Graduating university at the height of the GFC, however, precluded taking on any additional debt for law school. The plan then shifted to a career that leveraged the same skills – reading, writing, persuasion – and I landed in communications.
I’ve worked now in New York, London and Sydney across a variety of innovation, creative and strategy roles. My current role is leading strategy and business intelligence for Weber Shandwick Australia.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I try to spend most days listening more than talking or typing. Listening my clients about the challenges and opportunities in their respective worlds. Listening to my colleagues about their work, and finding ways to make it better or more compelling.
Listening to culture and society to see what’s new, next, trending, etc. Thankfully that means most workdays are a kaleidoscope mix of conversations about different industries, audiences and creative ideas. Keeps things interesting.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Yes, though I do love being in the buzz of our office. If I need to go off and think deeply about a problem – as strategy or emotional songwriting sometimes require – then I can certainly do that.
If anyone needs to grab the kids or visit the doctor or anything, then they do it. Work can easily fit around life if we’re all adults about it. When travelling abroad or across Australia, we also have a great policy of flex working from other Weber Shandwick offices.
I always try to work amongst colleagues in NYC, London or Singapore when I’m town.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
While there will always be more work, there’s a finite amount of life. So if life goals are competing with work goals, find or create a job that is a better conduit to achieving your life goals.
On a practical, day-to-day level, I’m quite strict about scheduling my life first, then my work around it. There will always be last minute life changes, of course, but generally most things run on schedule.
Accordingly, I plan my personal year or month first, then find a way to literally work around it. Also, take sick days when you’re unwell. Too many try to power through and end up completely drained or worse. Go home, rest up and come back recharged.
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 ask for help or guidance when I need it. Share honest opinions, making sure to explain why I formed that opinion (good or bad). Asking nothing of others that I wouldn’t be willing to do myself. Remembering that success is not a zero sum game; there’s more than enough success to go around.
6) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?
Phil Knight’s book Shoe Dog is a good one because he had absolutely no idea what he was doing for most of it. But he pulled in other smart people, kept figuring stuff out, healthy sprinkling of luck and Nike emerges. Helped remind me most of us are just trying to figure it all out as we’re going along.
7) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?
Mentally prepare. If there’s a big pitch or client meeting, I’m there well in advance and rehearsing in my mind at a coffee shop nearby. Rushing around or doing other stuff right before can ruin weeks of prep. Even if I have a regular meeting, I take the 5 minutes before to reset, gather thoughts and come ready to start.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
The recently elected Finnish PM Sanna Marin. She’s leading a national government at 34. Incredible.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Your balance is your balance. What works for you might not work for someone else, and vice versa. Take inspiration and guidance, of course, but eventually you need to find what works best for you.
If you’d like to have a conversation with us about how you balance the grind, get in touch with us!