Balancing the Grind With Carolyn Homberger, Executive Vice President & Chief Risk Officer at ACI Worldwide

Carolyn Homberger is the Executive Vice President & Chief Risk Officer at ACI Worldwide, where she leads the company’s Global Enterprise Risk Management Program.

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

I am currently Executive Vice President and Chief Risk Officer at ACI Worldwide, having previously held senior leadership roles including Group President of Global Sales and VP of Financial Planning and Analysis.

This variety of roles at ACI has exposed me to an extremely broad cross-section of the organisation – the knowledge gained over the years from moving across functional areas is hugely beneficial to my role as Chief Risk Officer, a position that I have recently taken up.

This encompasses our enterprise risk management program, including compliance and global cybersecurity, as well as leadership for acquisition integration.

I’m also heavily involved in growing our internal Women’s Initiative, and the success of this program is a real source of pride.

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

As I value health and fitness, I typically wake up at 5am for some exercise before doing the school run with my kids.

Work calls usually start at 8:30am, where I liaise with people all over the world; this includes staff meetings, weekly risk calls and acquisition integration calls. This exposes me to a really wide range of people across the organisation and across different geographies.

After lunch, I typically have calls with mentees, customers and direct reports. This is also when I block time to set aside for projects that require particular focus. Given that I have regular interaction with the board of directors, customers and executive leadership, setting aside time for focused work is paramount.

While 6pm onwards is reserved for family time, I typically clock back on after the kids are asleep – this helps to keep on top of things and plan for the following day.

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

My current role entails interaction with people all over the world – so naturally a degree of flexibility is needed and both flexible hours and remote working in central to our way of working. This is central to our business, which operates across 6 continents, and we have the collaboration tools in place to support this.

However, a lot of the projects that I oversee are of a critical nature, which does mean that my physical presence is required much of the time at our global headquarters.

There’s also a huge value in spending time in the field with our customers and experiencing first-hand how they operate – this requires flexibility too, especially with the global spread of those customers.

4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you manage your workload and schedule?

A key part of that is knowing when it’s okay to say no – and to delegate. And it’s critical to block time to work on projects that require deep focus and attention.

I’m a big fan of exercising in the morning as I believe it really sets the tone for the day ahead – it’s also the only time of the day that I can regularly find the time!

I also firmly believe that you should aim to have an even balance between work, family and personal time. I like to think in thirds; once a week I take time to look at my schedule and ensure I have the right balance between these three elements.

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

Beyond balance, I like to work on a work-life ‘blend.’ If you enjoy what you do – which I do – this is much easier to achieve. As a result, I have a lot of social interactions with colleagues outside of work and can even combine family and work time.

I don’t believe in evaluating work-life balance on a daily basis as there are often factors outside of my control. What’s important is making sure that you have that balance over a longer timeframe. I think that understanding priorities and actively planning around them makes this balance possible.

6) What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help you strive for success and balance?

When goal setting, I think it’s imperative to have the right mix of short-term and long-term goals. For me personally, that means aiming to spend about 30 percent of my time planning ahead and trying to see around the corner – but this is highly dependent on your team and role – as well as the function of that team within the business.

To make it easier to track progress against these goals, it’s important to break them down on a quarterly basis and have milestones. The long-term planning is critical, however it’s equally important to have a solid plan for the longer-term strategy is translated into actionable steps.

The flipside of this is flexibility. Don’t be afraid to push yourself out of your comfort zone to try and experience new things. Circumstances change and being able to adapt to these changes accordingly is crucial to success.

Lastly, make sure to allocate time for rest. Having some downtime helps gain a fresh perspective, bringing new ideas on how to promote a balanced lifestyle.

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

Kim Scott’s Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity is a must-read. Kim talks about creating a culture of feedback which is the only way teams can achieve their fullest potential and drive results collaboratively. The advice may seem harsh at first, but it really works.

Other books that I’ve recently read include: Goliath’s Revenge by Scott Andrew Snyder and Todd Hewlin and Love Wins by Thomas Bell. Another one is Lean Out by Marissa Orr, which provides a really pragmatic framework for workplace collaboration.

As you might guess, I read a lot – mainly while traveling for work. I’m also a big fan of Audible, which allows me to keep up the book habit while exercising.

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

I feel great satisfaction when I’m able to bring together a group of highly talented people and transform them into a winning team. I strive to make an impact – whether large or small – to make sure that I make the most out of every day.

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

I think it’s important to realise that there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to striking a balance between work and personal life – you have to actively manage it and find out what suits you. As your own life changes, the balance will change as well; what works at 30 might not work when you’re 40.

It’s also important to prioritise yourself and your wellbeing. I’ve been incredibly blessed to work a place that accepts “what’s best for you” and I would recommend everyone to do the same.

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

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.