Interviews / PR & Communications

Balancing the Grind With Damien Pashby, Group Account Director at Ogilvy

Damien Pashby is the Group Account Director at Ogilvy, an award-winning fully integrated creative network with 131 offices across 83 countries.

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

I was born and raised on the Northern Beaches of Sydney.

After school I went on to complete a Bachelor of Business at UTS and immediately looked to find a role in the advertising industry. After discovering a passion for consumer psychology early into my degree, there was only one place I was ending up.

Over the past 12 years I’ve been really lucky to work at some of Sydney’s most creative ad agencies including Publicis Mojo and M&C Saatchi, and alongside some brilliant and inspirational creative thinkers.

To that point, where I’m at now is no different. I’ve now been working at Ogilvy for the past 4 years, leading the Nestle and Transport for NSW accounts.

Ogilvy has a rich history locally and internationally, though what really drew me to the agency was the transparent, professional, relatable management team and an agency culture that’s second to none.

2) What is your current role and what does it entail on a day to day basis?

My current role is Group Account Director at Ogilvy Sydney – overseeing the Nestle and Transport for NSW accounts.

I’m essentially the business lead across the two accounts, managing the business relationship, resourcing, profitability and end to end delivery.

My team and I work closely with our clients to help solve their business problems through communications and work to anticipate the needs of their consumers.

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

I really believe that health and wellbeing is the baseline for success. Diet and appropriate nutrition are the fuel for the day though at least an hour of exercise daily really energises me for what’s to come.

Generally, I’m up at 5am for breakfast and to check in on emails from overnight then into the gym by 5:30am. From there it’s off to office and starting work between 7:30 and 8am with coffee in hand.

My days in the office are quite varied with no two days same. Working hours are generally spent in meetings – it’s an unfortunate reality of the industry and especially being a suit.

Either taking a brief or presenting creative work to clients, briefing or reviewing work with our creative teams, workshops, production reviews, project status meetings or simply catching up with our client leads to discuss the state of their business.

There’s a fair bit of travel throughout the day from office to office, so time spent in Ubers is really just a chance to catch up on the most urgent emails (and checking in on NBA scores).

When 5pm or 5:30pm hits, my focus shifts onto the rest of the emails that have stacked up throughout the day.

Whilst this can easily drag into the night, I really try to be out of the office by 6:30 or 7pm and straight home to my wife so we can walk our little Staffy, Luther together at a decent hour.

Evenings are generally spent with a bit of dual screening, Netflix on the TV and scanning emails on the phone and a worn-out dog encroaching on my personal space.

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

I’m a morning person, so I try to use this to my advantage. Usually I plan out my day before heading off to the gym – checking emails and reviewing my diary so I know what I’m walking into in the office.

This also dictates how much time I spend in the gym of the morning as well. The repressed 20-year-old gym rat in me tries to squeeze out every minute of exercise time possible.

In the office, there are a few tricks that are used to manage my ongoing workload through the day. The ones that standout the most would be:

The trusty weekly priority list that’s continually updated with additional action points and completed tasked crossed out. This helps to organise the internal chaos and helps prioritise what needs to be done and by when.

No job too small or too large to be included. This should also be a live list that has the completed work still included with a line through them. Keeping the completed tasks crossed out on the list instils optimism and a real sense of progress.

The other is my amazing team. I’m hugely lucky to have a team of superstars and this changes the shape of what a day can look like. Having a dependable and strong team working with me, with a focus on open communication, allows us to manage all our projects with efficiency.

It allows us to play into each other’s strengths to deliver the best output for our clients but also means that in periods of increased workload, we’re all there to help each other out.

Finally looping back to health, I always walk into the office with lunch and other snacks prepared for the day. Throughout the craziness of the day I need to optimise my time out of meetings and therefore having a cooked lunch allows me to make the best nutrition decisions possible rather than making poor ones based on urgency.

5) In between your job, life and all your other responsibilities, how do you ensure you find some sort of balance in your life?

OK – so firstly, there’s no perfect balance and I really think the sooner we come to understand this, the happier we’ll be.

Secondly, there’s one non-negotiable in life and that is that family comes first. At the moment, I really try to be home at a decent hour every day to see my wife (and Luther) even if it means getting back on emails later on.

My gorgeous wife is 8 months pregnant with our first child so I recognise the need for me to be home more will only increase from here but I know working for a supportive organisation like Ogilvy where our leadership team all believe in flexible working for staff and lead by example, it’s a shift that will be able to be accommodated.

I also believe, a balance is only created when you also make time for yourself. Doing something for yourself daily isn’t selfish, it’s selfless. It allows you to develop, be happy, challenge yourself and makes you a much more well-rounded person professionally and personally.

6) What does work life balance mean to you?

I actually really dislike the term ‘work life balance’. It’s a problem, as it immediately sets up work to be bad, and everything else in your life as good. We shouldn’t be striving to weigh up the good with the bad, more so seeking a level of balance in life to allow us to be fulfilled in both our professional life and our personal lives.

In our industry and also most industries in 2019, 9am-5pm days are non-existent. It’s unfortunate but true and so if you’re not loving what you’re doing professionally then you need to make a change.

Without a passion for what you do day to day, I really don’t see a balance that can be achieved for the long term. Without this, personal wellness will suffer and so will your output in the office.

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

Understanding that you don’t need to be able to do it all.

It’s easy to over burden yourself mentally with the size of a task but knowing which experts to engage at the right times will help drive a better output and also a better mental state as well.

Very early in my career, I tried to keep some projects close to me to ensure I maintained control but the reality is, no individual has all the answers. I learned pretty quickly where my strengths lay and how to better manage projects for success.

Working at Ogilvy now, we’re spoilt by the number of talented and amazing experts we work with day to day and working closely with a vast array of skill sets often takes projects in to some different and uncomfortable places, though it’s always for the better.

Every day is a chance to improve.

Our industry is constantly changing, so if you’re not growing then you’ll be left behind. At every level you should be asking yourself how you can improve upon what you did yesterday.

Could you have managed that project better, could you have sold the work differently or were there other ways to solve the problem? The answer to these will always be yes and the more you challenge yourself in this way, the more likely you will be to grow.

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

Social Physics: how good ideas spread — the lessons from a new science by Alex Pentland.

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

As I referenced above, health and nutrition are my constant and baseline for success. No matter what techniques you look to implement to better manage workload and get the most out of the day, if you don’t have the energy then you’ll fall short.

Creating good habits around what I eat, when I eat and exercise has not only made me happier and fitter though also given me more professional focus.

Making your health a priority boosts your mood, reduces your stress, and significantly increases your productivity so I really believe it needs to be more of a focus across our industry.

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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.