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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
Absolutely. After graduating university with a degree in English and American Literature, I worked for a year in recruitment. And hated it. So I went back to do a Master’s degree in Advertising and Marketing.
From there I interned a bit, then secured my first “proper” job as a marketing assistant for an insurance company. Having a background in both English and Marketing quickly led to copy writing, then SEO copy writing, then editing website, before finally looking at the whole digital marketing mix.
I spent a couple of years trying out different things, before landing a role at Barclays. Over the last 7 years I’ve worked my way through the ranks, and now am the Head of Platform Delivery. I run the website team, marketing automation team, and platform delivery team (bring on-board new pieces of marketing technology).
That’s my day job! My evening and weekend job is Career Dad, but more on that, later.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
My days are quite varied, which suits me perfectly. I get bored of the same old routine. I spend my time between our London office (2 days a week), our Northampton office (an hour outside of London – 2 days a week), and home (1 day a week).
Taking a recent London day, I was out the house by 6.30am, and had a breakfast meeting with one of our tech suppliers around 8.30. I was in the office just before 10am, and had back-to-back meetings until 4.30.
These were project updates, new project kick-off sessions, and catching up with team members to understand how I can help them. I then gave a keynote speech at a networking event about the importance of mentoring, and particularly my experience with Reverse Mentoring (where the junior colleague mentors a senior colleague).
I was then home for about 7.30pm, just in time to put my son to bed, have dinner, then start work on Career Dad.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Absolutely. I work remotely at least one day a week, for two main reasons. Firstly, as you’ve seen from my typical day above, I’m not as much of a present father as I’d like to be. When I work from home, this gives me the chance to take my son to school, and most of the time pick him up.
In the summer we stop by the park, or go get an ice cream. For me that bonding time is priceless. It also means I am super-focused on my work during the day to enable that to happen.
I’m a huge advocate and almost evangelical about flexible working. I think companies should measure employees on their output, not their time at desk. It’s how I manage my team, and they are incredibly high-performing. I encourage others to do the same, you’ll not look back.
4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you manage your workload and schedule?
I’d steer away from “tricks” and “shortcuts”, but I do have tips. Firstly, I’m extremely open with both my bosses and my team. They know where I am at any given time, because I put it in their diary. I also block out the school run, dentist appointments, whatever it is.
There’s still a huge stigma around flexible working being synonymous with being lazy. I try to hit that up front by being incredibly clear with where I am and what I’m doing, as well as delivering on my objectives.
The other thing I’ve found that really helps me Is video calls. Most people join conference calls that offer video, but never switch on the video. I love the video for 2 reasons. 1 – people can see me.
They know I’m there, and helps remove the stigma. 2 – it keeps me accountable. I can’t be playing on my phone whilst on a conference call if people can see me! That helps me to concentrate, too.
5) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
I actually have an issue with the term “work life balance”. You could say it’s just semantics, but to me it implies there’s a “work self” and a “life self”, and we’re constantly trying to balance them against one another.
For me, I bring my work into my life and my life into my work. I don’t step into the office and instantly forget about my family, nor do I completely switch off from work at meal times with my wife. I more try to look for “balance” – the understanding that my work self and my life self are fluid, and they’re just two different sides that make up “me” as a whole.
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?
Again, honesty. Knowing what’s important. And I don’t just mean family. Work is important, too. It’s going above and beyond in my job, and demonstrating I can be trusted to deliver. That’s allowed me greater flexibility from those who might have been more reluctant.
7) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?
One of my favourite books is Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos. It’s an amazing read about how if you focus on culture and people, the rest will come.
Zappos are a huge American online shoe store, but they don’t deliver shoes – they deliver happiness. And that happiness starts with colleagues. Did you know, when a new recruit joins the company in the first few weeks they offer them several thousand dollars to quit? If someone is there purely for the money, Zappos doesn’t want them. I love that!
8) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?
I have set goals, usually for the week. This used to be a physical list, but over the years I’ve gone digital. From a corporate perspective I manage my team’s workflow and projects through Confluence and JIRA, but from a personal perspective I love Trello. If you haven’t heard of it, check it out. Life. Changing.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Enjoy what you do, and don’t chase the money. It’s really easy to say, harder to do. Someone told me this years ago and I thought “Yeah, it’s all well and good when you’ve got enough money to pay the bills.” At the time, my wife and I were still relying on her parents to help us make rent, despite us both working full time.
However, it is true. If you enjoy what you do you’ll want to learn more. You’ll want to get better. You’ll be a pleasure to work for, and work with. Don’t under-estimate that! That will see you get promoted, and then money will follow. Trust me.
Specifically on balance, it’s tough. I still struggle. Some days, or weeks, are better than others. I think it’s especially hard on parents, who have to juggle the desire for a career whilst also being a present parent.
That’s why I started Career Dad – a community for guys looking to balance work and family. The website contains articles, both work and family related. I also host The Career Dad Show podcast, where I talk to guests about things such as paternity leave, dealing with guilt, and even the loss of a child.
Ultimately, I think it’s important that we support one another, and try to make the work a better place.
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