CEOs / Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind With Dannielle Miller, Co-Founder & CEO of Enlighten Education

Dannielle Miller is the Co-Founder & CEO of Enlighten Education, Australia’s leading provider of in-school workshops for teen girls.

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

I began my career as a high school English teacher, but soon became more focused on student welfare programs, and on how I could support the whole child – not just the academic candidate.

My career now is incredibly diverse – and enriching! I am CEO of Australia’s leading provider of in-school workshops for teens, Enlighten Education. We work with over 25,000 young people each year across Australia, New Zealand and Asia.

I am also an author ( I have had five book published and contributed to three other anthologies). I have my own column in the Saturday edition of the Daily Telegraph.
And one day a week, I design and coordinate the delivery of an innovative new program for Women’s Community Shelters called Walk The Talk.

In 2019, this education initiative was launched in fifteen Sydney schools. The program builds high school student’s awareness of domestic violence and women’s homelessness, and empowered students to support the local women and children in need by ‘adopting’ their local shelter.

This year I also launched The School Toilet project – an initiative aimed at encouraging schools to let students reimagine these often bleak spaces ( this hasn’t been monetised in any way, it was just an issue I thought needed to be addressed).

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

There is truly no two days that are ever alike! This suits me as I thrive on diversity. One day, I might be presenting Enlighten’s programs to hundreds of teen girls and laughing, loving and unleashing their inner Amazon!

Despite the fact I have ten teen members who deliver my workshops, I still love presenting them myself too – even though it’s now been almost 15 years since I first launched Enlighten! The next day, I might be alone in my home office hunched over my computer writing my next column for the paper.

On yet another day, I might be doing media on my new school toilet project I really love this challenge too though – there’s such a discipline in having to engage readers and communicate an idea with only 700 words. What most of my days do have in common is a desire to teach – and to build bridges rather than walls.

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

When you are your own boss, and you have a home office, there’s always plenty of flexibility! I try to catch up friends regularly during the week too for a “walk and talk” catch up session. I’ve been known to send off business emails mid-stride! It’s the nature of the beast when you run your own show and have staff, and clients, who rely on you.

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

I am not sure this phrase means much to me at all really. I don’t really have an off switch. My brain is almost always focused on my work – but that’s just who I am.

According to popular rhetoric, being busy is a “syndrome”, a “disease”, a modern “sickness”. And as this new year begins, we’ll be bombarded with warnings about the dire need to unplug and slow down; to do less in 2019, in order to be more.

Yet when I read these arguments I am often left feeling frustrated; they tend to be heavy on the admonishments and lamentations, yet light on solutions.

If I was feeling overwhelmed and over-scheduled before reading, then surely afterwards I’d be left just as busy, but also now with added guilt and shame.

There’s also frequently the promotion of a decidedly middle-class perspective in these pro-time out preachings.

For lots of people, working hard is not a choice, it’s the only option. I am a worker bee, happiest when industrious. Does this mean I am doomed to a life of exhaustion and superficial relationships? Not at all.

For the most part, I enjoy the diversity and stimulation my full-time work, writing, volunteering and life as a single parent offers me. I also learned very early on in my career how to prioritise the agendas that compete for my attention and how to set boundaries.

And on a personal level, I learned (the hard way) that too much time to navel gaze is simply not good for me. As writer Elizabeth Gilbert once eloquently confessed, “If I am not actively creating something, then I am probably actively destroying something.”

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?

Just. Do. It. As a high school student, I was such a procrastinator and would often be up late at night getting tasks done. I am disciplined now – it is, ultimately, far kinder to oneself!

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

I am an avid reader. I really loved Trent Dalton’s astonishing, Boy Swallows Universe. It has nothing to do with business, but it was the first book in ages I allowed myself to be completely consumed by.

Usually, I have a terrible habit of reading a few pages of a novel, then checking my emails or social media accounts. This book reminded me of the absolute pleasure of letting a book envelop you within its pages.

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

I am also a single mum to two teens – my son Kye who is 18, and daughter Teyah who is 20. The only part of the juggle that can really get me down is trying to manage the many household chores that need doing, with my career. That’s a constant work in progress!

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.