CEOs / Interviews

Balancing the Grind With Deanna Hutchinson, CEO of Spatial Industries Business Association

Deanna Hutchinson is the CEO of Spatial Industries Business Association, a membership hub for businesses who use spatial information.

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

I’m a professional provocateur. My career has really been at the intersection of information systems, entrepreneurship and anthropology and as a result I’ve spent a lot of time as the provocateur in multidisciplinary teams who are pushing boundaries.

I am definitely a technology evangelist. I’m interested in technological change and its impact for organisations and society.

I grew up a farmer’s daughter in a mining town, studied business at a regional university and have worked in eLearning, simulation & virtual reality and more recently spatial science since the late 1990s.

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

Right now I’m the CEO of the Spatial Industries Business Association. I lead a small team spread around Australia to support a member base of organisations across the Asia Pacific region. Our goal is to see spatial information (otherwise known as location intelligence) underpin digital transformation.

We work with satellite companies, surveyors, cartographers (map makers), spatial analysts and software developers who are helping businesses, governments and communities monitor and manage changes in our environment.

My role involves all the usual CEO duties (managing staff, reporting to a board, profit and loss responsibility etc) as well as participation in a range of thought leadership activities relevant to our goal.

I do a lot of public speaking and sector-wide program coordination as a result.

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

If I’m travelling (which is usually every week), I’m up at 4-4.30am. I have a quick espresso and cereal or toast, shower and change, pack my bag if I didn’t do it the night before, and the cab arrives at 5.15.

I use the time on the plane for free thinking. I play simple games like solitaire or candy crush while mulling over plans or reports I need to write; stopping to make notes as they come to mind.

I find the act of sorting the cards in solitaire helps me to subconsciously sort out my thoughts. This way, when I sit down to write I’ve mapped out the framework and key ideas already.

Once at the destination I am in meetings until late afternoon, sometimes also over dinner. If I don’t have dinner meetings, I’ll order room service and work until late on my laptop.

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

Since having children I’ve become a master at 5 minute sprints. I break down big jobs into a series of micro tasks that can be done while waiting for a cab or in between mum duties.

The only way I can manage this is to make my life paperless as much as possible. I couldn’t get through a day without my phone!

I use a combination of mind mapping tools (for problem solving), notes apps (I like Evernote), Google Docs (for collaborative writing) and cloud document storage.

This way I have everything at my fingertips, and at the very least a record of where I was before I was interrupted.

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

When I’m home, I work from home. I have very clear routines at the start and end of each day that include timed downtime.

I take my son to school and then have a coffee and catch up with my husband (he’s a stay at home dad until our youngest hits school next year).

I have a dedicated office at home and I dress for work (although slightly less formally than usual – I wear jeans a lot at home rather than corporate attire) and attend work there.

I don’t often go in there at weekends unless I have work to complete. At night I read the kids bedtime stories and we talk about our day. It’s very comforting for us to have that dedicated time together each day, especially when I’m travelling frequently.

6) What are some of the things you do to take time out and recharge?

Gardening is my escape! We have moved recently and the garden needs a lot of work (of the hard and frustrating variety) before it can be enjoyed.

So if the weather is good and I have the energy I’ll spend the day out in the garden. Otherwise I relax by bingeing on Monty Don on Netflix or reading my favourite garden design books, and of course sketching designs of my dream garden.

My husband and I also like touring, so we’ll often jump in the car and go somewhere we haven’t been yet, or revisit a place we like. We love living in Tassie – there is no shortage of fabulous day trips year round.

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?

Listening to my body. This took years to learn! If I’m tired, I’ll arrange my work around recharging. I am one of those people who needs a lot of sleep (10+hrs).

If I’ve had a stretch of several particularly long days, I’ll try to go to bed earlier and sleep longer for a few days. I sleep well almost always.

I think this is because I reflect on the day’s achievements (even if something failed) and what needs to be done tomorrow before trying to relax for the night – closing the chapter on the day so to speak.

I am also careful about what I eat. I had gestational diabetes during my second pregnancy and I still follow a diabetes diet and fitness habit. It gives me freedom to eat what I like in moderation, and I have more energy than when I was younger.

Finally, I have a circle of professional colleagues/mentors who help me navigate the more challenging parts of my work and being a woman in leadership in STEM. This is invaluable and we have become good friends.

8) Are there any books you’ve read that have helped you with work-life balance?

I’ve read most of the bestsellers, out of curiosity more than anything e.g. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, etc.

Two that I think of often are Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott and a novel called The Full Story. I can’t remember the author but it was full of twists and each chapter finished with “but that wasn’t the full story.” When politics are heating up at work, I remember this little phrase.

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

Somewhere along the way I’ve developed the habit of subconsciously asking myself each morning “what do you want to get out of today; what do you need to do and how can you find time for the thing you want.”

If my day goes pear shaped I mentally return to this goal of the day, and that can help me get back on track. Of course on the days that it really doesn’t work out, I feel quite out of sorts (my husband calls it something else!)

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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.