Automattic / Designers / Interviews

Balancing the Grind With Desiree Garcia, Senior Product Designer at Automattic

Desiree Garcia is a designer at Automattic, where she collaborates with other designers, engineering, and marketing to work on, and an editor at industry publication A List Apart.

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

I’ve been at Automattic for about a year and a half, where I work on the team. Previously I was at IBM Design, where I worked on the core IBM Watson design team. My design career has been quirky. I was a career-switcher, and my early experience was been in the federal government and non-profit space. But I’ve been making things for the web since IE6.

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

Well, I’m currently on maternity leave, but I haven’t stopped working. My workdays just have a different focus (and are twice as long).

I spend a lot of my day nursing a young baby, reading to and playing with a toddler, cooking for them, cleaning up after them, and making sure they sleep. The toddler luckily sleeps from 7PM to 7AM on her own; the baby does not. That workday runs from about 3AM to 7PM.

My identity and work as a designer is important to me though, so being on leave makes me appreciate how things might actually get easier, not harder, when I go back to work.

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

Automattic is a distributed company, so flexibility and remote work is our default. It has enabled me to spend more time with my family without having to sacrifice side projects or self-care like I tended to do when I drove to an office. I am also able to put in longer hours though, because I’m in control of how and when.

What’s been surprisingly delightful about going remote too, has been getting to explore Austin, where I’m based. Anywhere there’s coffee and wifi I can get work done.

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

If it is not written down, it does not exist. I am highly dependent on my Things app and my Calendar–so, my laptop or phone–but I’ve also deleted anything that might sabotage my productivity on my devices.

I realized early this year that when I feel overwhelmed or like I didn’t have my act together, the root cause usually has to do with too much unsolicited content or information. I’ve deleted a lot of apps and closed a lot of accounts this year. The results have been awesome.

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

This ultimately means very different things to people, even if they might give you a similar answer. For me, it boils down to being free from two beliefs:

  1. The belief that I should do just a little more work or else a desired career outcome might not happen.
  2. The belief that I can never be as good of a mother as one that stays at home. (The pressure of work life balance can skew the other way, too).

For me personally, it comes down to not falling into those traps and I maintain that discipline through a combination of physical and mental fitness combined with staying away from social media.

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?

These are all physical for me, because I’m the type of person who works to avoid difficult things or to blow off steam. My body will keep going until it literally gets injured or sick.

But I only get one body, so, I’ve learned to take care of it. Sleep is the most important. I’ve kept a yoga practice for over ten years for the stress-relief, posture help, and anti-FOMO benefits.

I am also a stickler about ergonomics, taking care of my vision, and bodywork or rehab to help with repetitive stress injuries.

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

I am recommending Mike Monteiro’s Ruined by Design: How Designers Destroyed the World, and What We Can Do to Fix It.

It’s applicable to non-designers. I get that everyone has the luxury of choosing what they want to work on, but it’s supposed to be an uncomfortable read for everyone.

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

Get enough sleep.

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

It may sound cliché, but work life balance really looks different for everyone. It’s important not to assume that your idea or a common idea of it is the case for someone you work with.

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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.