HR & Culture / Interviews

Balancing the Grind With Diana Nadebaum, Chief People Officer at Opteon

Diana Nadebaum is the Chief People Officer at Opteon, an international provider of independent property valuation, advisory and specialist property services in the Australian and New Zealand markets.

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

I joined Opteon in August 2018, in the newly created Chief People Officer role. Opteon is an international provider of independent property valuation, advisory and specialist property services in the Australian and New Zealand markets.

Already recognised as the largest independent valuation professional services firm in these regions, Opteon are currently embarking on a major international expansion journey.

At Opteon I lead the people, culture, change and communication strategy in support of the Opteon strategic growth goals, the transformation of the operating model and achievement of Vision2021.

Earlier in my career, I completed a Bachelor of Commerce / Bachelor of Arts at The University of Melbourne, where I majored in Human Resource Management and Psychology. I was also fortunate to be selected for an exchange program at the University of California.

My first role in HR was as part of an internship at General Motors, Holden. I also spent some time working in London, at Lloyds Banking Group, which was amazing experience.

Since then I held Head of HR positions within Telstra Consumer and Telstra Business, and was also General Manager Talent & Acquisition. Other roles have included Group Talent Manager for Salmat and other senior HR positions.

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

As the Chief People Officer, my role is extremely varied. Largely I work with the CEO and senior leadership team on a number of key strategic initiatives, which include:

  • Talent and performance- we have recently launched a new performance framework
  • Mergers & acquisitions, where I am part of the Investment Committee, recently undertaking due diligence for a potential US acquisition
  • Health, safety and wellbeing, which is a key priority for Opteon
  • We are currently launching a new Human Capital Management system (Workday HCM) and I am leading this program of work

I have to say that I largely spend my day in meetings, with the senior leadership team or with my own team. Which does mean I often find myself spending evenings catching up on work. I don’t mind doing this, as long as I have flexibility to go home at a good time to see my family and I don’t have to work on weekends.

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

I work from home every Friday. When I first returned from both my maternity leaves (I have two children, five and two), I used to work a compressed week, full time hours Monday to Thursday (this was at Telstra).

My kids are now a bit older and attend kinder and childcare and I have therefore been able to return to work five days. However, I ensure that I try to be home for bath time every night and log in after this if I need to.

On Fridays I drop my kids off at childcare and kinder and then pick them up. Working from home allows for this to be easier, which is great. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on my kids’ life this way.

I’m also a class representative for my daughter’s four-year old kinder this year, which means I feel connected to the school family, even if this does mean more work organising parents’ functions and events! I am also the one to take my daughters to tennis and other activities and kids parties when I can, I think it’s important.

Largely I can work remotely whenever I need to and so do my team. At Opteon we want to support our people and flexibility is a key priority for us.

Promoting work life balance is the first step in Opteon’s workplace wellness program that aims to create a healthy workplace environment that values and enhances the health, safety and wellbeing of our employees.

I also make sure I fit in my exercise. I have an injury which requires me to exercise regularly, hence I make sure I go to the gym (personal training) twice a week and physio for Pilates once per week. I rarely miss these unless I’m travelling. I believe that it’s important to have a healthy body, as well as a healthy mind.

I don’t know how, but I still manage to have social activities in my schedule. I also love to read and write, which is something I do for myself.

And having time for personal career development is also key. I accept opportunities to speak at conferences when they come up and to attend networking events. It’s very important to stay connected externally, not just within your own organisation.

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

I feel that working flexibly is about making sure that your work and personal life are in harmony. My husband and I have an equal arrangement, where we both work long hours and travel as required, but we support each other.

Working from home, making sure I can get home in time for bath time as often as possible, not feeling bad about finishing something after dinner to ensures I can spend time with my family when it’s important.

I try to never work on weekends, focusing on my family on Saturday and Sunday and turning work off completely while I’m on holidays. I think that quality time is important.

I’m lucky, we have grandparents to help and pay for a nanny a couple of days a week to make it easier. But largely it’s working out what works for you and getting into a manageable routine. I would also say that having a supportive partner really helps!

Also make sure you book time in for you. My husband and I have a date night every month and we each have rotating Friday night drinks with our friends.

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

To me this is not about “balance” as such but making sure it is flexible for you personally and you don’t feel guilty about not giving enough of you at home or at work. I believe that you can only do your best each day and I try to not focus on what I am not doing.

I have long ago given up being a perfectionist, I make sure that my work fits seamlessly with my personal life and neither intrudes too much on each other.

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?

I am very organised! I don’t waste time. I book everything in. My husband and I send each other invites and we are always on top of everything.

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

I love to read! But usually this is actually fiction. I find that fiction relaxes me and allows me to be taken to a different world, where I can switch off from the day to day reality.

My favourite in the “mindset” category is: Thinking, Fast And Slow by Daniel Kahneman.

From a personal perspective, the best book I have read for parenting is:

The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind by Daniel J Siegel.

I have also recently read a few other books, which are relevant for leadership and personal development:

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

I plan, I’m organised, I know what I have on the next day and what my critical priorities are. I know who I am meeting in advance and ensure I have time to consider what I want to get out of each conversation, and the impact I’m going to make.

I also need to plan the same way at home – mealtimes, kids’ activities, events.

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

Life is not perfect and being change agile and able to cope when things don’t go to plan is as important as planning!

Also I have always been open to challenges and new opportunities, I feel that this is important in being able to take yourself personally and your career to the next level.

My husband and I are teaching our children about being “brave” and having “courage,” which I feel is important and going to become even more vital in the ever-changing workplace.

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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.