Interviews / Marketing & Advertising

Balancing the Grind With Hande Cater, Senior Communications & Marketing Coordinator at Monash University

Hande Cater is the Senior Communications & Marketing Coordinator at Monash University, where she is responsible for driving marketing communications for the IT faculty.

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

My career background is in Public Relations, Communications, Events and Marketing. Over the past five years, I worked as an Account Manager for a boutique PR agency, Mkt. Communications, where I had the opportunity to work across a variety of local and international brands across FMCG, fashion, lifestyle, retail, property and corporate.

Most recently, I made the move to an in-house role with Monash University as a Senior Communications and Marketing Coordinator. Working for the Faculty of IT, I have been exposed to a whole new world of cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, data science and computer-human interaction.

Over the past six months, I’ve had to teach myself everything there is to know about information technology but I’ve absolutely loved being responsible for the marketing communications of the faculty and promoting the work of our researchers through #ITforSocialGood.

The opportunity to experience a variety of different industries has been an excellent career move for me as it’s allowed me to gain new skills and embrace change.

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

In a communications and marketing role, no day is ever the same, however, I do try and stick to some form of routine as much as I can.

A typical workday for me would be getting up at 6am and out the door for either pilates, yoga or circuit class. I’m a very active person, so for me, fitting in a morning workout is essential to clear my mind ahead of a busy workday.

By 8.15am I’ve arrived at work and will fit in a 15-minute meditation before I walk into the office. A daily meditation helps me feel calm and focused throughout the day.

With a coffee or black tea in hand, I’m at my desk my around 8.30am and straight into answering emails, catching up on news articles, monitoring the Monash IT social channels and planning my key tasks for the day.

If I have any major writing tasks to complete, I’ll often block out 9am – 12pm to tackle these first whilst listening to music. I used to spend my mornings ticking off smaller ‘easier’ tasks from my to-do list and would find that I don’t have the brainpower for larger time-consuming tasks in the afternoon.

So I’m now trialling the reverse and it’s currently working for me. By 12pm I feel accomplished for finishing a larger task.

Around 1pm I’m ready for lunch and as much as I can, I try and have lunch away from my desk. My colleagues and I will often take a seat out on the campus grounds and soak up the warmer weather. It’s great seeing all the students out, you definitely feel like you’re back at uni!

From 2pm to 5pm I’m generally in meetings with academics to work on upcoming media story ideas, catching up with the internal team and finalising communications for upcoming campaigns.

I’m out of the office by 5pm. Leaving on time is really encouraged here at Monash and it’s a great feeling to not feel guilty about leaving work on time.

Once I’m home, I love to switch off from all devices and for me, cooking dinner is a great way to do this. When I’m cooking, I’m completely focused on the task at hand and it allows me to be creative in a different way to my day-to-day.

For the remainder of the evening, I’m spending time with my husband, watching a mini-series on Netflix, reading or taking a bath.

Then I’m generally in bed around 10.30pm. My husband is a night owl so he’ll often be up until 12am so in order to force myself to go to bed early I’ve started using a bedtime alarm and it’s great!

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

I’m very lucky that in my current role a healthy work-life balance is encouraged and I often have the ability to opt for flexible working hours. I truly believe that flexible working hours empowers employees to be more autonomous, organised and productive with their work.

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

Keeping a detailed task list is key to managing your workload. I find that by writing out my task list for the week on a Monday morning it really puts me in the right frame of mind and prepares me for the week.

I like to group my tasks into categories so that visually it’s more digestible rather than a long list of tasks. For me, these categories usually involve social media, writing, admin, reviews etc.

It’s also really important to give each of your tasks a deadline so that you can begin ordering them according to urgency and always allow a contingency for unexpected tasks that will inevitably fall on your desk.

Throughout the week I’ll work through this task list and then on a Friday morning, I’ll highlight the ‘must-do’ tasks – those that I have to complete before leaving for the week.

It’s really important to be realistic with your workload and capacity when setting tasks. There is only so much that you can do in one day. Being aware of this really allows you to do your best, without making yourself feel bad about what you didn’t get to.

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

Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, uses the term ‘work-life harmony’. His concept identifies that work and life are two elements of a person’s life which should be viewed as a circle as they will inevitably influence each other.

I love this concept because rather than finding a balance between these two competing interests, you can ensure that wherever you are and whatever role you are playing, you are fully present.

That way you can give your full attention to your work and your personal life. For me, that means if I am happy at home, I come into the office with heaps of energy and motivation. And if I am happy and fulfilled at work, I come home feeling accomplished.

I find it really helps me keep my sanity and live a fulfilled, happy and content life.

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?

Throughout my professional career, I’ve learnt that looking out for my own wellbeing and making time for myself is so important with the busy life I lead. I’ve recently perfected the art of saying ‘no’ and it’s made a world of difference. You don’t need to do everything or be everywhere.

Early on in my career, as a promotional brand ambassador (i.e. promo girl) a manager had told me to never say “I don’t know” to a client or customer, rather “let me find that out for you”. This has always stuck with me and I’ve implemented this advice throughout my career.

Positioning yourself as the person who may not know the answer but will find out the answer is essential to set you apart from the rest. It shows you’re solution-driven, willing to learn and not afraid to admit when you don’t know something.

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

There are too many:

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

At the end of every workday leave your desk neat and tidy – it boosts productivity and morale! Another one is making the most of ‘time confetti’ – the new-found time you have when a meeting gets cancelled or is running late. Rather than wasting this time, spending it productively can do wonders for your day!

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

Don’t take things too seriously, especially when it’s PR, not ER! We all have a tendency to overcomplicate things when we live in our ‘work bubble’ but it’s important to realise that it’s work and there will always a solution to a problem no matter how big or small.

Make time for yourself and your loved ones and don’t be afraid to unplug.

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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.