Interviews / Marketing & Advertising

Balancing the Grind With Michelle Broderick, SVP Marketing at Automattic

Michelle Broderick is the SVP Marketing, leading the Brand Marketing Team at Automattic, the web company behind Jetpack, WooCommerce, Longreads,, and more.

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

I’ve worked for fast scaling startups like Uber, Yelp and Simple. I’ve spent some time in gaming, publishing, and real estate. I’ve also worked for giant companies like Gap Inc and Continental Airlines. There are a few things that all of these unique roles have had in common: Doing something no one has done before, building community, and leading remote teams.

In each role, I’ve been successful by blending data with creativity, knowing when to be scrappy and when to deploy resources, and balancing moving fast and taking it slow.

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

Morning: This is when I get my best solo work done. Writing, planning, outlining real strategy. From about 6:00 – 10:00 AM it’s all about diving into deep uninterrupted work.

Afternoonish: This is when I’m ready to collaborate! Team meetings, one-on-ones, and lunch dates are key to keep me going during this time. From about 11:00 – 4:00 it’s all about partnering with other people to keep motivation high.

Evening: This is when my brain is done. I used to try to push more work in after 4:00 because who doesn’t work after 4:00? Me, that’s who. And many people who have worked from the crack of dawn until the natural crash. This is when I go to a yoga class, spend time with my husband, take a bath, watch the golden age of television.

Naturally, I have to modify this schedule to accommodate other people and pressing commitments when there are no other options. The surprising thing is that if I ask others to respect this schedule, they often do, so I am more likely to ask these days and only work outside of these boundaries when there are no other options. It’s quite liberating.

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

Yep! I’ve led remote teams in some capacity since starting at Yelp in 2006. I cannot imagine the weight of having to go to an office at the exact same time on the exact same day as everyone else in this modern world.

Meeting people in person is key to doing great work and that should be done as deliberately as possible. It’s a little sloppy to simply have everyone in the same building from 9-5 Monday – Friday simply because you can’t figure out the right cadence for the work that you need to do.

Being deliberate about how you work is a huge competitive advantage. You get more work done, you have access to better talent, and no one has to go to Trader Joe’s during rush hour. I’m also happy to expound on why it’s better for the environment, mental health, and even democracy if anyone is interested.

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

The best tip I have is to find a supportive partner and surround yourself with a group of supportive friends. Outside support is key to helping me remember all of this great advice that is so easy to type when requested, but so hard to remember when you put it into practice.

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

I actually love to work. So to me, work life balance is not about limiting the number of hours that I work, but it’s making the most of the hours that I work. I want the majority of my hours at work to feel energizing and I should feel like I did good work by the end of the day.

The folks at Reboot share a saying “Good Work. Done Well. For the Right Reasons.” If I can end my day and feel like that has happened, I have achieved work life balance.

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?

  • Figuring out what fills me up and what drags me down.
  • Discerning what is actually important vs. what society has told me is important.
  • Listening to my biorhythms and organizing my day to line up with my natural motivation.

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

The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes is a book that I gift to just about anyone willing to listen to me for more than two minutes. She goes deep into helping you understand what it is that you are actually saying yes to and allowing you to say no to everything else.

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

Spending the time to be proactive in my work. When I get into a reactive state, I know that I’m not getting the most out of my days so I pause my to-do list and reassess what is important.

It might seem counter-intuitive to put off some of the more urgent tasks, but it’s amazing how much clarity you get when you pull up from the noise to see the big picture.

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

Good food, fun activities, and restful sleep are overlooked clues for evaluating your work-life balance. Remember that work is not a family.

When you appreciate something someone did, send them an overly detailed explanation of your appreciation. A group of peer-mentors is an invaluable support system.

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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.