Directors / Interviews

Balancing the Grind With Paul Crighton, Managing Director Australia/New Zealand of NetApp

Paul Crighton is the Managing Director Australia/New Zealand of NetApp, a hybrid cloud data services and data management company headquartered in Sunnyvale, California.

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

I hail from the UK and have called Australia home for twenty years now. After I left school, I joined the navy as an electronics engineer officer. I was always told I had the ‘gift of the gab’ so sales seemed like the logical career path.

Since the navy, I have had several sales roles selling life insurance, software, cybersecurity products and consumer electronics with companies like Symantec, Intel Security and Blackberry.

I am now the Managing Director at NetApp ANZ where I have been for a little over a year.

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

No two days are the same for me, but there are a few recent experiences that stand out.

George Kurian, NetApp CEO, was in Australia the other week so I was hosting meetings in Sydney and Canberra all day and attended the NetApp partner awards that night.

Contrast that with another day where I was on the golf course at The Australian for the Fujitsu golf day. I was teeing off with partners and customers, a great chance to get to know them in a relaxed setting. It was an invaluable opportunity to understand more about their business pain points and see where I can help.

Then there was a more ‘routine’ day where I was in back-to-back meetings all day and then home at five o’clock so I could make an Elton John concert that night with my wife and daughter (which was amazing!).

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

Absolutely. As the MD I have the autonomy to set my own agenda but the same goes for employees’ company-wide – we are very work-life balance and family orientated. Something that was new to me at NetApp was how responsive and on the ball everyone is – it has really pushed me to deliver my best work and strive to reach new heights.

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

I typically have seven to eight meetings every day, so keeping them to thirty minutes and making sure there is an agenda for each is critical. Thirsty minutes is the ideal length (others agree with me!) for most meetings, as there is enough time to build rapport and cover the agenda comprehensively. Clients and customers are also less likely to cancel a thirty-minute meeting as opposed to an hour-long (or more) session.

I also pick five things every day that I want to accomplish and try to stick to that list as much as possible. This keeps me focused and orientated as the day unfolds.

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

My previous roles entailed a lot of overseas travel because my remit was regional. This severely ate into family time with my wife and fourteen-year-old daughter. I became a workaholic and even when I was at home or doing something with my daughter, my mind would often be elsewhere.

My new role covers Australia and New Zealand only, so I travel less and get to see my family more. Being present has been a massive focus for me. Whether I am at work or home, I try to be 100% present and in the moment.

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?

One thing that helps me maintain balance is my regular ‘brain dump.’ This is something I had never done before but has become a weekly staple.

It started after I got home after my first week at NetApp and was so excited with everything that I had heard after my meetings with over thirsty customers, partners and employees that I wanted to share everything I had learned with the team. I wanted it to be raw, authentic and completely transparent.

Twelve months later and I update the same thread every week because people really like the transparency and it also helps me make sense of my thoughts and see how the business is evolving over time.

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

I have read a lot of Stephen Covey over the years. Legacy by James Kerr is a great read about what business leaders can learn from the success of the All Blacks rugby team. Against All Odds by Craig Challen is an inspiring and captivating story – definitely worth checking out!

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

I often remind myself that 75% of what you do, you love, and the other 25% needs to get done, but it probably doesn’t get you out of bed in the morning. I like to focus on that 75% and remind myself every day how lucky I am to be part of such a great team and company.

I would also say that exercise is crucial. I try and get in four to five runs a week which helps me unwind.

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

Perspective is everything. Try not to take things overly seriously and remember to always make time for what is important in your life.

If you’d like to have a conversation with us about how you balance the grind, get in touch with us!

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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.