Designers / Freelancers / Interviews

Balancing the Grind With Zack Strubel, Lead Designer (Freelance) at Farfetch

Zack Strubel is a human-centered designer from London who is currently working as the Lead Designer (Freelance) at Farfetch, an online luxury fashion retail platform.

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

I’ve always been easily drawn to things I know very little about and it happened that I was curious about many things before design.

I just about made it through high school and spent my late teens selling green technology (for commercial fridges), starting a clothing line (like literally everyone else), trying to import wine (my dad said it’d be good business) and finally, the music industry.

Producing music was the only thing I was ever truly passionate about growing up and I did end up doing that for a couple of years before realising I’d probably starve to death before making any money. Whilst on the way out of music, I nominated myself to build a website for some friends and here I am almost 10 years later.

I’m currently a Lead Designer and just recently made the transition from full-time to freelance.

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

I get up at 6 am, have breakfast and head to the gym. If I don’t go before work it’ll never happen and although I’m not a morning person, I’ve never once regretted an early morning workout.

I’ll try to force myself to read a book but most likely end up listening to podcasts on the tube.

I get to work around 9.30 and catch up with my team, check email (I rarely get any) and then go about my day which currently is a combination of meetings and ‘headphones in’ design work. I always take an hour for lunch, partly to give my brain a rest but more importantly to socialise.

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

I haven’t asked if I can work remotely but I find that freelancers in London are almost always expected to be in the office. Eventually, it’s my goal to set up and run a small, fully-remote business.

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

I try to limit the amount of information I take in to only what is absolutely necessary, however, I’ve found this difficult at a senior level as you’re naturally exposed to more. I always ask for clear project timelines and what others expect of me to avoid letting anyone down.

Clear communication is absolutely key and I’ll ask as many questions as I need to feel confident that I can do a great job. I am religious about to-do lists.

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

London is a special kind of beast and I don’t know if I’ve met anyone in this business who doesn’t feel overworked. Work-life balance is definitely the goal, but for now, I try to intertwine work and life as much possible.

I’ll break up the workday by browsing through my Feedly, having personal conversations with colleagues or practising my terrible Spanish with the amazing, patient cleaning staff. I always try to get outside at lunch and when it’s time to leave the office, I don’t procrastinate.

I am not a martyr when it comes to work which definitely helps to balance the scales. I try to do as little as possible in the evenings but tonight was not a good example of that. Whilst eating dinner, I also prepared answers for this interview, did the New York Times crossword and practised more Spanish with my girlfriend.

Weekends tend to be time to switch off but being lazy and a millennial comes fraught with guilt. Shouldn’t I be building a startup or something? A long holiday is often the only remedy.

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?

Two major things happened over the last few years which fundamentally changed me.

The first was that I experienced a kind of breakdownthrough that eventually brought great clarity into my life. I don’t need to be successful, just content, and I can achieve that by being of service to others.

The second was meeting my mate Tyler aka Bendigo’s greatest athlete/designer/life coach. He challenged me every single time I made an excuse and showed me how to be disciplined. He always reminds me that discipline equals freedom. I’d never had that kind of influence before.

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

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

Practise presence.

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

It’s a massive cliche, but I’ve found that life really is what you make of it. When things are going well, savour every moment and pay that feeling forward to others. When times are tough, have faith in the journey and learn to surrender. I believe in ‘surrender’ so much that I had my mate Georgia tattoo it on my arm.

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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.