Bryna Howes is the Head Of Content & Brand at fintech startup Spaceship, a company helping young Australians invest in their future, where she works across the marketing & PR channels.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
So, I’m currently the Head of Content & Brand at Spaceship, a fintech startup.
In this role, I cover a lot of different areas – email marketing, blogs, social media, events, SEO, public relations, brand strategy, copywriting. We’re still a small team, so everyone has to be ready to jump in and lend a hand, but we’re really passionate about helping young Australians invest in their future.
Prior to Spaceship, I actually didn’t work full-time for about 3.5 years. I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome in 2015, and it took a lot of effort before I could even think about working again. I did freelance work when I could, whether that was writing for magazines or consulting here and there.
And before that, I ran my own business, a fashion media site. I moved to America at the absolute height of the global financial crisis. I didn’t think I’d get a job, and I’d always wanted to start my own thing, so I figured it was then or never. That decision kind of propelled me headfirst into the world of content and marketing.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I start every day with the same routine: making a coffee and sitting on my balcony for five minutes. This was a habit I got into after I was diagnosed with CFS. It’s good to get a little jolt of daylight first thing.
I’ll start work soon after that, usually taking a minute to get organised for the day by answering any important emails, checking my Slack messages, and figuring out my to-do list.
Every day is different; if I have no meetings, I try to work on a task that requires focus. If I have a lot of meetings, I can get a bit worn out, so I try to remind myself to just take notes and not worry too much about fitting work in between.
At the moment, we’re working from home, and I really struggle to take a proper lunch break. That’s what I miss most about being in the office; a lot of us would hang out and chat at lunch. If I don’t go for a walk, I’ll try and at least sit outside for a while and soak up some more daylight!
In the afternoon I can get quite tired, so I’ll usually make a cup of tea with MCT powder or chaga mushrooms. This stops my brain from completely fogging over and allows me to refocus.
I am one of those people who works better with lots of work and competing deadlines, as weird as that sounds. Having said that, I need to feel organised in order to feel in control of it all, so at the end of the day, I try to make sure I’ve captured all the little tasks and notes that have popped up, before I log off.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
I’ve always found Spaceship to be really flexible. Before the pandemic, we could work from home, but I didn’t do it very often, because I truly enjoyed coming into the office. And if you need to come in late or leave early, you just update your status in this great app we use called Empty Chairs.
Now, we’ve been remote for about 2.5 months. It has taken me a while to settle into this new routine. I always thought I wanted to be 100% remote, but now I’m not so sure. I think once we can go back into the office, I’ll probably opt for a bit more of a balance between remote and office work.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
Being diagnosed with CFS upended my life, but it was a blessing in a way. Before that, I was a total Type A workaholic. When I got sick, I had to let go of all of that. Now, I need balance, because if I push myself too hard, my symptoms escalate and I have to literally do nothing for a day or two.
I absolutely love my job, so I still have a bad habit of pushing the boundaries, but I try to make it a point to eat healthily, listen to what my body is saying, and enjoy life in ways that extend beyond work. And sleep! That’s a non-negotiable in my life – high-quality sleep is the one thing I don’t ever drop the ball on.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started/stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
I’ve probably dropped more than I’ve picked up. Now that I am working again, I can’t exercise the way I’d like to; my CFS still doesn’t allow for both! I’m working on it, but I’d like to do more. I also don’t meditate as much as I used to, even though I extol the virtues of meditation all the time!
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
I tend to alternate between fiction and memoirs. I love reading memoirs by people who have overcome obstacles – Into Thin Air is a favourite.
I also loved Shoe Dog by Nike founder Phil Knight. It really shows what it takes to build a business; there’s no such thing as overnight success.
I don’t listen to podcasts as regularly as I used to, but my favourites remain How I Built This with Guy Raz and Death, Sex & Money with Anna Sale. They’re just great storytellers.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
I love my Fitbit, even though I’m not as stringent about getting my steps as I used to be. And I have an iPad Mini which is great – I don’t keep any work-related apps on it, as a rule.
In terms of apps, I use Feedly to keep track of what my favourite websites are publishing, and I save articles and web pages to Pocket all the time. I like having something to read whenever I have a second.
I’d say the app I most value is Brain.fm. I am very easily distracted, and I can get a bit anxious, and Brain.fm is the one app that has music that really eases both those problems.
I also use Todoist and Evernote to keep track of work tasks and notes.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
I think I could learn a lot from Christiane Amanpour, Kara Swisher, Emily Weiss, and Serena Williams.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
When it comes to work and life, I believe there are three keys: find work that aligns with your purpose, needs and values (if you can). Pursue passion projects. And embrace trying new things.
As for balance, I wrote a newsletter once about using goals and guidelines, rather than rules and resolutions, to steer you. Flexibility is a must! (As is great sleep!)
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