Interviews / PR & Communications

Balancing the Grind with Caitlin Stonehouse-Penny, Head of Communications & Investor Relations at 1835i

Caitlin Stonehouse-Penny is the Head of Communications & Investor Relations at 1835i, the corporate venture capital arm of ANZ Bank.

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

I’ve spent the last sixteen years guiding people and brands on how they can authentically tell their stories and communicate even more effectively. When I was growing up, I loved writing, reading and psychology, and I’ve managed to translate that into a career I love.

I build great comms functions for organisations, advise and coach leaders to help them nail their messaging, design impactful comms strategies that deliver ROI, and craft comms that hit the mark. It’s work that really does fascinate me, which is why I’ve been doing it so long!

I have had an interesting career trajectory so far. Instead of looking at particular industries, my criteria is whether a company has an awesome team, integrity, is doing interesting things and of course, gut feel.

That has led to me working across a whole range of industries, from financial services to media to not for profit, and I love the learning curves that come with that. Along the way, I have worked with some incredible people, and had some great experiences. I wouldn’t change a thing.  

I’m currently the Head of Communications and Investor Relations at 1835i – we are ANZ Banking Group’s external innovation and venture capital partner. I joined around eight months ago. I’m part of a fantastic team of people, and I’m involved in leading some great projects. 

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

When I’m working from home, I get up, meditate for ten minutes and then get some movement in – that might be yoga or heading to the gym, as I train in powerlifting and like to get my training in early.

Regardless of the day, I also try to get 10,000 steps in and use that time walking around the neighbourhood to listen to audiobooks. At risk of revealing my nerdiness, my current book is the Fellowship of the Ring, and I’m 12 hours in – only another 11 hours to go!

I kick off my work day by checking the media monitoring to know what has come in overnight, and then get on to making a list so I’m focused on the biggest things for the day. Every day is different for me and while I remain flexible so I can jump on to anything urgent that comes in, I find it helpful to set priorities early.

My team is based across Melbourne and Sydney, but a lot of our work is done virtually so there is a lot of connecting via Slack or video calls across the course of the day.

At the end of the work day, I take some time to wind down and clear my head, which usually involves a cup of tea and a book.

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

I enjoy the flexibility that comes with my role. I am in the office one or two days a week, and for the rest of the time, I’m working from home. That balance suits how I like to work and live, as it allows me to structure my week.

I have to do quite a bit of writing in my role, and being able to have that deep focused work (and quiet) at home really helps, while it is great to have face time and in-person chats in the office.

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

A senior leader I worked with was fond of the phrase ‘work-life integration’, and I really liked that view. For me, It’s about being able to seamlessly integrate the different parts of your life so that your time isn’t weighed too heavily in either direction.

I have made commitments to myself that I want to honour every day, and they are my non-negotiables of movement, good nutrition, hydration, meditation, and creativity. While things may get busy, I know these are the things that make me feel great and I’m not willing to ignore them, particularly when life or work gets more stressful. 

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

Over the last lockdown in Sydney, I decided that I wanted to make sure that I had a really positive routine in place that supported me to feel my best physically and mentally. I’ve made a conscious effort to do some kind of movement that I love every day – life is way too short to be doing things that I dread.

That’s why I returned to powerlifting after a break of a couple of years. I love lifting heavy, and it really does make a difference to how I think and feel. It’s worked, I recently have achieved PRs on all of my lifts! Meditation is also one of those things that I have introduced on a more regular basis and I’ve felt that has been really positive.

I also decided to be more intentional about connecting with family and friends. I find it incredibly important to connect with those I love, whether it’s a quick call or by text, and being kept apart from those I care about in the past couple of years has made me reevaluate how to nurture and grow relationships when you can’t see each other in person. I’m lucky to have incredible people in my life who support me, and I want to be able to return that.

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

I’m a big reader, and there’s so many books I absolutely love. Some of my very favourites that have influenced how I think and live are Big Magic by Liz Gilbert, Joyful by Ingrid Fetell Lee, Quiet by Susan Cain, Dare to Lead by Brene Brown and Lost Connections by Johann Hari.

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

It’s relatively simple, but my AirPods mean I can do everything on the run – listen to books, chat with friends, join work meetings – so they are essential for me. My Frank Green bottle means I get my hydration, the Calm app is what I use for mediation every day, and of course my trusty iPhone that I’d be lost without – my whole life is on that thing!

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

Sometimes I feel there is pressure to find a perfect balance between work and life – we really need to take that pressure off ourselves. Not every day is going to be perfect, and that’s okay.

As long as you are designing a life you love, and you’re keeping happy and healthy, that’s what really matters. We are all so different, so finding what works for you is more important than trying to fit any idea of what balance ‘should’ look like.

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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.