Balancing the Grind with Celia Yau, Senior Creative Producer at Thomson Street

Celia Yau is a Senior Creative Producer at creative event agency Thomson Street, working across clients like Bauer Media, Sydney Airport, Specsavers, Christian Louboutin, and more.

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

Growing up with an aunt who was an architect and a grandmother who was an artist, I was encouraged from a young age to explore and express my creativity. My passion for design at an early age flourished into a bachelor’s degree in Interior Architecture from the University of New South Wales.

Looking back, there were definitely a few moments during my degree (3am the night before a project deadline) that I just thought “I am not cut out for this” and I am forever grateful for the support, words of encouragement and lifelong friendships I have built throughout my time in university.

Fast forward to today, I am an interior designer with over 9 years’ experience working on a range of intimate and large-scale design projects both locally and internationally.

From multimillion-dollar shopping centers, luxury hotels, hospitality and retail projects to producing nationwide luxury events. I have also been an educator in Interior Architecture at UNSW for many years.

I enjoy nurturing and giving back to the next generation of designers, especially sharing the journey that I have been on and the challenges I have been able to overcome during my career.

Always curious and in pursuit of new challenges, two years ago I decided to expand my expertise in interior design to the design of events, exhibitions, temporary spaces and retail merchandising.

I currently work for a company called Thomson Street as the senior creative events producer. I am responsible for the creative output of the company from concept to execution. Some of our clients include, Jaguar Land Rover, Bauer Media, Sydney Airport, Tory Burch, Pantene, Specsavers and Christian Louboutin.

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

While my workdays used to look very different before March 2020, this is what my most recent workday looked like:

I always start my day with apple cider vinegar in warm water. At 8:00am, my husband and I will take our toy poodle Mocha for a walk to the local coffee shop in Five Dock. I will have a long black coffee as I do intermittent fasting most mornings until midday.

My official workday starts around 9am in my home study as we have been working from home (makeup free!) since March. I like to take 10 minutes to plan out my workday each morning.

I find time blocking a very useful technique as I am a bit of a perfectionist, so I tend to procrastinate on a task. With time blocking, It forces me to get started and also reminds me to take breaks and move onto another task.

I don’t usually take a full hour for lunch as I like to squeeze in a quick 30-minute workout in the afternoon or early evening. I clock off around 6pm most days to get started on dinner but will return to my computer after dinner if there are deadlines that day.

It has been both a blessing and a challenge working from home with my husband as I’m glad there is someone to keep me company but sometimes, I just cannot drown out his voice while he’s on a zoom meeting!

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

I have always been equipped to work remotely in my role as the company utilises an online file hosting service called Dropbox. This allows me to access files anywhere in the world, including when I am on site and interstate.

As a designer, quite often I am collaborating with a team of professionals from suppliers, to consultants, contractors and builders. There are plenty of meetings, site visits and the sharing of information.

Since March, face to face interactions have been put on hold. However, with technologies such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, my workflow has not been impacted (and my coffee consumption has decreased!).

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

Perfect work life balance to me means, being able to take breaks, eat healthy, fit in a workout during my workday and finish work on time! Not too much to ask is it?

But don’t get me wrong that isn’t the life I live now; I work bloody hard. I once worked 8 weeks straight 12 hours a day, including weekends! Another time I worked 3 days straight, with 3 hours of sleep each night. Goodbye healthy eating, goodbye gym, goodbye relationships.

There are of course times that we have all worked bloody hard for our jobs. But did we rest bloody hard afterwards? Did we get the well-deserved time off after the big deadline?

I have learnt over my career to respect my body and mind and allow it the proper time to rest and recharge after a period of strenuous use. That is work life balance to me.

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

Where do I start? Perhaps it’ll be easier for me to answer “what hasn’t changed? In the past 6 months?” I think what has changed the most in my life over the past 6 months since working from home is my mindset.

I used to think, “there is no way anyone can get any work done while eating healthy, working out, having a social life…” But recently, I have adopted a more fluid approach to my workday.

This means I may take time during my workday to do a workout, a load of washing or to run an errand, but I will also clock in hours after dinner and respond to emails and calls outside of work hours. I have realised that it’s about fitting work around my life.

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

For design inspiration, I love to end my workday visiting one of the many online blogs that I follow. My favourite ones are Dezeen, Trendhunter and Retail Design Blog.

In terms of my favourite read of 2020, it’s Becoming by Michelle Obama. I listened to the audio book where Michelle Obama was the narrator, which drew me more into her memoir.

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

I have become addicted to the Audible app. I find it hard to carve out time to sit down and read a book but with audio books, I am turning the most mundane tasks like driving, cooking and cleaning into an enjoyable task.

The free Nike Run Club app is also a favourite of mine. The voice coach not only motivates me, he educates me on the proper way to run and focuses on making sure that I enjoy the run.

And lastly of course, I cannot live without our Nespresso machine, Fortissio Lungo is my current favourite espresso.

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

Being passionate about my career and hoping one day to start a family, I would love to read more interviews of how women in leadership roles juggle their family and work life. People like Jacinda Ardern, Jeanine Allis and Lisa Wilkinson come to mind.

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

It has been a bit of a wakeup call for me over the past few years that life is short, so we must enjoy our life while it lasts. I believe we need to shift our mindsets from TGIF (thank god it’s Friday) to skipping into work on Mondays.

Our future workdays need to become more enjoyable by means of becoming more flexible, so it can meet the needs of the individual. As I spend at least 40 hours of my waking life at work each week, achieving good work life balance is more important than ever to me to ensure a happy and fulfilling career.

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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.