Balancing the Grind with Céline Crawford, Chief People Officer at Smarkets

Céline Crawford is the Chief People Officer at Smarkets, a sports betting company headquartered in London that processes billions of pounds in traded volume each year.

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

After contemplating playing tennis at a competitive level, academia won over sport and I moved to London to join the world of Banking where I remained for over 13 years in a variety of roles.

Starting on the sales desk on the debt side at Commerzbank, I subsequently spent the next decade working closely with AIM/FTSE Public listed companies for different firms (Edison, finnCap, Redleaf) advising them on their PR/IR strategy and helping them raise money from High Net Worth Individuals.

In my last role at finnCap, I ran their angel network and caught the bug for Tech whilst meeting startups at the beginning of their journey. It was clear to me that this was where my next chapter resided and after a lot of networking, I joined Smarkets, an up and coming Fintech at the time trying to disrupt the world of betting and prediction markets.

Seven years later I have seen the company grow from 35 people to 150 people on three continents and currently hold the Chief People Officer position after previously working as Chief Communication Officer.

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

My day begins with the faithful alarm clock that is my daughter Elle, 10 months, at 6 am. This inevitably wakes up my 5 year old Noah and then begins the carefully scheduled dance of our morning routine with my husband and I getting the kids ready for school/nursery.

I walk to the train (how I get my 10k steps in), once on, I make a list of personal and work things I need to do for the day (mainly because there is bad wifi and I cannot do any work!) and fire off some personal voice notes on WhatsApp to my friends and family who live around the globe to keep in touch.

Every day at work is different. Once I arrive at St Katharine Docks, to our wonderful office overlooking the marina, some colleagues are having breakfast in our kitchen served by our talented chefs (who also make lunch and dinner). I check in and see how everyone is doing.

My team looks after people, the heart of the organisation, so it’s important to take the pulse first. Working on the executive team of a growing startup means the day is a mix of operational, strategic and administrative sessions, everyone gets stuck in and the energy is high.

Although I like to plan, I also have to be agile and often shift my day around to adjust for urgency or unexpected opportunities/challenges (also unexpected kids having to be picked up too!). On the train home, I don’t do any work at all, I listen to music and once the kids are picked up it is their time until they go to bed. After bedtime, I check my Slack for any urgent queries or finish off some work and the remaining time is time for me and my husband. 

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

My current role offers a hybrid model of two days from home and three days at the office. We also have 20 work days per year which come in handy when it’s the summer holidays and your kids are off school.

My husband who incidentally has the same working model splits the days with me so that one of us is always at home in case there is an urgency with the kids. Tuesday is the hardest day as we are both in the office so the juggle is harder than usual.

What I like is the ability to start at the time I like and depending on the day, structure my hours accordingly. If I have an unexpected pick up or my child is unwell, I feel comfortable to work later that night to catch up.

I personally enjoy the office days, and in the role of CPO, virtual meetings don’t come close to actually seeing and being with your employees. It’s a different feeling and a different impact.

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

I promised myself before becoming a mother that I would still put time into my career and equally not lose sight of the independent and social person I was before.

Although kids have the tendency to take over your life and once you are part of the sleepless society your tiredness reaches another level, I find that planning things helps me keep on top of those two elements.

Once a year I go to a music festival in California, without kids or husband, and this has been something sacred for the last ten years pre and post kids. Granted, it now takes A LOT of organising and planning but it is worthwhile to get that window of escapism just for me.

Grandparents, babysitters and a very understanding husband all give their time for this to happen annually and for me to also be present in important career days and milestones. It’s not always perfect, and I believe you can do anything but not everything, so some days are more balanced than others.

Work-life balance means not losing yourself to only one of your personas but investing time in all of the personas you want to nurture.

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

I have learned something very valuable from COVID: the art of saying no. By saying no to others, something I still find difficult, I slowly understood that I was saying yes to myself. Covid was so overwhelming with a child at home, it is a skill I mastered to survive.

Similarly, to be able to cater to family life especially with very young kids, spontaneity has definitely taken a hit. Although I haven’t deprived my life of any of the things I enjoyed doing before, it almost never happens that I selfishly go with the flow towards something social or impromptu. That is the biggest change in my life in the last 12 months. 

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

I enjoyed reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, and also Atomic Habits by James Clear which covers habit stacking for long term change. During the pandemic after two painful miscarriages, I created and hosted my own podcast called 15 Minutes of Femme, interviewing CEOs as well every day people on the subject of turning pain to power.

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

Although they lose battery very quickly, I cannot live without my airpods and my i-Phone in general. WhatsApp is the app I rely the most on as it connects me to my family and friends around the globe from Canada, the US to Paris, Dubai and Lebanon.

I use Slack for work a lot and I love sending yearly family cards through Paperless Post. I have more than 20,000 photos of my kids on my current phone so I definitely couldn’t go back to the days where phones did not have a high def camera!

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

 As the only woman on the executive team in a tech company, I would love to read an interview on any woman that balances her work life balance. We can all learn from each other and I don’t think you need to be famous or rich to have any particular insight.

In fact, the more wealth, the more help and what would make us feel understood and seen is more real stories on how normal people make it work (exactly as you are sharing on balance the grind!), as much as on how they fail, because truth be told the scale of the balance is never steady.

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

As Michelle Obama says: you have to plan your joy. It takes practice to plan joy. We think happiness just happens (and it can) but you’ve got to work in some happiness too. And finally, learn how to ask or pay for help. Not when you are desperate and already on your knees, but a little before, it will go a long way and make all the difference between balance and burnout.

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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.