Balancing the Grind with Danielle Seymour, Director at _SOUTHSTART

Danielle Seymour is the Director at _SOUTHSTART, Australia’s human-first innovation and impact festival connecting humans to ideas, possibilities, and each other.

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

A trip to India in my last year of school, triggered what would become 6+ years of balancing full time hospitality work, half a law degree, an (eventual) commerce degree and global travel adventures.

I often found myself at the crossroads of academia and immersion, and eventually ended up doing an internship in Jakarta that kick-started my discovery into the land of “startups”. The mission: find out why on earth I had absolutely no idea that innovation existed as a “sector”, despite having a commerce degree and a dad who had a “tech” company growing up.  

After registering an ABN, a few stints in accelerator/startup programs and experimental projects / seeds of startups on my own, we were presented with the opportunity to take over _SOUTHSTART and here we are, 5 years later!

I’d worked in festivals before behind the bars, but little did I know what would evolve and it’s been a journey ever since. Now, I’m one of three Directors, and while we sit across a host of functions, being just like a startup ourselves, my core focus sits across guiding our operational direction.  

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

The best thing about _SOUTHSTART is that no two days look the same. Depending on the time of the year, and whether we’re 2-weeks or 2-months out from the festival, largely guides what I’ll be focused on.

For example, today I am largely in meetings with our team – across marketing, partnerships, PR and production, establishing our key priorities for this week. But in between these, I will engage in deep written and administrative work.  

Such as taking a moment to write this, or engaging with our vast stakeholder groups, across partnerships, programming, suppliers and attendees. Beyond the immediate preparation that event planning requires as we move to the live delivery date, I am tasked with setting our annual strategic direction, budget planning, funding applications and everything in between.  

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

To be perfectly honest, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a linear divide between “work” and “life”. To me, working is an enabler of my own personal growth and it provides me with a deep source of content and fulfilment. But the caveat to this, is that I am able to find meaning in my “work”. Perhaps my biggest goal is working to ensure that this remains the case.  

Breaking the routine with something powerful, join Danielle Seymour at _SOUTHSTART, March 7-10, 2023 for an incomparable four-day event that celebrates the Australian spirit of innovation.

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

Where possible, I avoid turning my computer on during the weekend, and have a religious habit of archiving my emails – ensuring that the actions / reminders are held in a single task list. This has provided an incredible amount of mental freedom, as I no longer feel the need to be as reactive to the demands of others. 

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

Questions like these would normally warrant a useful answer, and I could recommend a few podcasts like Business Wars or books like The 4-Hour Workweek. But truth be told, I am a sucker for reality television and lifestyle podcasts, and am learning to be comfortable with this admission as they help me switch off and feel fundamentally human. So, to anyone else that might be looking for an easy unwinder, I’d definitely recommend Life Uncut by former Bachelor contestants Laura Byrne and Britt Hockely.  

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

My parents. And what’s better, is that I can live through that journey with them. I have been fortunate to have been raised by two widely random, but supporting and free individuals, who collectively led me into a direction that has allowed me to find deep comfort in embracing the unknown.

As cliche as it sounds, the balance between connecting our emotional and fundamentally human layer, with the nurturing of wisdom and knowledge, is something that I deeply believe is learnt across a lifetime – far beyond what we can capture in words. And this provides a critical foundation for how we approach work, life, and the intersections that exist between the two.   

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

Do whatever works for you. I’ve been through several programs that led to more questions and self-doubt, than answers. And guilt for not following up or actioning the learnings that were shared. Unless you’re truly in deep need of support and open / willing to take on the advice of others, please don’t feel the need to do more than what is currently working for you.

We live in a world where it’s so easy to consume, and every aspect of our life is met with a push to upskill or accelerate your current actions. More often than not, you will know exactly what makes you happy or sad. And it can be as simple as listening to, and following that feeling.  

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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.