Interviews / Operations

Balancing the Grind with Darren Buckle, Chief Operating Officer at FocalPoint

Darren Buckle is the Chief Operating Officer at FocalPoint, a company creating next generation positioning solutions for mobiles, wearables and vehicles in all environments.

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

I bounced out of University with an Engineering degree absolutely assured of my decision to pursue engineering in the Aerospace sector. I quickly discovered that my love for engineering and deep curiosity for the way things work, didn’t cross over into career aspirations and I took to a management stream instead.

That led me into an 8-year stint in various Business Development and Ops roles across Aerospace, Defence and National Security sectors, finding time to squeeze in an MBA along the way.

It was a remarkably fortunate journey which, in such a short space of time, had me involved with many brilliant and difficult people, exposed to the challenges of cultural adaptation & international negotiation all whilst surrounded by a fantastic team that taught me how to move mountains.

As for my current role as the COO at FocalPoint, I got a phone call from the founder, telling me he was going to secure some funding for this deep-tech venture idea he had carefully knitted together and could I help?

Knowing how brilliant he was and bubbling with enthusiasm out of the back of an MBA, I leapt at the opportunity. The role has certainly evolved over the 7years, from us being a skeleton crew of 4, sleeping on each other’s couches, to now, being able to act as a strategic leader to the business.

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

Coffee first. Always coffee first. I do the morning routine with my daughter and that is my special time before we all head our separate ways for the day. Our operations are currently split between US and UK, which means timezone pressures push many conversations deeper into the evenings which makes that time less reliable.

My role is centred around business strategy and resources and rarely is there a day that doesn’t have me wearing many different hats. Tasks can range from strategy and planning, resource allocation, internal communications, talent acquisition, raising capital, mentoring staff, customer engagement, commercial strategy, legal reviews, infrastructure demands, all of which makes the role very exciting and varied on a day-to-day basis.

I am lucky to have a pretty solid internal barometer about which short, medium and long-term priorities require my attention. That means I don’t (yet) need to have a very rigorous or disciplined calendar/todo regimes or protected times in order to keep the balance in a good place but the working days are healthily busy and intense!

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

My brain is not wired ideally for what I suspect is seen as a traditionally healthy work-life balance. If I am passionate and motivated by something then I find it hard to unwind myself from the tasks at hand. If I were to put time boundaries around work and life I would most certainly break those obligations or promises I had made to anyone pretty quickly.

I prefer the philosophy of being “present” in work and in life. When I’m with my family, I am present, when I am at work, I am present. I try to not let one bleed over into the other. I also fail miserably at times with that philosophy but it’s one that I aspire to achieve!

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

This year I have been very disciplined on consistently exercising for a minimum of 30 minutes a day every day. I was shocked by the effects over and above just general health & fitness. I feel like my brain cells have sharpened, my energy levels have markedly increased and how my mental state improved in high stress environments. Highly recommended!

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

A Lion Trackers Guide to Life by Boyd Varty – A good book if you are ok with a little introspection. Helps to provide some simple, but effective guidance from the perspective of a Lion tracker on strategies and philosophies on how to plot a path forward when all signs are unclear and all you see is brush!

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

I had written this answer prior to her passing, and questioned whether I should change it, but I shall stick with it.

Queen Elizabeth II. I have no concept of what a life of extraordinary privilege but low personal freedoms, zero-autonomy, no retirement age, high public attention and a relentless demand for your time must feel like from her perspective. 

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

My personal experience of talking to people about work-life balance is they immediately jump to words like “organised” and “efficient” with trending todo apps and focus timers etc making it seem like all the problems associated with work-life balance problems are related to “time”.

Time tools are super effective for those that have time balance challenges and are talked about ad-nauseum. I personally see work-life balance problems manifesting differently, with the transportation of anxieties, unfinished business, stresses and unresolved conflicts.

I’m a big advocate for learning to resolve those things quickly and effectively through direct communication. Learning how to communicate effectively, in so many situations, can be instrumental in allowing you to express yourself freely, challenge what you do not agree with, celebrate effectively with others, and among all, be efficient and effective!

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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.