David Thorpe is a software engineer and the creative director at Carve Digital, a software design & development consultancy based in the United Kingdom.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I initially spent the start of my career in IT support for a multitude of local companies and realised I hated it. Working with screens all day, people kicking-up when things are going wrong, people not understanding what you do etc.
So I decided to go into programming, which incidentally has all the same problems but I guess with better pay at least!
Right now I’m working with a few companies to help build out external-facing digital products. I’m helping build requirements, design the user journeys and ultimately then actually building it.
I’m like an all-in-one, one-stop-shop for all things digital product! I must admit, praising myself is quite hard, I’m British and it’s just not in our blood to be self congratulatory.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I wake up, take a deep breath, focus on what I want to achieve for the day. Drink water, meditate, I am joking. I don’t do anything like that because I’m actually a normal person who likes to sleep, has two kids and is constantly tired.
I wake up, have breakfast, purposely avoid screens, down a cup of tea and wait until the last minute before I have to rush out the door to get my kids to school.
I’ll then usually come home and put on some washing or hoover the house. If I’m feeling particularly frivolous then I may find myself driving to Bury St Edmunds to sit outside the coffee shop on Angel Hill whilst wire framing and communicating with my clients and drinking tea.
By 10:30 I’m thoroughly watered and in need of the toilet. However with COVID you never know how acceptable it is to use a public toilet so I hold it until I get home at around 11am.
I wee. Then I make a strong coffee from Butterworth & Sons, my local coffee makers, they’re great. I then proceed to crack on with work for the day from my home office.
Work finishes at 5pm. Every day. I have dinner with the family, talk about the best parts of our day and then me and kids play tag, run outs, kung fu and then they have a bath and a bedtime story.
Whilst I reserve my mornings for concentrated and bladder-dependant work, my afternoons are mostly calls and discovery sessions with my clients. This allows me to batch the type of work I do together which I hear is a good thing to do I suppose.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
I am quite militant that if a role doesn’t allow any form of remote or flexibility then frankly they aren’t treating me like an adult.
I have been fortunate in the last 6+ years to work with clients who see the value in what I do (digital transformation) and who focus on the results of the work, rather than the time spent being visible in a chair.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
Work-life balance doesn’t necessarily mean working less to me. It means being flexible enough to be able to just take a day off and not worry about it (I simply don’t bill for it).
It means being able to see my kids for the whole day on their birthday, or for a sports day or school play.
Many clients can see this however as slacking off. It’s important from the outset that you set deliverables or at least expectations with clients and employers so that they know you do take work seriously.
The barrier to this sort of arrangement from most clients usually comes down to a perceived lack of trust that you are going to be working hard for them. If you can knock down this barrier, you can control the working relationship and thus your own life. Prophetic eh.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
I’ve started picking up my wife’s pink acoustic guitar more and playing that randomly I guess. But my life is pretty busy, too busy for me to try and stick to routines or good habits.
I think I’m barely just about keeping things going. You probably expected some magical bit of advice that will change your life and make you feel organised.
Nope. Life is chaos, the sooner you just try and embrace that rather than fight to make it fit your ideals, the better you will feel (he says after suffering terribly from a hellish stressful week).
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
Yes, I do:
The Lord Of The Rings: This is a great book about a guy called Frodo who takes a long walk with some metal around his neck.
What Most People Think by Geoff Norcott – Geoff is a British comedian whom I admire. He talks mainly British politics and from a slightly right-of-centre perspective that makes his content very fresh and enjoyable.
Punkt. Post: Punkt are one of my favourite brands. You can learn more about them and sign up to their newsletter here: Designer Consumer Electronics – Interactive Design Technology on Work | Punkt.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
I generally loath screens and the addictive hold they have over most of us. I find it hard to escape their grasp.
As such, I have a rather melancholy feeling towards them since they allow me to earn a living, but also allow me to feel enslaved by their addictive access to news feeds, latest arguments on Twitter and emails with things I have to do.
I guess the thing I enjoy the most that would make my life quite unenjoyable (product-wise) would be my waste-disposal unit in the sink. I can throw all sorts of food down there and with the press of a button it disappears. Truly a joy to behold.
That and the kettle since that helps give me my morning cup of tea.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
I want to hear from people that use technology in their day-to-day life for work, but that outside of work, are somehow able to fully reject it. It’s kind of like a ‘fuck-you’ to the whole way you earn money and something about that amuses me.
I’m also really interested in truly how much of a work-life balance CEO’s and people who run large companies get. I do enjoy my work (sometimes) and I do take it seriously when I’m at work. However it’s not the most important thing to me.
My family is and if work starts to get in the way of that, then I have to try and find a way to re-balance the equation, and that can be hard. But then again, I always was shit at maths.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Yes: At your funeral, do you want people to talk about how you raised that next round of funding or how you was a great PHP developer?
Or do you want them to talk about how much you cared for those around you and the relationships in your life?
I know which one I’m going to hope for, but then again, I’m never going to die, my psychologist assured me of that fact.
Before you go…
If you’d like to sponsor or advertise with Balance the Grind, let’s talk here.
Join our community and never miss a conversation about work, life & balance – subscribe to our newsletter.