Balancing the Grind with Elana Garlick, People & Culture at Macquarie Technology Group

Elana Garlick is a People & Culture leader with global experience who is passionate about building great places to work and who thrives in high-growth tech and startup environments.

Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to?

I had no clue what I wanted to do after school and I landed my first job as an office administrator when I was 17. From there I took a job in a HR team as a coordinator and worked my way up, gaining experience in different areas along the way. From recruitment, to systems, WH&S, and employee relations, I feel like I’ve done it all. This variety has helped shape me into an agile HR professional.

I think one of the cool things about my journey is that I’ve had the opportunity to build and support global teams and have worked in multiple cities across the world. I spent several years in New York and London. I’ve also been fortunate to work across many different industries which I’ve found valuable. It’s great to have insight into so many different businesses and ways of working.

I’ve also stepped away from my HR career for a few years and pursued a completely different opportunity where I was leveraging more of my business acumen. I always get drawn back to HR and having that experience has enabled me to bring a stronger commercial lens into HR conversations. 

Most recently I’ve been focused in Tech/Startup space and love the challenge of ‘building the rocket ship’ as we go.

We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday?

Typical day!? This is very rare. You have to be prepared and ready for anything in HR.

There are certain activities that are planned and tend to follow a cyclical calendar. As an example, this might include Performance and Remuneration Reviews, Policy & Compliance training, and Succession Planning. These are often scheduled annually, or bi-annually. 

Other activities such as recruitment can be ongoing throughout the year depending on the size (and hiring success) of the organisation.

And then there are other activities you need to deal with ‘just in time’ or urgently. This could be anything from an employee investigation, executive &/ or board related requests, and Health & Safety concerns.

Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach in maintaining it?

I’m not the biggest fan of the term work-life balance as it can be misleading and personally, I’m not someone who needs the 50/50 split. 

If I find projects that I’m passionate and excited about, then I find it hard to switch off as it’s where I get energy. I love projects that are intellectually stimulating, with complex problems to solve, and hopefully there are some pretty inspiring people I am dealing with and can learn from along the way. I find that’s the secret to making work feel less ‘worky’.

When I do have down time, I make sure it’s very intentional and is purposefully designed to give me energy. I live near the ocean and there’s nothing that beats an early morning swim. Outside of that I could do anything from seeing family and close friends, eating at a favourite restaurant, or going overseas. I try not to put too much pressure on myself to do everything. Luckily I don’t get FOMO so I am completely OK with being an indoors person sometimes.

Change is constant, and it’s essential for growth. Have you made any lifestyle changes in the past year to improve your work-life balance?

Remote/Hybrid work has been a blessing for me and I really appreciate the days I can work flexibly. I need to see sunlight and even better if I can throw myself in the ocean each day. I also try to be active and mix up my workouts so I might do Pilates, or go for a run. I think it’s important to listen to your body too and do whatever makes sense for you.

We’re always on the lookout for new resources! Can you recommend any books, podcasts, or newsletters that have helped you in your journey towards balance?

There is a sea of information out there and it can be pretty overwhelming to navigate so it’s important to understand why you are feeling off-balance to begin with and then be guided from there.

I often bring myself back to the basics of stoicism which helps me stay balanced and grounded. If you’re someone who hasn’t spent much time with the philosophers (and no I don’t mean Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone) then you might want to start with something a bit easier to read (the original texts can be quite cryptic). Ryan Holiday has simplified many of the concepts and fundamentals into books such as The Daily Stoic, Ego is the Enemy, and The Obstacle is the Way which are super easy to digest.

There’s also a number of simple apps like ‘Balance’ & ‘Headspace’ that can be really useful to get a meditation routine started.

I also enjoy reading research papers and articles on broad topics and find websites such as Wired, Forbes, HBR, Fast Company, etc can be a good starting point 

Before we wrap up, do you have any final words of wisdom or insights on work, life, or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

I do think it’s good to have a healthy fear of your goals. Set the bar high and don’t be scared to work hard and push yourself to be the best version of yourself you can be. 

Be ok with making mistakes (you will definitely make many). Try to get over them quickly.

Keep good people around you and don’t waste your energy on people who don’t match your energy.

And most importantly, don’t forget to enjoy your life (go to concerts, book holidays, eat good food, tell your loved ones you love them).

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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.