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Balancing the Grind with Elyssa Starkman, VP, Head of Creative Studio at Morning Brew

Elyssa Starkman is the VP, Head of Creative Studio at Morning Brew, where she leads the team that develops and produces all the brand partnership content.

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

My career has been anything but linear! I started working as a Photo Editor right out of college and then as a freelance producer spending 2+ years working on America’s Next Top Model season 5-10.

That’s where I met the client that oversaw the Covergirl integrations, he then hired me to work on Procter & Gamble’s branded entertainment which I did for the next 7.5 years.

From there I moved to the publishing side, running the integrated marketing and content teams at places like PopSugar, Refinery29, Cheddar, and Highsnobiety.

I am currently the VP, Head of Creative Studio at Morning Brew where our amazing team develops and produces all the content we create in partnership with brands.

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

I am in so many meetings! Don’t read that as a negative thing – I love connecting with people – on my team, collaborative teams, clients, interviews with potential new hires, etc.

I do my best thinking and work in the morning so I tend to start early, get through my personal to-do and then after all my meetings do email and prioritize what I need to get done for the rest of the day and the next morning.

I tend to block chunks of time on my calendar that are dedicated to my most urgent projects, it serves as a reminder and as a way to keep some time free. My team knows when they see a “block” to ask before booking a meeting over it!

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

 We have a very flexible environment and are fully remote at the moment. In the beginning of the pandemic I was really worried about working remotely but now I love it!

As a single mom it allows me to spend more time with my daughter, prioritize my mental and physical health and be a better manager and employee. I look forward to going back to the office in a hybrid model and will use those in-office days for big thinking, brainstorms, client and collaborative meetings. 

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

I really don’t believe in the term “work-life balance”, I think it comes down to boundaries and the culture of the company you work for, and as a manager the culture you set for you and your team.

Trust and transparency is huge for me, I want to be trusted and trust my team to find “balance” while never putting the work in jeopardy..

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

I used to wake up at 5am to work out from 6-7:30am – that’s a thing of the past! I got a pandemic puppy so now my whole routine in the morning has shifted which has been both scary and also welcome.

One thing that I have done less of is video catch ups with friends and family. After hours of video calls all day for work the last thing I wanted to do was be on video more!

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

I obviously will say Morning Brew – I love not only our daily newsletter but our vertical newsletters (Emerging Tech, Retail, Sidekick, etc.) are so engaging and truly make me better at work and beyond.

I love true crime podcasts! And every morning I listen to The Daily, Today Explained, and NPR Up First. To be better at work I listen to Founder’s Journal with our Executive Chairman Alex, HBR Ideacast, Work/Life with Adam Grant, and How I Built This.

As for books I always read fiction or biography before bed, I just started Cobble Hill, and am also reading Leaders Eat Last which is a great book on how to build successful teams.

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

 I just got an Apple Watch and I’m pretty obsessed with tracking my steps and exercise so definitely can’t live without that!

My most used apps at the moment are to check the weather so I can plan my daily walks, Hopper to obsessively check the cost for flights because I can’t wait to travel again, LinkedIn, and Waze/Google Maps because I have the worst sense of direction.

I can’t live without my Our Place pan, Air Fryer, and Vitamix – I love to cook and these are must haves! 

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

Michelle Obama. She has talked a lot about it but I can never get too much Michelle! 

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

Find what works for you and create boundaries around it, for instance, If you are a morning person and someone always schedules 6pm meetings, talk to them about moving them earlier so you can both get the most out of the time spent.

It is also so so so so important to talk to companies when you are in the hiring process to see what their company culture is, how they support employees mental and physical health, what the expectations are for your working hours, responding to slack/email after hours, etc.

If you don’t go into a situation with clarity and being comfortable with the expectations that will be set upon you it is hard to find “balance.”

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About Author

Balance The Grind gives me a platform to talk to these people about how they're achieving their ideal lifestyle. I'm inspired by the passion, the work ethic, the hustle; and these conversations motivate me to live life the way I want to live it.