Balancing the Grind with Erin Howell, Startup Success Program Manager ANZ at Google

Erin Howell is the Startup Success Program Manager ANZ at Google, where she focuses on making sure startups have a great experience building on Google Cloud.

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

Yes! I have had such a fun career so far. I feel really grateful for all of the opportunities (and hard lessons!) along the way. 

I started building my love of scalable processes, fast paced environments and people in my first job at Maccas. At the time I didn’t quite realise the fundamental impact it would have on my career, but years later I still find myself thinking about how they build global, repeatable processes that work seamlessly – and challenge myself to do the same. 

After that, I joined CommBank. I started in the suburbs, working in a branch while completing my bachelors degree and just before I started my Masters, I landed a role in the CommBank Innovation Lab, which ultimately led me to joining the founding team of x15ventures.

This showed me my love for innovation at scale, the whole big world of startups that I wasn’t previously exposed too and lastly the benefits of corporate venture capitals, or any large business that partners with startups or brings in a fresh perspective to what often (understandably) becomes a well oiled, risk averse machine. 

My last role at CommBank was actually on their grad program. At the time I thought this was a step back, or sidewards in my career, but it led me to build even more connections, take a step back and reflect on what I wanted to experience and most importantly make a fantastic bunch of friends along the way. Ultimately, I ended up back in the world of startups! I joined a Sydney based PropTech startup and led their Customer function. This grew my love for people & taught me how important it is to find balance in everything we do. 

And now, I have landed at one of my dream companies – Google! I look after the Google Cloud for Startups Program across Australia and New Zealand, focusing on making sure startups have a seamless experience building on Google Cloud and most importantly make sure they are connected to the right people, at the right time and help them to navigate a global tech company while operating a very lean team, or sometimes just an idea or a pitch deck!

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

I am not quite sure how to answer this one, because although I’d love nothing more than to have a perfect routine that I can share, reality is, I don’t! So let me try and give you a glimpse… 

I often wake up between 5:30-6:30 am. This either gives me time to get to the gym before work, or get myself into the office. 

I work in the office 2-3 days a week. I love office days because we have an awesome space to work in, but also because I can learn a lot from the really talented Googlers around me. 

I typically spend at least half of my day in meetings. So I make sure I have 2-3 hours in the morning to focus on strategic work, emails and planning. This time is sacred to me – if I don’t get it, I often feel like my wheels are spinning, but I am going nowhere! So I protect this time as much as I can to make sure that even though I am doing ‘busy work’ or meetings for most of the day, I can still find time to plan forwards and update myself on news and updates in the market as well as updates around Google. 

In the evening I typically finish up work around 6pm. I then head to the gym or head home, depending on the day. 

Rinse and Repeat! 

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

I learnt the hard way that work-life balance and also having an environment that you can focus and execute in is crucial to your success. 

I have found Google extremely helpful with this. It is a high trust environment that lets me execute. I really appreciate that!

I maintain a balance by making sure I protect my ‘focus time’ as mentioned above, but also hardly ever let myself work crazy hours when there isn’t a purpose. When I have events or an extra busy week – that’s the exception, not the rule. 

At the end of the day, if I can’t get my work done between 8am-6pm, I should be asking myself ‘what am I filling my day with that isn’t 100% essential’ or ‘how can I better time box busy tasks?’. 

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?

Change is good fun, it means you are learning and growing. It gives you the opportunity to not do the same thing everyday and that’s a great way to live. 

After working a job that didn’t have many boundaries between work and life, this year I made sure to prioritise this. A few ways include:

  • Cooking dinner at least 3 days a week. I love good food and I love cooking. Knowing I need to go home to cook looks after my body and my mind in more ways than just nutrition. It allows me to be creative and takes me away from a screen. 
  • I have always gone to the gym and loved exercise. But, when I really needed to get my balance back, I got a personal trainer. I have always loved training, but for 6 months it was such a joy having someone who gave me even more accountability and pushed me harder! Now I have a new gym and I am absolutely back into rhythm. Sometimes a change of routine helps you start a new journey that you love! 
  • Prioritise your health and your mental health! Go to the doctor for your regular checkups and talk to someone. Checkups are just a great way to make sure you’re on top of your health and talking to someone, even friends and family is a great way to express yourself and learn more about yourself but also hear other perspectives. Take this as a form of learning more about yourself. 

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?

Oh SO many! But here are a few: 


  • What the Flux
  • Diary of a CEO
  • The Knowledge Project 


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?

  • There is something to learn from everyone, show up with an open mind and kind heart. 
  • Trust your judgment and how things make you feel, it’s often right and you’re often not alone.
  • Most importantly, tackle life and balance in a way that works for you. If you do the things you need to feel like yourself, you will be amazed at how much better you show up for life and work in general. 

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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.