Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind With Francesca Pinzone, Co-Founder & COO of Umbo

Francesca Pinzone is the co-founder and COO of Umbo, a social enterprise that works to reduce inequalities for families living in regional and rural Australia by providing allied health services online.

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

I am the co-founder of Umbo, a social enterprise that works to reduce inequalities for families living in regional and rural Australia by providing allied health services online. As a social enterprise we reinvest 50% of our profits back into the business to increase our reach to families and have a greater positive social impact.

I am also a lecturer at UNSW, working with the Centre for Social Impact on delivering our course on Social Impact and Social Innovation.

I have been very fortunate to work in the social impact and social sector for the last 15 years, starting with emergency aid work with UNICEF in India, and Medecins Sans Frontieres in Pakistan, and then working in Australia to deliver supportive services to children and young people dealing with cancer in their family.

Now I get to combine these experiences to find the best and most innovative ways to reduce ongoing health services inequalities for families living across Australia and ensure that the work I do has meaning and purpose both at a personal and also professional level.

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

I start my first job pretty early in the morning – with my husband and I getting our three kids up and out the door to either school or daycare!

After kisses and hugs goodbye, I start with a coffee, head to the office and then check emails and make a bit of a plan for the day. Because I wear a few different hats in a few different organisations, I try and compartmentalise my days so that I am focused on the tasks at hand within each role.

There is no such thing as a typical day, especially now since the COVID-19 changes, however as a snapshot yesterday included:

  • Sending out employment contracts for new clinicians joining Umbo
  • Reconciled some of our accounts – the joy of a small team!
  • Collecting and analysing evaluation data on an online training program and utilising that to inform changes to the program
  • Reviewing consultation training proposals to help allied health providers become online ready
  • Liaising with students and tutors – especially now with changes due to COVID-19
  • Planning classes for upcoming weeks at university
  • Reviewing social media content for sharing
  • Reviewing Medicare changes that are relevant for our business in light of COVID-19
  • Pre Covid-19 after work I then would be picking kids up and taking them to karate or football training.

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

I am very lucky that I am able to work remotely as needed and can be flexible to the hours I work. Although lecturing requires being at University at a certain time, outside of this I am able to pick up my work anywhere, so I do often work from home.

That said, I do really enjoy the contact with my colleagues in the office so I do try and make sure I spend a couple of days in the office so that we can connect. But the benefits of being able to work flexibly with a young family is really helpful when trying to create a good work life balance, and I have a great partnership with my husband and we help each other with balancing out work and life.

I do genuinely love what I do so I often don’t mind working in the evenings and it is often when I get a lot of work done that gets pushed to the side during the day.

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

I think work life balance is so important, and if you become too stretched in one way or another it can really put everything off kilter. I am slowly working out what that balance is and although I don’t know if I will ever find the perfect balance, being flexible around this is important.

So if there are deadlines, sometimes the balance tips to work, but then I try and make sure I make up for this at home, and vice versa.

5) What do you think are some of the best habits or routines that you’ve developed over the years to help you achieve success in your life?

Being able to compartmentalise different parts of my various roles has helped me create good habits and become more effective in my work. I try and be productive rather than reactive – so often don’t answer emails straight away as they can be distracting towards what I am focusing on.

I am a very big list maker, and feel like I am unfocused if I don’t have a list of the things I need to do – and pen and paper lists just work so much better for me than online lists.

I also learnt from one of my managers and most incredible mentors that we hire people to do the things we don’t know how to do or are not good at doing. So I have always taken this on board – to value others’ expertise and not assume that we need to be the experts in many areas.

This has helped my productivity in so many ways as it is much more efficient to outsource things that I need help on and focus on the things I can do.

We are in such a time of complexity and change at the moment and I am really curious to see how life changes after this.

6) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?

There are so many books over the years that I have read that have helped me improve. Start with Why by Simon Sinek, Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman are a couple of them.

But I have also learnt some incredible tips and ideas from colleagues. My co-founder at Umbo takes a morning each week to just read and engage with different ideas and I think this is such a great idea to just focus and also learn something new.

I also have a colleague whose work focuses on human connection and she has shown me the importance and value of this in work and the need to create space and time for this, and rather than focusing on getting what we want, ensuring that we want what we have got.

7) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

There are a few things that I try and do each day. I try and read or listen to a podcast that is not work related, e.g. a crime or slightly trashy lifestyle podcast. I like the mindlessness of it and not having to think but just immerse myself in something different.

I try and do some form of exercise every couple of days, a walk with either music or a podcast. And I make my list of daily tasks. I was given a passion planner last year and this helps focus tasks but also reflect on achievements and I find this a great thing to do.

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

There are so many. I bought Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In and Emma Isaac’s book Winging It months ago and I still haven’t read either of them, so they are first on the list.

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

We are in such a time of complexity and change at the moment and I am really curious to see how life changes after this.

Things that we thought were not possible, or would have taken 10 working parties to achieve have suddenly changed in the last few weeks and I am interested to see how working flexibly, or remotely is now a more common practice because as parents, we have often been told that this isn’t possible or best practice.

I also think that sometimes we focus on everything we have to do and what we have not achieved – rather than what we have. Sometimes when it does feel overwhelming – rather than writing a to do list – let’s write a list of everything we have done that day. Even though they may be small things – it is amazing what can be achieved!

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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.