Interviews / Operations

Balancing the Grind with Gabriel Seibel, COO & CFO at EAT

Gabriel Seibel is the COO & CFO at EAT, a branding & design studio with offices in Los Angeles and Paris, focused on developing brand identities from diverse perspectives.

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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 CFO/COO at EAT. Now living in Paris, I manage production and creative direction as well as coordinating company projects for EAT’s international team.

Having executed 400+ projects for world-renowned brands, I have helped to expand the team to the US, Brazil, France, Germany and Portugal while cultivating a thriving company culture. But the path to where I am today was not an easy one.

Grappling with self-identity throughout, my beginnings in Brazil would eventually lead me to pursue design in France where I would arrive with only 500 Euros and a dream.

Despite my humble beginnings, my creativity and drive would introduce me to opportunities to write for fashion blogs as well as creating design presentations for other companies. While building my portfolio, I met Renata and would later join her in launching what we now know as EAT.

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

In Paris, I wake up anywhere between 7-8am. I drink a cup of coffee, read the news and prep for my day in bed. About thirty minutes into waking up, I open my emails and catch up with everything that happened in LA time, as I am nine hours ahead.

I sort through my to-do’s and eventually brush my teeth and get ready for the day. I tackle paperwork between 9-11am; this can include financial reports, proposals, contracts, etc. It’s my goal to get my inbox down to zero before moving onto the next chapter of my day.

At an 11 ‘o’clock stop, I take a three hour break until 2pm to focus on exercise. I’m currently training to be a cycling teacher, so I’ll typically do three hours of cycling during this time. This is where I get the majority of my energy for the day and I come back refreshed and ready to finish my work with EAT.

At around 3pm I’ll make a smoothie and knock out the rest of my daily work until about 8pm. During this time I’ll take calls with clients, the EAT team, etc. At around 8pm I cut my work day off to focus on rest.

During this time, I disconnect from work by socializing or watching a movie. Eventually I’ll head to sleep around 11pm/midnight. My workday can change depending on whether or not I’m teaching classes at the University.

If I am, I simply schedule my morning paperwork for the afternoon. At EAT, we respect weekends and days off in order to provide a healthy work/life balance. We also understand that flexibility is the key to working successfully among several different time zones.

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

Ultimately, we picked where we were happy to live. We believe that your lifestyle contributes to the inspiration for creativity and if we made the team live in locations that didn’t suit their lifestyle and personal needs, their ability to be creative wouldn’t be given a place to thrive.

This combined experience is what makes us truly unique as a global design studio. We all approach our work from different parts of the world and and therefore, different perspectives. This aids us in offering ‘outside of the box’ approaches to our design.

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

A good balance is achieved when you are given enough time outside of work to use your life experiences as inspiration for your creative pursuits. Living where we want to live gives us a greater appreciation of life and therefore, makes us more appreciative of each other’s lives too.

This allows us to live to our fullest potential and it shows throughout the quality of our work. In the past, not living where we wanted to live has led to us pouring ourselves into our work a little too much which eventually led to anxiety.

Work-life balance is harder to achieve when you don’t reside in a place that makes you truly happy. This is why we choose to structure our company this way.

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

Recently, I have done a serious reevaluation of how I handle my emails. In my early days at EAT, I would check my emails compulsively. I’d check them first thing when I’d get up in the morning and last thing before bed at night.

It created a lot of stress and anxiety for me by reinforcing this feeling that I had to control everything. Nowadays, I have so much trust in my team and while I still work consistently, I make sure to take time during the day and before bed at night to fully disconnect from my emails.

It allows me to stay within the present moment and with that, I am able to find better work-life balance and deliver higher quality results.

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

Under New Management by David Burkus – I like this book because he shows teams the effectiveness of constantly introducing new people into your work circle in order to be consistently welcoming new perspectives.

There’s a chapter about team management that studies Broadway shows and the composition of creative teams. I didn’t realize the true benefits of working outside of your comfort zone with people you believe in, we’ve been trying to consistently implement this at EAT.

The Culture Code by: Clotaire Rapaille – This book is great because it shows how different cultures handle different codes. This book has been so key to our business because while Renata and I come from the same culture, we currently live in different cultures while designing for different cultures!

This book helped us with shaping our messaging and overall work philosophy; we love the book so much that we used to give it to clients as a gift!

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

When it comes to apps, I’m pretty straight forward. I use email and google calendar for just about everything I do. But I also love Boomerang for Gmail. It helps me to scan my emails and schedule them to be sent at a later time. It also helps with follow-ups; I get little reminders that tell me to get back to someone after I’ve purposely archived an email for a few days. 

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

I would read my colleague Renata Amaral Morris’s interview! I mean it. She has adopted spiritual rituals to maintain a healthy work-life balance that I am inspired by everyday.

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

Transparency and honesty are #1 priority for me. Especially during these difficult times. It’s always better to be honest about the fact that you don’t know something so that your team can think for themselves.

Don’t be a gossip, be impeccable in your work standards and don’t pretend like you know everything. Learn to trust your peers; this will bring peace to your personal life so that you’re not afraid, worrying and overthinking about work.

It’s so important to have good people who have your back and vice versa. Fight for good relationships and good talent. It’s so important in order to avoid a toxic work environment.

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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.