Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Gabrielle Harris, Founder & Managing Director at Interchange

Gabrielle Harris is the founder & managing director at Interchange, a management consultancy working with businesses to help them foster a strong organisational culture.

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

My first role of any significance was at Kodak and I had two roles, one was to be a Kodachrome Specialist and the other was a Mixed Film Specialist.

I think this is where my passion for business and culture transformation really began actually. It was so apparent that they refused to adapt to accommodate for the future of photography, which was digital. And we all know what happened to Kodak now don’t we.

After that, I went overseas for a bit and when I came back, I decided that management consultancy was something I wanted to explore because of that experience seeing change that needed to happen but didn’t.

I did a lot of work in leadership and then started to become very interested in culture. I was involved in a few large transformation pieces and it didn’t take me very long to realise that every single consultancy was the same.

They did a lot of process oriented change, with no sense of creativity or emotional connection and the impact of that is just huge amounts of attrition because no one has emotionally bought into the journey.

I knew that there were much more effective ways to do it, ways there were a hell of a lot more fun, so that’s when Interchange was born.

At Interchange, technically my role on paper is Managing Director, but in practice it’s working as a consulting director, leading our big pieces of work.

It’s business development, account management, HR, creative, strategy, innovation. We’re still at a size where we can’t just have one person role, so we divvy those things out a bit more.

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

I would say that about 80% of my day is spent talking to people and then the other 20% is spent physically doing the work in various areas.

A day in my life would typically begin with some strategic calls between 7:30-8:30am in the morning with our key clients who are often CEOs of large organisations.

Getting into their diary can be difficult, sometimes near impossible if you haven’t planned it weeks in advance, so the trick to making this work is setting up calls outside of business hours.

So I’ve got to be on and ready to go by 7:30am. The same thing happens at the other end of the day between 5:30-7pm.

I then leave the house on my bike and make my way to the office. Sometimes the commute involves a school drop off along the way, in which case I may have a child or two on the back of my bike that almost resembles a people mover.

During the work day, I will be working within the depths of our big projects and working with the team to come up with innovative and interesting ways to deliver them. I will be doing recruitment and also some governance, making sure I am delivering what I promised to the board.

There are also a lot of chit-chat conversations between meetings. I like to check in on the team and find out how they are getting on and what they need from an internal perspective. Then I normally try to do a bit of business development, to make sure we are always looking ahead to our next projects.

Then I come home and hang with my family, walk the dog, have dinner and get my kids into bed sometime before midnight.

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

My role definitely allows for remote working, that’s for sure. Our business is primarily located in Melbourne, so we have been in and out of lockdown for over a year now. Most of that time, the entire business has been working flexibly and remotely.

But outside of the pandemic, Interchange allows for any type of flexibility that will assist someone in achieving the best possible outcomes.

It’s about looking at what we are trying to achieve and then working out how we can achieve it while maintaining quality and creativity. If someone can achieve that while working alternative hours, remotely or part time, then we will facilitate that.

We encourage our team to be their whole selves 100% of the time. Therefore we want to create a working environment that compliments all aspects of their lives.

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

I suppose I have a bit of a different perspective on work-life balance as I feel that the term itself doesn’t quite fit. To say that it is work-life balance suggests that work is not a fundamental part of my life, which it is.

I don’t really consider myself to live within the binary where I have a work life and then a home life, I have one well rounded life that is filled with many aspects including my family, my friends, my work and so on.

In my mind, it is less like balancing a scale and more like a constant, fluid motion. I give my attention to each aspect of my life based on their individual requirements.

Sometimes I will work more because a particular project requires me to, sometimes I will take extra time off to have a special day with my kids and sometimes I will take a day for just me.

I do always carve out time for the people I love, but I don’t have any particularly hard rules around it, it is just intuitive for me.

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

I have actually started writing more, and by that I mean writing letters and cards to people and sending them off in the mail.

I know that people are at home due to the pandemic and there is that sense of disconnect and isolation while we engage through screens. All of which really has its mental limits.

We need to connect with one another in different ways and display a sense of empathy and appreciation, especially during this time.

So I have my nice writing paper and nice writing pens and I make sure that at least once a week I write to a different person and share my thoughts and feelings about how fabulous they are and they get something in their letterbox.

It has made a big difference to my sense of connection to others around me and it has also made a difference to those I write to also as it is quite unexpected and nostalgic.

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

Well for some work-y type ones, I love the Squiz podcast and newsletters. They’re such a fantastic way to get your daily news and business updates in a fast and easy to consume format. I also love Brene Brown’s podcast. Her interviews are fantastic.

But mostly I just like to be entertained when I listen to podcasts or read books. One of my favourites recently has been the podcast on Elizabeth Holmes called The Drop Out. It is extremely fascinating.

The biography on Ruth Bader Ginsburg was also one of my absolute favourites. I just love that it was never one large thing that she did to inspire the change we now see in the world, but the many little things that she did constantly. She was such a remarkable woman.

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

I’d like to think that I could survive without most gadgets and apps, but the one thing I truly could not live without is my app.

I am obsessed with real estate and looking at the trends and what is out there in the market. I don’t fully understand why, but I just love it. I am the type of person that would go to auctions on the weekend just for fun, not to buy the house or anything but just to be amongst it.

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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.