Interviews / Product Managers

Balancing the Grind with Gil Pollak, Product Manager

Gil Pollak is a Product Manager who was recently working at a fast-growing startup in the US. He has recently accepted a new offer for an exciting start up in Austin.

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

I grew up and studied in Sydney. I graduated with a business degree so naturally my first job was in banking. Luckily I got a taste of product management and was able to finagle a product manager role.

After a few years as a PM in banking (and many many powerpoints) I became convinced I needed to leave the industry. It was time for something new. Having sheltered ambitions to work overseas and wanting to move into the tech industry I felt now was the perfect time to kill two birds with one stone.

In March 2018 I quit my job and flew to the US to find a job (with a quick 6 weeks detour in Guatemala to learn Spanish). Somehow I scored a great job at a fast growing start up. I went on to see the company grow rapidly in my 18 months there (5x staff, 7x product and eng teams). Unfortunately all good things come to an end and in late March 2019 I was laid off.

Nonetheless I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and I have recently accepted a new offer for an exciting start up in Austin.

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

I wake up at 630am. I am trying to get into the habit of doing a 10 min meditation with the app ‘Oak’. I then do 20 minutes of stretching. Following which I go for a run or work out.

I then have a coffee for breakfast (I jumped back on the caffeine after a few years hiatus). I would then review my goals for the day that I set the night prior. If I have no meetings or calls I then go about my top priority task for the day. Mornings are my most productive time so I try to tackle the hardest or most cognitively challenging tasks first.

After lunch I continue or move onto my next most pressing goal for the day. By around 3pm I notice I usually get pretty jaded and tired. As such I then spend an hour reading or so reading. Then I finish a small, simple task.

After my workday is done I usually have something social or sporty planned, like a game of cricket in the park or yoga.

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

Work life balance really means having the opportunity and flexibility to maintain health in all spheres of my life. Specifically, mental & physical health, financial security, happiness at work and the ability to maintain key relationships.

The key thing to me is that life happens. This means at specific points in time I will need the flexibility to give a specific area of my life more attention. A good work life balance provides me the ability and time to get back to a healthy equilibrium.

4) 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?

  • Staying active. I’ve done this throughout my whole career. I am a huge proponent of working out in the mornings but each to their own 
  • Eating. I eat the same lunch each day to reduce decision fatigue and ensure I stay healthy.  Yes this is boring and not for everyone but it works for me! 
  • Pre-planning. Each night I write down my goals for the next day. 
  • Getting into flow.  I often have my headphones on without music or listen to the same song on loop. Interestingly when I listen to a looped song in the future I can often recall the piece of work I was doing.

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


Morning Brew


Business related:

  • Acquired
  • 16 minutes and A16z
  • Business Casual


  • Throughline
  • Economist
  • Ear Hustle
  • Joe Rogan
  • Hidden Brain

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

Get a good night’s sleep. As I’ve got older I’ve definitely come to appreciate being more boring at night in order to get my 8 hours of sleep.

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

Nassim Taleb. I recently read his book Antifragile one of the most interesting and impactful books I’ve read in a long time.

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

Work-life balance is different for everyone. Find what works for you. Don’t be too hard on yourself if someone else’s strategy doesn’t work for you (I constantly struggle with this).

I also think a mindset of continual improvements helps. Keep a lookout for tweaks you can make. These also stop things getting stale.

Before you go…

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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.