Balancing the Grind with Giles Lewis, Talent Acquisition Manager, Senior Hiring at Matillion

Giles Lewis is the Talent Acquisition Manager, Senior Hiring at Matillion, the data productivity cloud, helping teams get data business-ready, faster by accelerating time-to-value and increasing the impact data can have.

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

I’ve spent the past 15 years in talent acquisition, primarily in leadership hiring or research supporting talent acquisition.

I’ve spent about half of that time in a search firm or consulting environment and the remainder in-house in technology-focused companies, both rapidly scaling tech companies and in established global corporations. During that time I’ve lived and worked in England, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea (twice), and I’ve hired people from all over the world into a wide variety of roles, both tech and non-tech. 

Currently, I work at Matillion, a fast-scaling technology company on a mission to bridge the gap between data expectations and data reality. Our Data Productivity Cloud helps teams get their data business-ready faster. I manage leadership hiring for the company. 

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

Nowadays I work almost entirely from home, and Matillion is really good at both enabling that, and making remote employees feel connected to the business and the mission we’re all on. I’ve been working remotely pretty much since relocating back to the UK at the end of 2019.

I’m an insomniac so I rarely sleep properly, but if things go to plan then I wake at 7am and like to catch up on news and what’s happening in my world for the first hour or so of the day while I have my morning coffee.

Before I have coffee, I’m useless! In the months where England has some decent weather I might take my dog for a brisk walk before logging in. If not, then I might listen to some music to set my mood. I work from an office in my house, and I’m usually online from about 8:30 am. 

I plan my day before I close down the previous day, so the meetings I have and the key things I want to achieve are scribbled on a pad on my desk before I even start. I need structure to keep me organised, and I need to write everything down because I have a terrible memory. 

I’ll spend the first 30 minutes of my working day checking my emails for anything urgent and responding or adjusting my day plan accordingly. I’ll briefly check my LinkedIn feed. As a recruiter, this has been an ingrained habit for years and LinkedIn is something I’m on all day every day. 

Typically after that, my day will be a mix of video interviews, screening calls, project work, meetings, and generally ensuring all my various projects keep moving. My day tends to be quite varied, with a lot of freedom over how I organise my work and time. In busy periods it can be pretty intense, especially if I’m in back-to-back interviews all day. In less busy times, I have more air in the day for reflection or strategic thinking. 

I typically log off somewhere between 5:30 pm and 6pm, although there are times when I’m working later if I need to. I can be flexible on start and finish times- I focus more on what I need to achieve each day or week. Generally speaking though, a 6pm cut-off feels healthy to me and works with what I need to get done both in and out of work. 

When I finish work I’ll spend some time with my partner. We’ll make an evening meal, walk the dog, and then settle down to listen to an album or watch something. It’s important to both of us to have our alone time too, so we may do these things together or separately. In the week I’m usually in for the evening, but there are some times when I’ll be out meeting others or running errands. 

I tend to sleep at 11pm, and I allocate 45 minutes before this for reading or quiet time to listen to some relaxing music. I’m pretty strict with this.

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

I enjoy my work, but I don’t live to work. Although I’m dedicated to what I do and want to do the best job, and my profession is naturally a part of who I am, I try to have some separation between work and personal life.

Work is a part of life though and to see work as something ‘other’ that we drudge through in order to live is not healthy and doesn’t lend itself to positivity in either sphere, in my humble opinion.  

Working from home makes it harder to have that separation. Even when I’ve finished for the day, it’s often very tempting to keep checking the work phone or logging into Slack to see what’s happening.

I will try my best. I have established times to log in and log out, and outside of those work times, I try not to think about work or be connected. I set that expectation with those I work with, so that they know what to expect from me.

There will always be times when I need to pick up something urgent or time-critical outside of those hours, especially if I’m doing something that works across a number of global time zones, but I find those instances are rare if I manage my in-work time effectively.

I think it’s important to have that time apart from work. My persona at work is different from my persona outside of work, although it’s all a continuum. 

Outside of work I have things I want to do and achieve, whether that’s a writing goal, time spent with my partner, family, or dog, albums I want to listen to, or books I want to read. I tend to be pretty structured with the way I use my time outside of work too. 

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

Not really. A few years ago I was lucky enough to join a week-long course based on the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I found this incredibly useful in defining a Personal Mission Statement to live by, and for structuring and organising the way I do things to ensure that the important things aren’t missed and that wasted time is minimal.

At this stage in my life, I know the things I enjoy and that are important to me, and I make sure I focus my time on those and cut out the things I don’t feel matter. A few years ago I silenced all alerts on all my devices, including phone calls, so I only check in to all of that when I want to, on my own terms. 

Having a dog is great for ensuring I get out of the house daily and go walking. I’ve always walked, but it’s harder in England. I miss being able to get out to the mountains around Seoul or swim outside in Saudi, but at least where I live I have some parks and some countryside within walking distance. 

I rarely drink alcohol in the week now and I try to limit the amount of screen time I have in the evenings or the amount of time I waste generally on social media or internet fluff. I try to read daily, and I ensure I listen to at least one album end to end every day. I don’t tend to stream music and I buy physical albums, so listening to music is deeply intentional for me, not background. 

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

I don’t read many business books. I’m more interested in fiction or books about culture, history, art, or music. Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has been a touchstone for a few years now, and I encountered this at a time in my life where I was ready for it and it was incredibly affecting.

I also like Erin Meyer’s CultureMap, and Tim Marshall’s books Prisoners of Geography and The Power of Geography are great primers to help understand the world we live in and the nuances of it. A while back I studied Film to Masters level, and there are books from that time that still linger with me. For example, Richard Dyer’s White is a fascinating study in how whiteness has been represented in Western visual culture. 

Other books that have stayed with me would be things like Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the books of JG Ballard (particularly The Crystal World, High Rise, and Cocaine Nights), and John Fowles’ The Magus.

I don’t listen to podcasts unless I have to. My listening time is reserved for music. 

I read a few newsletters related to my work- Hung Lee’s Recruiting Brainfood is incredibly useful and insightful, and always interesting to read. I have a long-standing interest in Talent Intelligence, so the Talent Intelligence Collective newsletter is also one I tend to dip into. 

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

That’s a difficult question. Although I’m interested and intrigued by others, I’m not interested in the lives of celebrities or known figures. I’d rather read about the lives of people I don’t know and who aren’t known. 

Work-life balance is such a personal thing. I actually feel it’s not helpful to know that some fabulous influencer gets up at 2am and takes a cold shower before going to the gym and then riding a shark to work.

It can be demotivating and unhealthy to compare our lives to others. I think you have to find what works for you and not benchmark against others or judge them or yourself. If people want to get up at 2am and run 100 miles through the arctic tundra in lycra then that’s up to them. I’m certainly not doing that. 

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

I think it’s healthy to have purpose and structure to scaffold and direct how you live your life so you can do things with intention. That works for me at least. I don’t believe work should dictate all aspects of life.

We’re all different though, and unfortunately, we’re living in an age where it’s easier and easier to see what others are doing and compare ourselves positively or negatively to that. We’re so quick to judge.

It’s so easy to misrepresent work-life balance through a splashy Instagram or LinkedIn post. I think we really just need to find out what this balance means for us individually, and that will change over time and perhaps get easier with age. 

That said, the one thing that has had the biggest impact in how I live my life over the past 10 years or so has been the 7 Habits course. Through that I created my Personal Mission Statement that I look at every day and which helps me prioritise and make decisions in my life, in how I organise my time, what I do, how I treat others, and how I think about the future.

Creating a loose week and day plan really helps me get the most out of my time, and crucially helps me create that air in my working day that I need. Creating clear expectations with those in work and outside of work helps ensure that people know what to expect from me and what I might expect from them. 

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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.