Interviews / PR & Communications

Balancing the Grind with Lisa Maguire, Director of Patient Relations & Communications at AbbVie Australia

Lisa Maguire is the Director of Patient Relations & Communications at AbbVie Australia, a biopharmaceutical company with a focus on immunology, oncology, neuroscience, eye care, virology, women’s health and gastroenterology.

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

My career has followed a meandering journey through different industries including agriculture, emergency services, Innovation, pet food and health which has led to my current role as Director of Patient Relations and Communications at biopharmaceutical company AbbVie.

While at school I wanted to be a mounted policewoman but later realised you had to do actual police work so I decided to study agricultural science because I liked animals.

This proved to be a good choice as this broad degree helped me to understand and translate science for a general audience and this has held me in good stead to this very day.

I have worked in the pharmaceutical industry on and off for nearly ten years now and while at the very beginning I didn’t know what to expect in ‘Big Pharma’, I am so glad I made the move.

I absolutely love working with patients, understanding the impact that medicines have on people’s lives and communicating this and the science behind it. Brain food every day!

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

I am not sure there is a typical day in communications. Days are never the same, which is something I love.

My workday starts with my two cat alarm clocks making sure I get up as early as possible to feed them. My partner usually checks on the cattle at our farm near-by and I complete a routine of stretches before turning on the computer and if I am especially energetic, I’ll ride my horse.

Lots of virtual meetings, often back to back, phone calls, checking AbbVie social media channels, emails and approvals of materials as well as time for deeper work such as planning, strategy and writing. It can be chaotic but I have a fantastic team which makes it easier. I take regular breaks where I catch up with my partner over a coffee.

At the end of the day its making up feeds for horses, possibly ride them and chase cattle around the farm. Everything revolves around the weather. An obsession of farmers.

Then I like to cook dinner of which the complexity varies depending how organised I have been through the day, check in on my elderly father and possibly work on the second draft of my novel if I’m not too tired.

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

AbbVie is super flexible with everything focused on outcome as opposed to mapping hours in the day. This is one of the reasons why AbbVie has been recognised as #2 Best Place to Work in Australia.

With COVID-19 escalating in Victoria, I am still working full-time from home. I was a remote worker prior but travelled regularly to our office in Sydney.

Originally I was based in Sydney but with my father’s health failing I was supported fully by AbbVie to become a remote worker which I can absolutely say was a game changer for me. I was alternating with four days a week in Sydney followed by five days a week in Melbourne.

Flexibility also allows me to vary my start and finish times and fit in a 30 minute walking break sometime during the day and also go to appointments if I need.

I have worked from home at least one day a week for much of my career so I am very disciplined (at least that is what my partner tells me) and had time before COVID to see what working from home in week blocks was like. But I am looking forward to seeing my team and colleagues in person!

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

Finding a work-life balance is more difficult I think as your seniority progresses. However with everything in life you have to make choices. I think the biggest mistake to make is to think you can do and achieve everything in your personal and professional life.

For me finding a balance is about integrating work into your life as opposed to trying to compartmentalise. I love my job so its probably easier for me.

I can be at the farm doing a routine task thinking about my next creative idea for AbbVie, or letting my brain work on a work problem. And my workday can be interrupted if I need to make a call to order supplies for the farm, or tend to an injured or sick animal.

Achieving work life balance I think is tied directly to managing mental health and stress as well as people’s expectations.

You also have to make sure you do things you enjoy. Every job and personal life has things we have to do, but its important to find time to nurture your soul. But most critical it is about making choices.

For example I would have loved to work overseas in London and was offered an opportunity, however I would have had to sacrifice my family to do it, so I didn’t go.

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

Yes! I have put strict limits on my social media scrolling time. A very bad habit of mine and not a particularly useful pastime. I have also made time to work on my novel and very excited to have finished a first draft. All 120,000 words!

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

I have been very lucky to have been exposed to a wealth of development and learning through AbbVie. But, my favourite go to person at the moment is Chelsea Pottenger from EQ Consulting.

She provides a lot of free information through social media as well as workshops, courses and podcasts. Her mindfulness and productivity tips are clever, simple to use and have made a big difference to my work day.

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

I shouldn’t say it but I can’t imagine life without social media. I love it both personally and professionally. Hence my earlier comment about monitoring my own use.

I prefer an app to using a website on a computer, everything from contact databases for AbbVie through to banking.

I cannot imagine what COVID-19 would have been like without our wonderful digital world. But in complete contrast, I couldn’t live without my physical paper note book and ball point pen when it comes to writing my novel.

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

Chelsea Pottenger – you knew I was going to say that. And also Sir Andrew Witty. He was the global CEO at GlaxoSmithKline while I worked there and the most inspirational leader I have ever worked with. Not only did he seem to manage a hectic role, with a young family. He spent time changing the world for developing countries.

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

Don’t be too hard on yourself. I don’t think any one gets it exactly right. Just keep trying and focus on your mental health and wellbeing and except you will never be all things to all people.

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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.