Isaac Lai is the Digital Strategy Director at brand experience agency, Akcelo, and also a Sydney food blogger at iFat – Food Chronicles.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
My career background is really weird; I went to university to study Criminology and Criminal Justice which was a bit of a mix of criminal law, psychology, policy and statistics.
I decided to go all-in on my niche and got myself a master’s degree in International Security Studies as well before realising that I had no intention of going to work for ASIO or the government.
I decided to pursue a career in marketing with my gateway job being writing copy for anything from magazines, gaming websites to my magnum opus in the form of a brand-agnostic piece on corsets.
Fast forward a few years and writing about corsets has evolved into writing briefs and strategy for anything from burgers to sheep to beers.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
It’s a lot of looking out the window of my no-bedroom apartment these days. We start the day with a bit of a roll call where everyone at the company chats through what they’re working on so we feel connected to each other.
I’ll usually have a couple of calls with clients to discuss different active streams of work and to pick their brains in terms of problems they’re trying to solve and how we can help.
I like to block out some time between meetings and log some solid desk time to refine an approach, brief or deck because I don’t feel like I’ve had a productive day unless I’ve had some tangible output.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
For sure! I’ve started a new job recently but it feels like my first day of high school where a lot of my friends from primary school decided to go to the same place.
We all trust each other and come together when needed but understand how everyone feels about the current climate and ensure that we’re all comfortable. It’s been great for me as my body clock and working rhythm skews towards the morning and allows me to maximise my productivity window and use the rest of the day to handle administrative duties and tasks.
It’s also quite nice to log off and go straight to the couch as opposed to fighting for a seat on the train.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
That’s a great question because I think it’s shifted so dramatically when my home has become my office.
I try to make the most of my space and establish barriers; my desk is the work zone and I’m not allowed to touch my couch until I’ve ticked off my tasks for the day but once a toe touches the couch then I’m in life mode as opposed to work mode.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
I unintentionally gave up coffee and getting food delivered for months and suddenly found that my bank balance was very appreciative of that. I’ve been cooking a lot more and have a newfound hunger for online learning via my alma mater UNSW and some other institutions. The extra time to pursue things has been nice albeit at a terrible cost in the grand scheme of things.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
I love The Rewatchables podcast. It’s a fantastic in-depth look at rewatchable movies from yesteryear and how they hold up, what they meant at the time of release, whether it was the apex of someone’s career and a lot of other interesting categories. I’ve listened to the episode on The Godfather more often than I’ve watched The Godfather movie.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
Can I hijack this question and instead talk about Pokémon Go? In my lifetime, Pokémon Go’s launch week was the closest I’ve ever seen to planet Earth achieving world peace.
Everyone walking around united in the pursuit of becoming Pokémon masters, businesses thriving and offering charging stations and food deals to everyone running around (in some cases literally running to catch a Dragonite).
Sure there were issues around lag but I yearn for those days. I think that was a long-winded way of me saying that I still play Pokémon Go and it’s a hell of an app.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Michael Jordan. I felt like I got a view of how he was consumed by his craft during The Last Dance but I would love to see how he has handled his work-life balance after transitioning to CEO of Jordan Brand and owner of the Charlotte Hornets.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
It’s a great question to ask during job interviews whether you’re the interviewer or the person being interviewed. I was interviewing for a job once and I asked the CEO/founder of the company what they thought about work-life balance and they said they didn’t believe in it. You’re not going to believe this but I never went back for the second round interview.
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