Balancing the Grind with Jaala Alex, Community Manager at Thriday

Jaala Alex is the Community Manager at Thriday, an all-in-one financial management platform for businesses.

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

I’ve had an interesting migration to startups and fintech in particular; which I’ve discovered is not uncommon at all. My career started in the arts. I studied fine art photography and finished with a performance piece for my Honours year. When I lived in Brisbane I worked in a diverse range of arts organisations (contemporary arts, craft arts, museums, film festivals) in marketing roles. 

It was when I moved to Melbourne that the world of startups opened up to me, and I was hooked. I always loved new ideas and interdisciplinary approaches to problems solving or challenges; in fact, that’s in many ways how I thought about art.

I started working at Monash University’s accelerator program and I fell in love with the bright minds of its students. This is when I really got hooked on startups and their people. It was only a natural progression for me to move towards a people-focused role as Community Manager.

Someone recently asked me about my art, and said “What do you do now? You don’t work in finance, do you?” 

Well, yes I do. However, almost everything we do is creative; we have to be critical, challenge the status quo, think of innovative solutions to hard problems, communicate in a clear and exciting way to the public, just like you do in art.

I get to work with passionate people about a real problem that can create real change in people’s lives, so to me the fact that I work for a fintech company is superfluous. 

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

After my Mum passed, I moved from the inner-North of Melbourne to the Surf Coast, so my life looks pretty different now. I’ve also reduced my hours from 5 days/week to 4 for obvious reasons, that I don’t need to (but always feel the need to!) justify. 

What my days look like now are: setting boundaries, asking permission to not be okay all the time, and being compassionate to myself.

I love sleeping. And, with all that I’m dealing with emotionally, I need it! So, I wake up at 7:30am, sometimes 8am, cuddle my dog for half an hour (vital) and am ready for the world by 8:30am with coffee in hand (also vital). 

I start work at 9am. 

I try to limit my number of meetings to 5/day. I’ve learnt that if I attend any more, my personal battery runs flat. If there is something non-critical that I’m an ‘optional’ for and I’m running low on energy, I won’t go. If I have a session booked that I’m not up for, I will reschedule it. 

It might sound like tapping out, but it’s actually the opposite. 

I want to give the best of myself to my team and I don’t want to burn out because that’s not good for everyone in the long term. The more I can sustain my energy, the better we all are for it. 

I always have my lunch away from my desk, and go to the beach at lunchtime (rain, hail or shine) to breathe in the ocean air and look at the horizon. 

Once a week, I make sure I do some work that I love. For me, that’s writing about our members: 

I finish work at 5pm. 

3) What does work-life balance mean to you?

Work-life balance means: survival, health, and the choice to live the life I want. 

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

For those of you who have experienced, you will know, grief does incredible (and somewhat frustrating) things to the brain. The traumatic passing of a loved one has similar effects to a brain injury.

The first few weeks were hard; I missed so many appointments, I would get in the car and not know where I was going, I would totally blank on things I’m usually very good at remembering. 

The idea of returning to work in this state was daunting and the fear of possibly fucking up was real. The reality is, rightly or wrongly, we must return to work at some stage. Don’t get me wrong, I love my work. But, showing up as a changed person was a new and interesting challenge. 

I had to think about my sustainability and self-management far more than ever before and learnt some things along the way. 

  • Multi-tasking is not necessarily a good thing.

This is a myth I’ve had to dispel for myself just recently because I have had to question my overwhelming feelings of exhaustion. 

1) Grief is exhausting. Period.  

2) When you are grieving your brain is in two places at once; your reality (without your loved one), and the other exists in what you know, and have potentially known your entire life (with your loved one). Your brain will quite literally try to reconcile the two at once. This takes energy.

3) Add multiple screens, two phones, 10s of tabs, and 5 tasks at once; I think we call that a clusterfuck. And that’s exactly how you will feel.

There is simply no way you can be fully present and focused on one task when all of the above is going on. Close those tabs, chunk things down, one thing at a time.

  • Approaching every day with the mindset of “what is achievable with what I have in my tank today?”, instead of “how can I kick ass and surpass everyone’s expectations of me today?” Fuck those standards, honestly. 

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

You’re probably looking for something relating to my work, but I’m going to step a little sideways; 

  • Podcasts:
    • For a great laugh I listen to ‘The Life Uncut’ 
    • For the mind and heart I listen to ‘Dear Sugars’
    • For my brain I listen to ‘She’s on the Money’
  • Newsletters:
    • Product Hunt, because new products are cool!
  • TV-series, because COVID broke me
    • The White Lotus (Season 2)

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

Probably Glennon Doyle. Her book Untamed changed my life, and I just think she’s incredible so it would be fascinating to me.  

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

I have many thoughts, which is why I’ve flipped this question to the top. Note to the editor: sorry, not sorry. 

To preface this conversation, you need to know that in the last 4 months my life has been flipped on its head, turned inside out, upside down, in every way.

My mother passed away unexpectedly in early July. She was admitted to the hospital with pain in her abdomen which was unsuccessfully treated. She was put on the highest level of life support, and her health deteriorated very quickly when eventually all digestive organs shut down. 

I had to make the impossible decision to cut off her life support, and, to the best of my ability, choose how she would transition to her next – which was full of grace, her loved ones and soft jazz.

The loss and grief are insurmountable and the feeling even day-to-day is difficult to describe. My world will never be the same because she was ‘my person’.

If there is anything that will change your perspective of life in one single strike, it’s moments like those.

The flow-on effects to my life, my relationships, my decisions, my health, my work, are inextricably bound to this new perspective; as such, my relationship with work-life balance has never been more vital to my wellbeing.

What you won’t get in these responses are productivity hacks. What you will get is honesty. 

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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.