Interviews / Marketing & Advertising

Balancing the Grind with Jack Shepherdson, Digital Coordinator at uberbrand

Jack Shepherdson is a Digital Coordinator at uberbrand, a branding and communications agency that has worked with brands like TAFE NSW, Suncorp, Equifax and more.

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

I come from one of those strange households where ads were seen as art rather than irritation, design was valued and an appreciation of how things are made was encouraged.

Through high school I worked in frontline sales roles in jewellery stores and electronics shops which gave me a love of the mental chess game of a sale, and I saw advertising as the only way to combine the psychological pitching skill of selling with design and creativity.

I completed a Diploma of Advertising & Digital Media in 2019 whilst freelancing and working at Carter Williamson Architects as the Marketing & Media Assistant, a role which not only let me learn on my feet and experience how to manage a brand but also gave me hands on experience in the architecture industry, a design discipline I love.

After two years with Carter Williamson I wanted to dip my toes into the agency world, so have spent the last year loving my job as the Digital Coordinator at uberbrand.

We’re an agency specialising in aligning and integrating strategic thought and key insight with execution for our clients, so my role sees me managing and executing projects across our client’s digital platforms, covering digital strategy, web development, SEO campaigns and social media strategy.

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

I’m not what you’d call a morning person, so my days usually start around 7am followed by the commute into the office by 9. It’s a quick bus ride into the city and a 15-minute walk which gives me time to read a couple of the day’s articles on a handful of blogs I frequent.

Once the workday starts, I’ll meet with the team to discuss our current projects and offer or ask for any help where needed. I’ll then work on my projects until lunch, take a walk in Hyde Park to get some fresh air then get back to my work and focus for the afternoon.

After I wrap work at 5:30 during the warmer months I’ll often head down to Bondi and jump in the water and shoot some surf photography. By 7pm more days than not I’m on a run from Clovelly to Bondi and back, and in summer when there’s daylight to burn a couple laps across the bay at Clovelly.

Dinner’s usually a quick affair followed by curating any recent photography I’ve got back from the lab and at least an hour each night reading, mostly non-fiction around history, industrial design and the occasional old photobooks.

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

Absolutely, uberbrand offers a great deal of flexibility to work from home if we choose, though I find it difficult to isolate my work from my rest space, so prefer to work from the office.

When the lockdowns hit we worked from home for a couple months and I couldn’t wait to get back in the office, having a place that is exclusively for work that I travel to each day grounds my routine and allows me to focus whilst I’m there, meaning work doesn’t follow me home.

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

I’ve come to realise that to be happy I must be creating, and whilst my role as Digital Coordinator enables me to create in the digital space, my creations are ethereal and mostly existing only in the digital space.

Whilst I take immense pride in my digital creations I also need to be making something physical, so I live and breathe film photography as a way to express my creativity and keep me sane.

I shoot both 35mm and medium format film, though lean towards mechanical rangefinder cameras and don’t rely on a light-meter. This shooting style strips the photographic process down to its essence of focus, aperture, exposure and ISO; nothing more.

It’s more of a challenge than digital and creates a gorgeous visual tapestry with natural light that is only possible through film. Shooting a mechanical camera also provides a genuine, tactile relationship with the tool, letting me savour the mechanical linkage of advancing film and firing a shutter.

The camera has no brain, so there’s a symbiotic relationship where the camera relies on me to do all the thinking and in exchange creates a beautiful image. I’m lucky enough to have found a creative medium that, like painting or composing, is infinite and will see me spend the rest of my life trying to be a better photographer.

That’s the essence of my work-life balance, a tactile hobby that forces me to explore, and whilst in medium, diametrically opposes my work in the digital landscape, but also exercises the creativity that I rely on to do my work in the digital space.

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

The last 12 months has seen me working full-time in my field of advertising for the first time, as opposed to previously splitting my time between working at Carter Williamson Architects and freelancing.

Embracing the traditional Monday-Friday work week has been a much-welcomed change in my life. It’s a schedule that took a little while to get used to, though anchors my life and allows lots of freedom to plan around it.

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

I devour podcasts faster than I should and always enjoy listening to The Candid Frame which are in-depth, intimate and thoughtful conversations with photographers on living a photographic life.

I also love The Grey Nato, which is a loose discussion around adventure, travel, diving, driving, gear and watches, though the one podcast I’d recommend above all others is Moonrise, a Washington Post miniseries that dives into what drove America’s decision to go to the moon and how they achieved it. The story of the moonshot is one hell of a rabbit hole to jump down and is utterly fascinating.

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

It’s a cop-out, though it has to be my favourite camera, a medium format Hasselblad 500 C/M. It’s arguably the greatest camera ever made, bulletproof engineering, intelligently modular, shoots unbelievably sharp glass, is ergonomically perfect and to my eye the most beautiful piece of 20th century industrial design; in form it embodies the modernist principle of ‘form follows function’ yet it doing so creates a gorgeous object to hold and to shoot, producing stunning images.

It’s also the camera NASA used for the Apollo missions, so all the photos you’ve seen from the moon were shot on one. As a vintage space nerd, if it’s good enough to go to the moon, it’s good enough for me.

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

Without a doubt it would be Jack Lang. “The Big Fella” as he was known in his day, Lang was the Premier of NSW in the 1920’s and 1930’s and my god did he achieve a lot whilst in office.

Overseeing NSW during the Great Depression he introduced a minimum wage, a pension for war widows, put a hold on housing evictions (exactly like during COVID), abolished school fees and allowed women to sit in state parliament.

Post WWI the British demanded 5% interest on debts Australia accumulated to the monarchy fighting in Britain’s war, which if paid would mean NSW couldn’t pay it’s state workers.

Jack Lang interpreted this as illegal slavery by the hands of the British Empire, so he withdrew all of NSW’s funds out of the Treasury and stored it in the Unions Trades Hall. With workers depositing tax and withdrawing their salary in cash he essentially turned Australia into a cash economy which stripped the banks of their power to control the economy.

He did so much to protect Australia’s workers that when he stepped down to avoid a potential civil war over the constitutional crisis 40% of NSW marched in Sydney in his support.

He was a mentor to a young Paul Keating giving him some great advice that applies to all young people: “You think you’ve got all the time in the world, but the truth is you don’t have a moment to spare”.

I think about this quote often and use it to push me to work hard. Lang is a role-model and I’m sure would have had some gems of wisdom to share around time-management and balancing life with such a drive to do good for his country.

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

Balancing work and life is important but putting in the hard yards is the key. Success requires focus and gumption, and whilst I’m far from reaching my long-term goals both in my career and life, it’s important to savour the small wins; they add up in the long run.

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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.