Balancing the Grind with Jackie Chu, Global SEO Lead at Uber

Jackie Chu is the Global SEO Lead at Uber, where she currently leads the SEO Intelligence team at the company, designing tools and products for the global teams.

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

Of course! I work in a funny niche of acquisition called SEO. It’s a function that straddles many specialties, including things like: web product, analytics and content. I currently lead the SEO Intelligence team at Uber where we design bespoke tooling and analytics products for the SEO teams globally.

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

I like to wake up really early (around 5AM) because it’s my rare focus and heads down time. I personally have a really tough time getting into the groove in between slacks and meetings during the day so I do most of my focus work in the mornings.

I wake up, give the dog a quick walk and have a cup of coffee (or two, or three). I then try to tackle my to do list from the day before, and also use this time to gently bump people or emails that I need to check in on during the day.

I’ll then squeeze in a 7AM work out class if I can. If I don’t have any early meetings then it’s a great way to start my day and I noticed I tend to skip exercise entirely if I try to push it until after work.

For the rest of the day I mix in work in-between meetings and slacks. After work I like taking the dog for a longer walk and then cook dinner with my fiance. We’re both really big foodies and I’m lucky he’s a great cook, so it’s our only real quality time together even though we both currently work from home!

We then watch a show together (usually something travel or cooking related) and then I try to sleep no later than 10:30PM or so to wake up early the next day.

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

We’re currently remote through mid-2021, but as a serious extrovert I don’t hate the idea of returning to office (even if it’s part-time) but I think I’m an anomaly in that sense!

Part of why I don’t hate the office is because commuting in to work fits my life well. I got rid of my car when I moved to San Francisco and since it’s a 7×7 mile city and the majority of the tech scene is centered in a 2×2 mile block, all of my work places have been walkable from where I lived.

I personally loved and miss the long and leisurely walks to work because they were a great way to decompress and get low intensity exercise in. I also liked having less screens and clutter in my own home.

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

My personal goals for work-life balance are to:

  1. Feel like I’m doing a good job at work
  2. To feel like I am present and supportive when I’m with my friends and family, and
  3. To take care of my health.

The 2 biggest things that have helped me with this are: I outsource what I can afford to that I don’t like doing. I also try to not say yes to anything I don’t actually want to do. This can include friends, events, hanging out, etc.

I still sometimes slip up here but generally speaking, ruthlessly cutting out people and events in my life I didn’t want to have anyway really gave me back a lot of time to focus on the things I did enjoy.

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

Cooking lunch – this is a COVID thing since I was spoiled by lunch being provided in the office, but it’s a fun break for the day!

Mixing in low intensity exercise – I personally love HIIT and bootcamp style classes, but I noticed I burned out and could only do them a few days a week while still incorporating strength training.

So now I try to incorporate yoga or ballet whenever I’d like to get some movement in but can’t commit myself to jumping around or heavy weights.

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

I’m a BIG podcast junkie because I love listening to them when I walk my dog! Some of my favorites include:

Podcasts – Tim Ferriss’ podcast and all the Esther Perel podcasts on relationships. I find her very insightful and apply a lot of her learnings to both my romantic and platonic relationships. I also like Found My Fitness by Dr. Rhonda Patrick, PhD. She’s a biochemist who breaks down very dense literature on nutrition for biohacking and I’m a big fan.

Books – Extreme Ownership, Lean In, Grit, Storytelling With Data (I still refer to this one often) and it really helped me with my presentation skills.

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

Apple Watch – I use it as a fail safe to wake up early. I like that I can get gently buzzed awake if I oversleep but that it won’t wake up my partner who has a different schedule than I do. Fitbits also do this!

Peloton – I use both the app and bike and it’s been a lifesaver during COVID. My favorite classes are the bootcamp and strength classes. Jess Sims is my current #1!

AirPods – they’re honestly a step function better than any other bluetooth headset I’ve used, even Bose. They’re great for any kind of HIIT workout and they’re easy to clean and store.

A silk eye mask and pillow – the pillow is really for the long haired ladies (it’s a game changer) but a silk eye mask is great for someone like me who has a hard time falling and staying asleep. For eye masks I like the Slip ones (you can get them on sale at Nordstrom Rack) and for the pillowcase I just got some cheap ones on Amazon.

Retinol – another kind of vain one but outside of a good lifestyle, SPF and lasers, it’s one of the best things you can do for anti-aging. I’m obsessed with skincare so I try to convince all my friends who aren’t pregnant to incorporate it into their routines. Taking care of my body is my version of self care!

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

Sarah Friar. She was the CFO at Square when I worked there and is now the highly respected CEO of Nextdoor. Not only was she an eloquent leader who could inspire people to action, she’s also a super fit and stylish mom of 3 kids!

I’ve always been very active, so I aspire to have both a great career and physique but it really takes time and intention with both eating and exercise.

I also hear her and her husband are great at supporting each other’s careers which I think is really key to both partners excelling and reaching their full potential. I’d love to hear what she does to “balance it all” – and specifically what she intentionally doesn’t do.

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

I’m a big follower of the idea that you can have it all, but not all at once. I think realistically it’s tough to be really focused and intentional about more than 2-3 things at any point in time.

For me for example: work, fitness, and being a really good partner are things I’m trying to prioritize right now. Being a good partner is a lot of work and something I focus on every day.

I think a lot of times people put all of their effort and bring their best selves to work, so much so that they have nothing left for those they love so I try to be intentional about being there for my partner, too.

It’s okay too if the things you care about change over time. I think that’s normal and something that happens as you grow and change, but I don’t think it’s realistic to only add priorities and not deprioritize anything else.

Lastly, if it’s within your means and you hate doing it, outsource. I used to spend a weekend of every week scrubbing my oven and bathrooms which put me in a pretty terrible mood, the fact that I didn’t even do a very good job made the experience worse.

I learned to outsource this because it gave me back my weekends and now my house is actually finally clean as well. Outsourcing means you can get your time and days back to be present and intentional on the things that really do spark joy for you.

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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.