Balancing the Grind with James Sharp, Director of Product at Iluminr

James Sharp is the Director of Product at Iluminr, a modern platform that reignites engagement, streamlines preparedness and empowers response to any threat.

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

I am currently the Director of Product at Iluminr. Iluminr is a crisis management response and engagement tool and we are looking to disrupt the resilience market through exploring new ways of engaging people in resilience and crisis management.

My background, after spending 13 years as a Cavalry Officer in the Australian Army and completing 2 tours of Afghanistan, I transitioned to the civilian world in 2018 in a resilience consultant role but I ultimately had a desire to work in and with technology.

After seeing the potential of the technology arm of the consultancy I was in, I transitioned into a client success role with Catalyst Technologies (now iluminr).  I also started introducing product management and agile principles to Catalyst to help build a product led and user feedback led approach to building technology.

This led me to taking up a role as the organisations Product Manager and eventually building a product team leading to my current role as Director, Product at iluminr.

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

I am passionate about sport and well-being, especially cycling (both road and mountain) and surfing as much as I can. I try to balance that into my workday as much as possible.

As an example in previous roles I used to dread Monday mornings, the Sunday scaries were a real thing for me, so to I don’t spend half my Sunday thinking about what I need to first thing Monday morning, I built a ‘perfect’ Monday into my diary, I get up and have a coffee and babyccino with my wife and daughter, I then head out on the road if the weather is good, or get on Zwift if it isn’t and I start my morning with at least an hour on the bike.

I follow that up with another coffee before jumping on for a check in with my team. This is an amazing way to start the day and the week.

For the rest of the week I try to balance my day, with periods of focus work, meetings and some sort of physical activity, this is usually an indoor ride on Zwift.

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

If I have work life balance it means that I have the energy and drive to be able to give equally to my career, my family and my passion. It means that I am energised to turn up to work everyday and also energised to be an awesome Dad and supportive partner.

This is even more important working remotely because family and work life are constantly overlapping and interlinked. Personally I think this is an amazing environment to be in.

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

When I started working from home, I was already a passionate rider however I didn’t ride indoors very often. With the birth of our daughter my physical activity had dropped. In order to account for this and return to balance I started putting my rides in my work calendar.

This had three positive impacts on me and my team, one I was way more likely to stop work and get on the bike because it was scheduled, two my team wouldn’t drop meetings in over that time and three by being open and transparent about taking time to workout and take time for me it encouraged my team to do the same which was awesome.

I also make sure I take time in the morning to sit and have a coffee / babyccino with Elkie and Kym before starting the day. This is a lovely time to engage and take some slow time before hitting the grind.

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

I love podcasts and I love reading so the list could be long however my top hits are


To keep up to date with news, current affairs & culture:

  • ABC News Daily & The Party Room
  • The Daily Zeitgeist

For my cycling passion:

  • CyclingTips Weekly, CyclingTips Nerd Alert & Freewheeling
  • Life in the Peleton with Mitch Docker

For pure entertainment

Pod yourself a Gun

Pod yourself the wire

For Product Management & personal development

The imperfects

Wireframe by Adobe

The Product Podcast


I love to read and I try to read every night to unwind my favourite books of all time are

Product Led Onboarding – Ramli John

Hooked – Nir Eyal

Any book by China Mieville – The Scar is a great starter

Moby Dick – Herman Melville

The Satanic Verses – Salman Rushdie

Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien

Harlem Shuffle – Colson Whitehead

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

Dylan Allcott, I would love to hear about how he manages to be such a successful advocate, sportsperson and humble down to earth bloke.

Similarly Layne Beachley I think she has had an amazing career and life and is now an amazing advocate for balance, wellbeing and self confidence.

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

I think be open and honest with your team and wider organisation about taking time to be balanced. Openly schedule that time in your calendar which should remove any excuses not to be balanced both for you and your team.

The person that cares most about your wellbeing has to be 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.