Jo Avent is the Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer at TalentWall, a hiring management platform used by by recruiters, hiring managers, and executives.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
Most of my 25+ year career has been in and around recruiting and building diverse and inclusive teams in tech. Working in the recruiting space for scaling companies is a full-on experience and I’ve certainly learned the hard way that work life balance is essential, and burnout is real.
For the past 5 years I have been Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer at TalentWall, a scaling startup. We create recruiting tools that make hiring more efficient, collaborative, and frankly, less stressful. I have a spouse, kids, a dog, family overseas, friends, hobbies, life admin, and all sorts of other things I need and like to do. Packing it all in sometimes is not obvious.
2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
A typical day is saying a quick ‘bye’ to the kids as they go off to get the bus to school, they’re old enough to not need a ton of supervision and my husband runs interference in the mornings.
Then I’m checking email and slack, doing the wordle and the heardle, and sharing those (usually underwhelming) results in our #wordle-nation slack channel. Due to time zones I usually have an hour or so in the morning to get a start on the day before the rest of the company is fully up and at it. I drink a decent amount of coffee during this time.
Then the video calls start. We default to video on, but if I’m really back to back and zapped then I’ll do a video off. I try to squeeze in a dog walk either on call or with my spouse, something about walking and talking feels good. The West Wing had that right.
Lunch is assembled in a few minutes and then usually eaten on a team call (sorry team!). The afternoon is more calls interspersed with reprioritizing and actioning my backlog of tasks.
If I hear the kids come home and I’m not on a call, sadly this is rarer than I’d like, I pop downstairs to see how their day was and get a snack for them. I try to be done with calls at 5pm, not always possible, but it’s good to have goals. At that point I’m finishing up loose ends and then getting dinner ready. I try to keep evenings clear for family time.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Yes, flexible and remote, and thank goodness! We’re a remote team and have been since before it was cool/necessary. Since remote is built into our culture we’ve been able to grow the team and stay remote.
We’ve also built a team that includes parents with young children. Everyone has demands on their time, but people with young children are particularly the canaries in the coal mine for revealing whether you’re doing the right thing by your people.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
This is the million dollar question. To me it’s about sustainability, an individual day might not provide balance, sometimes it’s just not possible, but zooming out and looking more broadly, say looking at the course of a week or a month, it’s really important that there’s space for everything, including downtime. Building a startup that endures is a marathon of pacing, delivering quality, thinking creatively, relationships, and perspective.
Those things are impossible if you’re burned out. A key for us has been creating a culture where we’re looking after each other, where people can put themselves and their family first when they’ve needed to.
Oh and fun. We like fun.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
I keep re-starting meditating. It’s so good, but it’s a habit that won’t quite stick for me.
I try for no calls after 5pm. This isn’t always possible due to time zone differences (a lot of the team is on the west coast) but stopping calls at 5pm at least means there’s options to hang out with my family or get to some of the work I didn’t get to during the day.
It’s often a game time decision based on how much gas I have left in my tank, how behind I am with urgent tasks, whether I was able to spend proper time with the kids the previous day etc, but creating space for optionality is core to balance.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
I love Frank Skinner’s Poetry Podcast – and I didn’t even like poetry! Frank Skinner is a British comedian who used to be an English Teacher, don’t listen in for comedy, although it’s certainly amusing at times, the pay off here is the escapism. He’s the person we all should have had introducing us to the subject. It’s utterly immersive content.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
Post-it notes, my notebook, and of course TalentWall when we’re hiring, keeps the whole team on track in a visual way.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand. She’s executing at the highest level and prioritises people through everything she does.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
I’d encourage everyone who’s made it this far (thanks for reading) to check in with yourself and those around you. Pay attention, gently encourage and enable yourself and people close by to take a moment, or several. It’s a marathon!
Before you go…
Check out more daily routines from Barack Obama, Arianna Huffington, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Michelle Obama, Sheryl Sandberg, Richard Branson, Warren Buffet and plenty others.