Josh Symes is the Head of Wellbeing & Insight at togetherAI, an app empowering families to have the right conversations about children’s emotions, wellbeing and mental health at the right time.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
My current role is Head of Wellbeing and Insight at togetherAI (www.togetherai.com). I work with a dynamic team of individuals in creating an app and tech platforms for families to combat the ever growing issue of mental illness. It is such a meaningful pursuit and I get to experience it with a team of individuals who wish to do good in the world.
Prior to this role I had spent the past 20 years in education. I have worked as a principal, deputy principal, leader of wellbeing, and a teacher across a range of disciplines in Australia, and international schools Taiwan, London and Singapore. My first teaching job was in Torquay, Victoria where I have recently moved back to with my wife, Kristin, and my children Ollie and Lucy.
I’ve also spent time working in, and with universities as an adjunct professor, as a career and life coach, and spent time as an educational leadership consultant.
2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I work from my home base in Torquay, but regularly travel to Sydney and Melbourne for meetings. My days always start with some exercise – gym, ocean paddle, run etc – and they are generally busy with meetings and project work. We have regular leadership meetings, strategic planning meetings, and partnership meetings with public and private organisations.
A recent Monday looked something like this:
- Leadership Team meeting
- Customer Experience Team planning meeting
- Virtual coffee with a colleague
- Analysing and synthesising a wide range of data to inform our longer-term strategic plan
- Lunchtime mindfulness meditation
- Meeting with our partners from Melbourne and Monash University
- Content creation and review
- Meeting with the product team
- Project work and research on engagement for children and e-wellness.
And, then I finished the day with my family and our dog down at the beach. The perfect finish to a busy day!
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
I work remotely the majority of the time. The togetherAI office is located in Surry Hills, Sydney, and I work from my home in Torquay, Victoria. However, I travel to Sydney and Melbourne when I need to meet in person, or just to connect with the rest of the team.
Working remotely certainly has its benefits because I can be available for my family, but the disconnection can be challenging at times. It fits well with family life but it has also been really important to maintain a predictable and structured routine because it is important to ensure that work doesn’t flow too much into home life, and vice versa.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
That’s a great question, but not an easy one to answer. I think many people consider it in terms of time spent in various areas of our life – work, family time, leisure time, etc.
Unfortunately life isn’t often lived in compartments, and ‘life happens’ meaning that change is inevitable. So, flexibility and adaptability need to be considered, and the need to accept that there is no such thing as the perfect balance.
Some of the factors that matter to me in terms of work-life balance includes:
- Finding meaning and purpose in my work. It becomes less of a job when there is a clear sense of purpose.
- Making family time, quality time. I try to think of family time in terms of quality – being fully present, laughing and having fun, and spending time sitting, chatting and continuing to learn about what is happening in each other’s lives.
- Making time for ‘energy in’. I love to paddle ocean skis, outriggers and SUPs because being on the ocean is food for the soul. I find that this time is recharging and gives me the energy for the other parts of my life.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
I started working from home 12 months ago, and it took some time to adapt. Initially, the perceived disconnection was really challenging, but I now have the benefit of being there for my wife and kids a lot more often. And, I have the space in my life to be active and practise relaxation.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
Some recent books that I’ve enjoyed:
- The Rip Curl Story. I live in Torquay so it was great to learn about the evolution of surfing and my hometown.
- When All is Said & Done. What an inspiration Neale Daniher is to so many Australians.
- The Howie Games. I love the in-depth conversations with the diverse range of guests that join the show.
- Roy & HG: Bludging on the Blindside. Always good for a laugh!
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
Like many people, I’d probably be lost without my phone to stay connected and organised. And of course, no family should be without the togetherAI app!
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Probably Brene Brown. She is all about empowering people to know themselves, and to manage life to meet each individual’s needs.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
I love Stephen Covey’s quote: “The key is not to prioritise what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities”.
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