Jude Blankfield is the Chief of Staff & Head Of Marketing at Slyp, an Australian fintech start-up backed by all four major banks, including CBA, NAB, ANZ, and Westpac’s Reinventure.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I started my career working at a boutique PR agency called John Doe based in London where my main accounts were PlayStation, W Hotels and Vice Magazine. I moved to London when I was 19 to gain work experience and ended up spending a few years there. I gave both journalism and PR a shot and realised pretty quickly that PR was the best fit for me – I think it’s fair to say I was blessed with the gift of the gab so that helped!
After London I spent a few years working in PR agencies back in Australia and loved it, but decided that I wanted to learn more about marketing and how to strategically build a brand. My first proper ‘marketing’ role was managing partnership marketing for luxury brands.
This was an amazing opportunity as I was able to learn from some of the world’s leading luxury brands how they targeted, and retained, a small niche audience of high-net-worth consumers, and also how global marketing plans played out on a local scale.
Itchy feet got the better of me and the next move was over to New York where I landed a marketing role at Rokt, an Australian marketing tech company founded by ex-CEO of Jetstar, Bruce Buchanan.
This was a transformational opportunity for me – I learnt about B2B marketing, the tech world, working in a start-up and most importantly how to be a leader in a fast-paced business. This last point was crucial in helping me land what came along next!
The moment I met Slyp’s founder and CEO Paul Weingarth, I knew I’d found the company I really wanted to grow with. Paul’s vision and the products the team were building blew me away. I joined the team in late 2020 as Head of Marketing and recently took on the role of our inaugural Chief of Staff.
These roles allow me to focus on both what we’re building for our audiences, and how we’re growing as a business. I’ve found a real sweet spot and passion for working in founder-led businesses. You get to learn so much about how a company is run on top of honing your discipline.
2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
Right before last year’s COVID-19 lockdown I welcomed home a beautiful golden retriever puppy, so my day kicks off around about 6am when he decides he wants to get up.
I learnt a while ago that getting up and going straight into the workday is not great for me, so I actually love the 6am wakeup call as it gets me out of bed and down to the beach for a walk before the day really starts.
If I’m working from home, I’ll be at my computer by about 8:30am before meetings kick off around 9am – this 30min window is my most productive part of the day. If I’m in the office, I’ll use this time to listen to a podcast on my commute.
I always have a to-do list based on Eisenhower’s important/urgent principle (thanks Steve Brennan for introducing me to this) so that the first part of the day is focused on either ticking off or making sure I know what to do to get the urgent / important items done that day.
From 10am onwards I’m mostly in meetings with my team, across the organisation or with our partners but I do block out hours within the day for focus time.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Absolutely! We’re really lucky at Slyp to have a flexible working policy. I split my week between WFH and being in the office. I much prefer to do meetings in person (to limit zoom fatigue) so will try and schedule internal meetings on days when I know I am going to be in, or others will.
The great thing about flexible working is that when I am in a meeting where I don’t need my screen, I’ll often take it on my mobile and get out for a walk. Even if it is just around the block, I find a 20-minute moving meeting breaks up the long day of sitting in front of the laptop.
Flexible working has also been great for me as my family and friends are down in Melbourne so I’m able to go work from Melbourne every now and then!
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
Early in my career I learnt to be flexible with my hours. PR was not a 9-5 job – if the media or a client wanted something from you, it didn’t matter if it were within work hours or not. The story was going to run regardless.
My mindset around work-life balance is that when you can tap out of work mode – do. What this means for me is that if my day is slowing down around 4-4:30pm, I’ll get out to a 5pm spin or Pilates class, or if I have a break in meetings during the day, I’ll take a long walk with the dog.
The line between work hours and personal hours has become blurred with technology. For me it’s less about separating work/life hours and more about finding balance throughout the workday. Sometimes I’ll log on later at night to get work done, but so long as I’m taking those breaks throughout the day, I feel balanced overall.
We’ve also recently introduced two new policies at Slyp – Work from Anywhere and Open Leave. Work from Anywhere gives us flexibility to base ourselves somewhere remote for an extended period of time (2 weeks in Fiji!?) and Open Leave allows us to take more paid leave than the usual allowed to truly give us time to reset and recharge.
Taking a day here or there to switch off does wonders. A highlight for me during lockdown was taking a Friday off work and having a totally ‘guilt free’ day – I slept in, read my book and watched a movie in bed – it was the perfect recharge and rebalance I needed.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
I’ve stopped snoozing the alarm clock! I used to set an alarm and snooze on and off for another 30 minutes.
Now when my alarm goes off, I get straight out of bed and feel much better for it. Those early hours of the morning are the best (and most balanced) part of the day – the more of them I can fit into my routine, the better I feel.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
I love TDM Growth’s ‘Scaling up’ podcast with Ed Cowan – he interviews really interesting leaders in the start-up world and I’ve found it’s a great way of understanding how leaders, particularly founders, think and act.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
Honestly, it’s a boring answer, but I can’t live without my calendar. I plan my to-do list entirely around what meetings I have and what time I have free – if I didn’t have a calendar to remind me what’s coming up, I think I’d lose sight of what to prioritise and how to manage my time. Particularly with the two roles on the go now!
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Jo Horgan, Founder and CEO of Mecca. She’s built an amazing business, brand and customer experience, plus also gives so much of her time to philanthropic initiatives such as The Hunger Project and St George Foundation.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Surround yourself with founders – the best people to learn from both on how to work hard and how to recharge, plus how to lead and how to be human – a few I am lucky to have in my life:
- Paul Weingarth – my CEO and Slyp’s co-founder. One of the most visionary individuals I have ever met!
- Simon Costello – CEO and founder of FrankieOne and someone I am lucky to call one of my great friends.
- Sebastian Robertson – CEO and founder of birdi – a very cool aerial intelligence tech biz that I sit on the advisory board for. Helping companies see things from (literally) a different perspective.
- Bruce Buchanan – Rokt CEO and the first founder who introduced me to the world of tech & start-ups.
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