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Balancing the Grind with Kate Pounder, CEO at Technology Council of Australia

Kate Pounder is the CEO at Technology Council of Australia, the peak body representing Australia’s tech sector.

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

I am the CEO of the Tech Council of Australia, the peak body for Australia’s tech sector. I previously worked as a Partner at an innovative analytics company, for McKinsey & Company as a consultant, as a tech policy specialist in Australia’s federal government and for a large industry body.

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

I wake up early and exercise and catch-up on work. Then I help make sure my children get-off to school. 

I start the day at work with a team check-in. During the day, I will meet with members to understand their concerns on issues, to answer questions from potential new members, or to speak with them at events, with decision-makers to consult on key policy issues, do interviews or panels to raise awareness of the industry’s position, and with my team to plan and brainstorm the work we do. 

Post work, I try to carve out time to spend time with my family after work. I will then catch-up on any work, and read before bed.

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

It does, luckily! The tech industry has one of the higher rates of flexible and remote working of any industry, so members and stakeholders are accepting of flexible and remote work by staff of the TCA. 

That has been useful as around the time the TCA launched, the cities I and most of the team lived in went into lockdown for a couple of months, so we had to establish the organisations where remote work was the default. 

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

I think it is essential to have a fulfilling life and career. There shouldn’t be a need to choose between your work or life. 

I think Claudia Goldin, the economist, has a very incisive take on this. She has found in her work that the substitutability of tasks in a job are the key to whether you have work / life balance, particularly in a senior role.

That comes down to whether you have a great team, and whether you can interchange work between the team without impacting your mission and outcomes. If you have that model in place, then it means if you have a great team, that supports one another, you can do impactful work whilst all maintaining balance between your work and family life. 

Interestingly, when she looked at tech and engineering roles, she found they were some of the best careers for substitutability, and therefore great choices for women who still tend to have higher levels of caring responsibilities on average. This is also a reason why gender pay gaps are lower in these areas versus other high-paying careers. 

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

I got a home gym to make it easier to exercise more regularly (and in the event of lockdowns). I have been more mindful about taking holidays, and carving out time with my family. Finally, I have reverted back to reading before I go to bed to help with sleeping.

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

I recommend Claudia Goldin’s Career and Family for anyone interested in changing patterns in women’s ability to balance career and family -I think the findings are relevant for men also. 

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

I love making lists to bring a little order to my day, so Trello or even just the notes app in my phone are go tos for me. 

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

I’d love to see it be one of the first interview questions asked of men that assume new leadership roles. 

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

I genuinely think tech sector jobs are one of the best ways for people to strike the balance between work they are passionate about, and living their best life. They are high-paid, secure and purposeful. They have some of highest rates of flexible and remote work. They are also some of the most secure jobs in the economy. I’d love to see more people aspire to work in them. 

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About Author

Balance the Grind is a work-life balance publication on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.