HR & Culture / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Katie Leupin, Head of People and Culture at Nourish Ingredients

Katie Leupin is the Head of People and Culture at Nourish Ingredients, a company that uses science and precision fermentation to create next gen fats for the “next generation” of plant-based food.

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

I started my career in the legal industry in legal support roles and later as an executive assistant. I loved the fast-paced nature and being right in the thick of things. I took time out to start a family and then started my own professional services firm.

After running the business for 4 years I jumped at the opportunity to join an exciting start up Nourish Ingredients. Through precision fermentation, Nourish creates entirely animal-free, remarkably delicious fats. I’ve always had a passion for innovation and what we’re achieving at Nourish are some of the most exciting innovations out there, making the decision to join Nourish an easy one for me. 

In my current role as Head of People and Culture at Nourish I’m responsible for leading and building the people and culture function from scratch. That involves defining our people framework from the ground up, working with our founders and leadership group to develop and grow our culture along with the implementation of people systems to effectively manage recruitment and onboarding programs through tech platforms.

A huge part of my role over the last year has been building a talented and diverse team to support Nourish through its rapid growth. Since joining at the end of 2020 I’ve personally seen the team grow from 3 to 31, with plans to grow our headcount over the next 12 months. As a rapidly expanding start-up, we’re building things from the ground up which is super exciting – there’s never a dull moment!

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

Everyday is such an adventure, and never without its own challenges. 

I always try to start my day with an early morning walk followed by coffee. I’ll usually spend an hour or so catching up on emails, planning for the day ahead and preparing for meetings. I have two young boys so the rest of my mornings are spent getting them ready for the day ahead and out the door for school.

Once I’m at my desk, I review my priorities for the day and kick things off with the most important tasks. There are regular meetings with the leadership team and catch ups with different stakeholders across the company. 

Because my days are often filled with meetings and zoom calls, I try to be intentional with my time and regularly block out time for strategic focus.

I’m currently leading a project to identify and articulate our values as a company and what makes us unique. I spent a recent workday planning focus group interviews and one on one sessions with our leaders to better understand who we are as a company. 

We also had a morning tea at HQ to celebrate and welcome two new team members who relocated to Australia from France and Sweden.

We’re also beginning to grow our team globally, which has involved a lot of time working with third parties to make hiring our first international team members as smooth as possible. 

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

I’m a mum with two young boys, so flexibility is essential to maintaining the balance between work and family life. I’m privileged to work with co-founders that encourage flexibility.

Operating in a hybrid environment allows me to work from home most of the time, heading into HQ once a week. Having spent so much of the last five years working remotely, both in my business and in my current role thanks to pandemic lockdowns, I’m really enjoying being able to spend time face to face making connections with the team, building relationships and being amongst the chatter.

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

Achieving balance can be a real challenge, especially in a fast growing start up. Taking an outcomes focused approach to work means we’re able to be flexible about how work gets done.

I love that I can be present with my boys, doing the school run, taking them to swimming lessons or a run at the park. This is balanced against evenings where I might spend an hour or two catching up on work or having interviews with international candidates.

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

In recent months I’ve become much more intentional about how I spend my time and setting personal boundaries. Working from home can make it challenging to switch off from work.

I’ve started to set limits with my devices and block out notifications so that I can be more focussed on what I’m doing – whether that’s snoozing notifications during a Zoom call or setting my phone to do not disturb during the morning and evening routine.

I’ve also introduced meal planning to make planning for the week ahead easier. It’s a work in progress!

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

I’m always looking for new ideas and approaches to how things get done. At the moment I’m reading The Hard Thing About Hard Things and What You Do Is Who You Are by Ben Horowitz – both have such great insights and learnings for scaling companies.

After recently discovering podcasts, I’m really enjoying listening to Transform Your Workplace with Brandon Laws. It’s a bit dangerous actually as I end up with a new book to purchase after each episode!

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

I’m a massive list maker and have always relied on my handy pen and paper to jot down things that come to mind as well as keeping on top of my priorities.

Technology is amazing – I’m experimenting with apps like Trello to help me stay on top of everything and have recently purchased an iPad to see if I can transition away from pen and paper and keep all my notes electronically. 

I’ve never been a watch person, but since my husband bought me an apple watch a few years ago it’s quickly become a gadget I couldn’t live without. Seeing my daily activity level helps keep me motivated and accountable and it’s great to get that little buzz reminding me to stand up every hour!

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

This is such a hard one! I’d have to say that energetic woman from my town who I often see making time for the gym, running the kids around and balancing her career always with the biggest smile on her face. I’d love to know her secret to work life balance! 

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

I can’t say that I consistently nail the perfect work life balance, but I’d say to spend time thinking about what’s most important and how you can protect that in a way that works for all parts of your life. Don’t be afraid to put up some boundaries and be upfront with what those boundaries are – lean into it. Also, don’t be afraid to say no from time to time. For a people pleaser like me this is easier said than done but absolutely essential in achieving balance from time to time. 

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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.