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Balancing the Grind with Katrina Razon, VP, Head of Marketing at GuardRails

Katrina Razon, VP, Head of Marketing at GuardRails, a company that empowers developers to find, fix, and prevent security vulnerabilities in their web and mobile applications.

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

I’ve started the first 5 years of my career in Manila, the city where I’m from, then moved to Bangkok and lived there for 7 years (best phase of my life). I’ve enjoyed the hustle and bustle of working with various Rocket Internet startups, and very early on I’ve realised that work would be more exciting if I continued with startups. This still holds true to me!

There’s an abundance of learning when working in that kind of environment. I like building things from scratch, getting my hands dirty, and learning at lightning speed. I get a high level of satisfaction working at GuardRails, a remarkable application security company. It doesn’t hurt that our team members are absolutely brilliant and amazing people, too!

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

My routine changes depending on the country where I’m at, but it always starts the night before. Before bed I usually take a last look at all my deliverables and pending tasks, and I’ll have a quick look at my calendar for the next day. This helps give me an overview of what the next day will look like, and helps me plan and prioritise.

Waking up at 8 – 8:30 AM is typical. I go through my morning news and notifications on my phone, since I don’t look at my phone a lot when working during the day. I get to prepare my vegetable shake in the morning (I like to mix some lion’s mane powder in it for the mental benefits!) and follow it with a cup of latte. Coffee’s my electric starter.

By this time I’m ready to sit at my desk and start my work day. I follow my calendar and go through Slack and my emails first, and on empty hours I save it to focus on getting my work done. Recently, I’ve been more focused on hiring so my day gets easily filled with back to back interviews during the day.

When I start to lose focus or when my eyes start to hurt, I try my best to squeeze in a workout, whether a 30-min HIIT or a tennis session. I’m lying if I tell you I do this part great though!

I like to be social during the evening so on some days when I’m not tired, I love seeing and being with my friends or family, and doing something outside of the house.

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

GuardRails is fully remote, and we’re output-focused. This kind of flexibility fits my lifestyle perfectly as I travel very often around. My typical work schedule, whether I’m in Asia or in Europe fits naturally as I get a good balance of ‘team collaboration’ hours and my own ‘focus’ hours either way.

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

I don’t believe that there could be a set formula for a perfect work-life balance. On some days, I like to really focus on work. On some days, I’d like to incorporate play in there too. Personally, it boils down to the level of fulfilment.

Fulfilment is about being happy and satisfied with your general state of being. If I ask myself, “Am I feeling fulfilled at work?” and “Am I feeling fulfilled with my personal life?” and I’m able to answer a resounding yes to both, then I know I’m doing it right. 

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

I laugh at and believe in the saying by Alain de Botton, “Anyone who isn’t embarrassed of who they were last year probably isn’t learning enough.” 

Some habits I’ve specifically changed:

  • lessened eating and drinking junk, and exercising more
  • choosing the people I spend my time with, and choosing my conversations with them
  • being more self-conscious; being humble, respectful and empathetic towards others
    reduced social media browsing and posting (I don’t ‘aim’ to take photos for posting anymore, it just comes more naturally now)
  • calling and keeping in touch with people I don’t see often (I’m terrible at this and I’m trying to be better!)

Last and most importantly, my mindset. I’ve taken a year-long career break to live on an island to take a conscious pause, re-center my priorities, determine short and long term goals, without any distractions or pressure.

I’d say this time was one of the best and most helpful moments of my life, I’ve changed in a lot of different ways, and that would be a novel if I write them all!

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

Not a big podcast fan as my attention span is shorter than that of a goldfish if I’m tasked to listen to someone I don’t see.

My favourite books are from the authors Yuval Harari and Robert Greene. I think it’s also worth mentioning that the book, Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki was a huge influence on me when I was younger.

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

I’m somehow very particular about everything I own and use! For some reason I manage to come up with criterias and spend time researching and  finding the “best” one that suits me and my needs.

For my day-to-day, aside from the obvious “mobile phone” answer, I can’t live without my daily backpack. I’ve changed from using stylish handbags to simple backpacks as I found it much more useful and practical for my kind of lifestyle.

For my workout, my yoga mat and resistance bands, all my Down Dog subscriptions, particularly Yoga and HIIT.

For my health & breakfast, I’ve found the best ones suited for me: my Amazing Grass Greens Blend Superfood powder supplements (the most complete nutritional blend I’ve seen by far), Real Mushrooms Lion’s Mane powder (the purest and potent lion’s mane powder form), Ancient Nutrition Multi Collagen Protein powder (high collagen serving complete from types 1-5 of collagen with Vitamin C). And for my brain: I’m recently enjoying Mind Pro Labs nootropic. I also enjoy the best travel espresso maker I have by far! The Cafflano Kompresso.

For my gadgets, nothing like my good, old trusty iPad. I’m not a big trendy gadget person as I tire of them very easily, especially if they don’t serve a real need.

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

Tough to name one specifically, but I’d like to read and learn from successful leaders who still manage to make experiences and family a priority.

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

Life always has a way of reminding me that life is too short. Knowing how to allocate enough time for work, play, social life and yourself is crucial because if outside of work, you don’t have exciting experiences, moments you’ll remember for long, and quality friendships you build, then what is it that makes your life meaningful?

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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.