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Interviews / HR & Culture

Balancing the Grind with Kaylee Parkinson, Head of People at Papercup

Kaylee Parkinson is the Head of People at Papercup, a machine learning company on a mission to make the world’s content watchable in any language.

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

I’m the Head of People at Papercup; a machine learning business on a mission to make the world’s content watchable in any language. Traditional dubbing is really time consuming and expensive, but we use AI – so it’s automated dubbing with these incredibly realistic but computer generated voices. 

I graduated with a degree in Ancient History and moved straight into HR and have worked in various roles over the last 13 years. I spent my early career in Investment Banking and Professional Services but I’ve been in the technology space for the last 6 years with the likes of Google and Expedia.

Now I definitely have the tech startup bug; I really enjoy being able to have a greater impact and influence on the kind of workplace I want to be a part of.

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

Startups mean that your work is really varied, which personally I love. We also have a hybrid workplace so I’ll typically travel to the office twice a week. 

I love to get my workouts done in the morning, so whether I am working at home or in the office I aim for a spin or hiit class first thing.

Once I’m home, I’ll grab a coffee and give my Boston Terrier (Harvey) a cuddle. On a Monday I’ll spend 30-40 mins planning my actions for the week. This helps me focus on the bigger projects I need to keep moving so I don’t get too bogged down in whatever might pop up over the week.

My day will then be a mix of meetings, internal, external and interviews. I have also been using a GCal feature to build in ‘focus time’ for specific projects. 

I always hold an hour over lunch – I’ll usually cook something fresh and eat away from my desk followed by a walk with Harvey.

Work slows down around 6, I’ll double check my to-do list and decide if anything left needs doing then or can wait until the morning. This really helps me relax for the evening knowing I haven’t forgotten anything which is so easy to do in a fast paced role where you juggle so much.

I’m trying to cut back on meat so in the evening I might experiment with something plant based cooking and watch a TV show.

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

Absolutely, Papercup was always a hybrid environment. There is a strong sense of autonomy so folks manage their workload including where they work. We have missed the office vibe, however, so most of us will come into the office at least twice a week now.

For me, a hybrid is perfect. I love being able to flex between time at home where I can really get into deep work and save time on commuting, and being in the office where chance conversations are easier to have and you get the social side of things.

This approach means I can make more time for things that really positively impact my mental health, like working out and spending time with my partner, friends and pup! Our office is also dog friendly, which is brilliant!

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

I try to see this as more of a blend than a balance. Even the visual of constantly trying to keep a set of scales even is a little anxiety inducing for me! Instead, I have learned to blend and understand there will be an ebb and flow to my work.

There will be quieter days where I can step away early and take advantage of a sunny afternoon, and there will be busier times where I might need to grind towards a deadline.

For me, the rigid separation just doesn’t work. I have tried hard boundaries like turning off email, and it just led to me feeling like I was failing myself in busy times.

I really value the trust and autonomy at Papercup – I get to manage my own schedule on my own terms. 

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

I’ve recently introduced a new wind-down/bedtime routine; I have a bit of an overactive mind and this can make it difficult to settle after a busy day.

Two things that have had a noticeable impact are minimising screen time (in particular avoiding social media!) and using an app like Calm or Headspace. I really enjoy having the audio to focus on and while I am no meditation pro, I’m finding it easier to switch off.

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

Happy: Why More or Less Everything is Absolutely Fine by Derren Brown is a brilliant, accessible intro into stoicism, which is a bit of a misunderstood philosophy. I give it a re-read every few years.

What You Do Is Who You Are: How to Create Your Business Culture by Ben Horowitz is a very tangible breakdown of what we mean by culture in a company.

Podcast wise, I regularly listen to HR Leaders with Chris Rainey, Coffee with a Recruiter from Jose Marchena and the HBR IdeaCast.

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

I’ve recently started using Audible. I used to read a lot on my commute and now that has been reduced to twice a week I’m not getting through as many books as I used to. As a pretty fast reader, I wasn’t initially convinced, but I really enjoy being able to use it while I’m walking the dog or cooking.

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

Maybe Patty McCord or Laszlo Bock. They both did some pretty game changing work in the People field and I expect they’d have some interesting insights!

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

Work life balance is very personal so take the time to figure out what works for you and expect to fail along the way! Once you have a good understanding of what good looks like for you – communicate this with your team and manager. This is a really great way to open up the conversation and respect one another’s boundaries.

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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.