HR & Culture / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Kirstin Hunter, Chief People, Risk and Legal Officer at Brighte

Kirstin Hunter is the Chief People, Risk and Legal Officer at Brighte, an Australian start-up on a mission to make every home sustainable.

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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 Chief People, Risk and Legal Officer at Brighte, a rocketship start-up that is on a mission to make every home sustainable.

I have a pretty unique career background that encompasses entrepreneurship, management consulting and law. Before joining Brighte I was a co-founder and the CEO at Future Super, the superannuation fund that invests, advocates and campaigns for a future free from climate change and inequality.

Going further back I was a strategy consultant at Bain & Company and a solicitor at Herbert Smith Freehills.

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

A lot of my day involves talking to people – between the team that I manage, the relationships that I have to build and maintain across the business, relationships with external entities (like regulators) that’s a lot, but then on top of that I very actively build my network of people who either can help me in my role or who might want to join our team.

Typically I try and keep one day a week relatively meeting-free to get my deep thinking work done, but on other days I’ll have a mix of 1:1s with members of my team, group meetings with my team or with our executive leadership team, committees (like our risk and compliance or credit committee), and check-ins with people across the business.

Because so much of my time is working with people I manage to keep a pretty tight workday (can’t meet with people when they’re not working, right?) so I generally start at around 8.45am, and provided I manage to keep on top of my actions over the course of the day, I shut down by 5.30pm. It’s rare that I work later than 6pm or on the weekend these days.

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

Yes absolutely. I mean, we’ve all been fully remote for the last 16 weeks with the Sydney lockdown, but even before lockdown Brighte was very flexible, allowing anyone to work from home on a day to day basis.

Coming back from lockdown we’re looking to move to more of a deliberately hybrid model and are making some changes to facilitate this at the company level.

I fit my office attendance in to my personal routine – I have shared custody of my daughter so the days when I either drop her off or pick her up from school tend to be the days I head to the office, otherwise if there’s no need to leave home I’ll usually take the opportunity to work from home.

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

Early in my career someone shared an equation around work-life balance that has always stuck with me.

If x = the amount of your self-worth that you associate with work, and y = the amount of your discretionary energy that you spend at work, then sustainability (i.e. work life balance) is when x = y. How you get x to equal y is by having a strong “Z” – i.e. all the things in life that give you energy and satisfaction and self-worth outside of work.

And here’s the trick – you don’t achieve work life balance by focusing on the work bit – you have to focus on the LIFE bit as a priority, and then let work fill the gaps.

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

I have recently started a (mostly) meeting-free day each week, and I like nothing more on these days than heading to a café with my notebook and doing some big picture thinking and planning.

This may be about work (e.g. figuring out my priorities for the team for the current quarter) or personal (e.g. am I showing up to work in line with my values, am I doing things within and outside of work to progress these).

This is some of the most productive thinking I do – something about the white noise of a café and lack of computer – and it sets me up for work for the rest of the week.

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

I love (and come back to time and time again) The Hard Thing About Hard Things (Ben Horwitz), Radical Candor (Kim Scott), and Powerful (Patty McCord).

I also read a lot of fiction from writers of diverse backgrounds – I could not recommend this more highly, I didn’t realise how pale, stale and male my reading list was until I started to do this.

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

None that are interesting – my phone and laptop are the tools of my trade of course. Maybe Audible, or BorrowBox (which is the free audiobook app that you can access through local libraries)? I do a lot of driving so I listen to a lot of audiobooks.

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

I do actually read a lot of biographies (which give an insight into work life balance) – so I can’t think of anyone else who I’d add to this list!

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

Only that work life balance is a must-have, not a nice-to-have. Its meaning will change at different stages of your career and life, but in my experience I can’t sustain my energy at work for long if my life balance is out of whack.

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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.