Laila Kaiser is the Director, GTM & Growth Marketing at Channelnomics, a business strategy firm working with tech brands on their go-to-market strategies.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
My career has been deeply influenced by three things in particular: growing up as the ‘oddball’ in a scientific family; being a ‘global citizen’; and having a natural pull towards marketing.
I grew up in a household full of scientists, I was not one, so I was forever trying to translate my family’s chatter of scientific jargon into digestible, relatable language and stories. Who would have guessed that would become invaluable when my marketing work branched into the technology and engineering space.
I was born in Iran, and lived in Puerto Rico, Nairobi Kenya, and the USA. Since then, my work has taken me to Singapore, India, and Australia – which is now my home. The experience of being immersed in new and varied cultures really honed my affinity for diversity, curiosity, and adaptability.
My marketing chops were built at Nike early in my career. Although I had degrees in Marketing and Finance, there isn’t a better marketing and branding school than Nike. A true dream job, combining my passion for marketing, sport, and sustainability.
Soon enough I wanted to ride the dot.com wave, so I moved to San Francisco completely clueless! The principles of marketing remained the same, but I had to quickly put on my scientific hat again to learn and market multiple technologies to a very different type of customer.
Then came Cisco, where I found myself learning from and working with some of the best minds in business and technology. I thrived in this environment and as my roles evolved, Cisco took me from the USA to Singapore and India.
Today, I work in growth marketing out of Australia for an amazing global company named Channelnomics. Here, we work with the top tech brands and hyper-scale tech orgs to analyse, develop, enable and deploy go-to-market (GTM) strategies.
My wheelhouse is B2B(2C) marketing and demand generation. Working with technology leaders during this crazy time has been an invaluable experience as we help them succeed and transform ahead of the market.
2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
Right now, there’s no such thing as a typical workday for me! Most days include lots of (virtual) meetings and some weeks it’s back-to-back. Invariably I have very early mornings or extremely late nights (sometimes both) as I collaborate with my counterparts around the globe, in Singapore, New York, San Francisco and Europe.
Most of my career has been working with other time zones, so integrating my work and personal life feels quite natural. It just takes planning so that I balance either late or early days, ideally not both.
‘A day in the life’ now includes ongoing learning. From my perspective, the rate of transformation in B2B marketing over the last 18 months is unprecedented. Staying on top of and ahead of this transformation is essential. Traditional means of education are no longer relevant or timely.
That’s where I engage with SME communities, podcasts and online exchanges with experts and peers (Tex.inc) and integrate vital learnings into my work. I absolutely love evolving and it keeps things interesting and engaging for me.
The key for me is booking in conscious non-negotiable times for my family, exercise, and personal time. I need to be very disciplined. Now more than ever, meditation is essential. Mentors in my career encouraged me to use meditation even before it was cool.
I employ both TM and mindfulness techniques which allow me to restart my day at any time. I will also book in time for reflection to allow me to refocus and be at my peak.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Absolutely, and I am so grateful for that. I have been a hybrid worker ever since I got into tech-given technology enabled that connection. Culturally, Singapore and Australia seem to favour being in the office rather than working remotely and I love that because it lends itself more to ‘real’ connection. However, the pandemic has meant I work entirely from home.
My partner is also working from home at this time and sometimes we can be like ships-in-the-night, even under the same roof. We set aside time for family dinner at least 3 times a week and we have a regular dog walk and coffee to start the day, even if it’s just 15 mins.
One of the things I miss about going into the office is my commute time where I would listen to podcasts and use that time for reflection. Now I have to build reflection time into my day. The obvious downside of working 100 percent remotely is that the office is always open and for everyone. Setting work time boundaries and understanding others preferred worktimes is critical.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
Work-life balance has taken on a whole new approach in pandemic times. New rules had to be put into place as in the beginning, I noticed burnout across the board. In Sydney, we are now going on 12 weeks of full lockdown again, we’re home-schooling, and we work full time.
One positive aspect of working in the pandemic is the integration of life and work. I often marvel at the fact that we have been given this slice of life where we are in each other’s homes and around one another’s families as we work around the globe. My son knows every member of my team and has met most of my clients. I know my colleagues’ families, pets, and kids.
No amount of planning can prepare one for this new “grind”. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with the best people, doing incredible and meaningful work, and having fun in the process.
Recently I set up a workstation in my office for my 11 year old son Oscar who is home-schooling. He recently overheard a lively and productive meeting and asked if I was working or just having fun. I had to say, “both” and that’s because I love what I do and with whom I work.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
I started 2020 with a broken foot which complicated things greatly and my routines were interrupted, and habits changed. Then came lockdown and with that, home-schooling, and many poor habits crept back in slowly but surely.
I stopped eating regular meals, didn’t exercise, and developed a horrible sleep pattern due to global meetings that I was not managing appropriately. Winding down became binge watching everything from Homeland and Downtown Abbey to The Americans and Luther.
This lifestyle was counterproductive to both my personal and professional life, so I have made a concerted effort to introduce new systems and routines. First things first, I make my bed then meditate for a minimum of 10 mins. I worked out the hard way that I need 7 hours of sleep to perform optimally, and I need to fit in a walk at the beach where Oscar surfs to clear my head.
Changes I have made:
- Created a perfect home office. I leave my work and computer there and don’t bring it into other areas of the house.
- Ditched my printer and pens and went completely digital – OneNote has completely changed the game for me and increased my productivity.
- Stopped “doom scrolling” the news and spent 45 mins a day engaging with professional communities to put my finger on the pulse.
- Start the day with planning and calendar before opening my inbox.
- Propose and accept meetings based on their agendas and with consideration to each before I say yes. I’ve changed 60min meetings to 50mins because everyone is going through Zoom fatigue and needs a bio break.
- Carve out time to be mentored and mentor others – especially women who are struggling.
- Be mindful that other people are also struggling at different times and have different circumstances.
- Exercise in some form each day.
When things get hard, I just ask: what would Ted Lasso do?
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
Books: on my night stand I have Measure What Matters by John Doerr and A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle, and I will read anything by Brene Brown.
Podcasts: Fresh Air (NPR), Revisionist History with Malcolm Gladwell, Changing Channels by Larry Walsh, Marketing School with Neil Patel & Eric Siu, Friendsome and Thensome – a podcast developed by my BFFs is not only entertaining but relatable
LinkedIn Communities: There is also so much amazing content to engage with- I am loving Chris Walker’s B2B Marketing community.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
I am obsessed with early-stage technology and user experience. I am the person who volunteers for beta tests and tries the v1 of new tech gadgets.
- Mobility apps: being able to work from my smartphone in transit is essential
- BlinkList- 15 min summaries of the latest and best books
- myKinCloud: An app developed by dear friend Tiffany Meyers that deepens connections with your family through a range of shared exercises and techniques.
- Synchronize app: those with global meeting schedules.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Allyson Felix – Olympian, track and field bomb and young mother!
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Embrace adaptability and curiosity and help others if you are in your own head too much. Prioritise your mental, physical, and emotional health, and make time to meditate. Give yourself and others a break, everyone has their ups and downs.
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