Laura Brooks is the PR & Comms Director at Tessian, a cybersecurity start-up on a mission is to secure the human layer.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I’ve always worked in B2B comms, starting my career journey in-house at global technology company Thales where I supported the external and internal communications teams at the UK headquarters. It was my introduction into brand messaging, comms plans and senior stakeholder management.
From there, I moved into the agency world, joining the B2B team at global tech PR agency Hotwire. My first year was all about learning the PR ropes – pitching journalists, building relationships, and drafting content.
I progressed to Senior Account Manager over the three years at the agency, becoming the account lead for clients spanning cybersecurity, fintech, big data and martech. I was incredibly lucky to have an amazing manager to learn from and was surrounded by very talented and creative people who have shaped my understanding of what a good PR person looks like.
I left agency life three years ago to go and build the PR function at a cybersecurity start-up called Tessian. Over the past three years, I’ve been leading our PR and external communications strategy at this incredibly fast-growing company – and I have recently just taken on internal communications too.
I’ve been building up awareness of Tessian in the UK and US markets through media relations, podcasting, thought leadership and social media. I’ve also led the comms strategy for two rounds of funding – and it doesn’t look like we are slowing down anytime soon!
2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
My day always starts with a coffee, while triaging emails and Slack messages, reading the news, and responding to anything urgent. As much as I can be, I really strive to be a zero-inbox person, it doesn’t always happen.
Then I’ll take a look through my to-do list to determine what needs my attention that morning. I tend to do most ‘deep work’ first thing as things get busier in the afternoon when my US colleagues and PR agency come online.
That could be working on our latest research campaign, working on our brand messaging, building out the thought leadership tracks for our spokespeople, drafting award entries, or recording new podcast episodes. It varies day to day.
Before I log off, I’ll write my to-do list for the next day. Writing it down the day before is a kind of mental sign-off and helps me not stress about action items after I’ve logged off.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
At the start of the pandemic, our employees have been working remotely and it’s slightly maddening to me that I’ve now been working from home for two years.
At first, it was a novelty. The extra hour in bed, no commuting etc. But the reality of working in a one bedroom apartment soon had its frustrations and I found that I was working longer hours because there wasn’t a lot else to do in a lockdown!
However, as restrictions have eased, our company introduced a new flexible work policy which allows employees to choose how and where they want to work post-pandemic (i.e. office based, fully remote or a combination of the two).
This has meant that I’ve been able to move out of London, work from home and still have the option of going into the office if I want to. It’s the best of both worlds.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
I think a good work-life balance is all about setting boundaries and focusing on what makes you happy so that when you get to the weekend or a holiday, you’re not completely burned out. And to not feel guilty about this!
For me, I’m going to be working late, then I’ll maybe start later to ensure I have the time to do the things I want (or need) to do.
And I think it’s so important to recognize when the balance feels off and have the confidence to say – either to yourself or to your manager – “this isn’t working and something needs to change.” So achieving the goal of work-life balance, ultimately, comes down to good communication.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
I’ve tried to implement a ‘no meetings Friday’ so that I can use that time to focus on the big things that need my attention. I’ve also started to carve out 60 minutes a week in my diary for ‘learning’. At the moment, I’m currently tuning into a few online courses on brand management and internal communications strategies.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
A couple of the best career progression books I’ve read are Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office by Lois D. Frankel and How to Own the Room by Viv Groskop – they both have lots of great tips and advice that you can easily put into practice.
For newsletters, I really like the emails from MarketingProfs Training for practical tips and ideas for marketing and PR campaigns and Fortune’s The Broadsheet is great for quick overviews of interesting news stories.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
Most probably my phone and, like most people I talk to, the app I’m currently using everyday is Wordle. It’s become a daily competition in my house.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Whitney Wolfe Herd. Looking at what she achieved at Bumble, being a new mum, and the steps she’s taken to address burnout in her own company, she’d be really interesting to learn from.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Be kind to yourself and listen to what you need. If you’re having one of those days where you literally can’t do anything, then take a break. You’re going to be so much more productive and creative if you just switch off and come back later, rather than waiting for that inspiration to hit.
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