Balancing the Grind with Lauren Mills, Chief Of Staff at Cloudsmith

Lauren Mills is the Chief Of Staff at Cloudsmith, the leading Package / Artifact Management SaaS for engineers looking to set up a secure, cloud-native artifact repository.

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

I’m Lauren, Chief of Staff at Cloudsmith Ltd. I’m from Northern Ireland. I work for a Package Management Software company called Cloudsmith Ltd. We’re a fairly small company right now with a headcount of 40 but scaling fast and it’s super exciting!

I have worked in the public sector for many years, managing CEO offices in Northern Ireland’s local government. I fell into my role at Cloudsmith almost by accident, the best accident I ever made!

I often talk to candidates who apply for roles with us at Cloudsmith and tell the same story which is entirely truthful – I began my career in Human Resources as a junior officer, I was very lucky to have opportunities to develop myself and my skills and I worked up the ranks to mid-management level, but after 10 years I was still looking more. I never understood what that ‘more’ was.

Now I do: more responsibility, more respect, more challenges, more learning, more trust, ironically, more work. I found that in Cloudsmith – it saved me! Saved me from a life of the same daily life, pushing paper around and never really feeling like I was making much of an impact beyond the moment in time.

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

Alexa wakes me with the local news headlines at 7am, my husband or I boil the kettle, let the dog out and I do a quick check of emails to ensure there is nothing that requires immediate attention. If not, I’m back in bed to enjoy that cuppa for another 30 mins and catch up on slack, twitter, news etc.

I’m at my desk around 8:30am. My first task is to review my emails, Slack and to-do list – I’m still old school with a written task list everyday, it’s a visual reminder for prioritising! 

My mornings are generally reactive to what’s been going on since I logged off last and alternating between admin duties and staff needs/requests.

I generally try to catch up with the members of the CEO office in the mornings, usually our CEO, Alan Carson first to check in on how he is, if I can help with anything, note any concerns, urgent correspondence or issues. 

I generally grab lunch and bring it to my desk – that’s some time to dig back into emails and slack.

As CoS I juggle a number of different tasks, with varying degrees of priority. I sit in the centre of our 40-strong workforce so there are many areas of needs that I can tend to. In order to compartmentalise my time, I block out chunks of time specifically dedicated to strategy and operational projects that are ongoing.

On a Monday we have an All-Hands company get-together for some #mondaymotivation, celebrate wins from the previous week and goals for the week ahead. We have a daily sync for our management team to report on blockers or business tasks.

I like to aim for “pens-down” around 6.30pm. By that time I’ll have started my to-do list for tomorrow and set myself aside some allocated times in my calendar to ensure I dedicate that time to starting and completing the task – I get a sense of accomplishment this way. I’m always online however – it’s just in my nature to make myself available for queries and my nosiness means I hate to miss out on anything!

My evenings are spent on dog walks by the Northern Irish coast with my partner talking through our days. We have a mutual agreement to stop talking about work by the time we get home – and on school nights we’re a fairly average chilled couple with a boxset to get stuck into! 

Bedtime is generally 11pm – Rinse and Repeat!

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

Indeed it does and I’m so thankful for it. In 2021, we decided to make Cloudsmith a remote-first company and it was important that we understood what that meant in terms of our expectations as employer and employee. 

Since the pandemic, we live in a whole new world with an evolved working culture that can have many assumptions – one being that you’re always at your desk waiting on calls, emails and messages that require an immediate response!

We introduced a Family Friendly Flexible Working policy at Cloudsmith and as such we don’t have set lunch or break times – it makes running an errand, doing a school run or walking the dog easier to manage. We trust that our employees use their time wisely – as a start up, it’s fairly obvious if there is a break in the chain as we all rely on each other to make things happen.

In this semi-post-learn-to-live-with-it COVID world we have a blended working practice, we don’t have mandated days as a company but each team identifies their own. It’s really important to keep communication strong so it’s vital that we ‘talk’ and there are obvious benefits of doing that face to face. In a lot of ways we’re still learning as the world moves tentatively along.

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

Work-life balance is very important to me. I work hard to play hard and I’m fairly good with boundaries. I accepted my role at Cloudsmith knowing it wasn’t a 9-5 role and I’m perfectly fine with that. 

As my role is one that sits in the middle of all departments, I’m the contact for many different things and the queries can be triggered at various times throughout the day/week/month.

I don’t mind answering a message or email in the evenings or weekends, especially if it’s knowledge I have to hand or if it allows a process to move forward quickly. Managing tasks across time zones would be difficult otherwise.

Both my partner and I have high pressure roles so we understand one another if we need to do extra hours. We balance that understanding with treating ourselves to meals out and holidays when we can, and at those times, we switch off entirely (doesn’t always mean that the conversation doesn’t turn to work at the odd time!). 

I’m a pretty open book, I feel strongly about transparency and my colleagues know my lifestyle pretty well, and respect that too. If I have a personal issue to deal with during working hours, I feel comfortable letting my colleagues know I’m out or offline for whatever time I need, knowing that they’ll understand and that’s a great vibe to have. There is also an epic trust between my line manager and myself, he knows I’ll make that time up.

Travel is a huge part of my life – it’s my one thing in life I’ve always had outside of everything; outside of work, relationships, stress – of course the global pandemic didn’t help with the planning of such adventures in the last couple of years but I made the most of it with my partner exploring locally and meeting up with friends and family as much and as safely as we could but we have plans to make up for that this year and Remote working really helps with that. I love that I can book a week in Europe with some sunshine and bring along my laptop to allow me to work half days – getting the best of both worlds. 

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

I took out a gym membership! I can’t say I love exercise or that it’s had any kind of miraculous effect on my life! But there was a reason behind it:-

I was aware that remote working could easily create a foul mindset of ‘same thing, different day’ after a long career of the opposite and that establishing a routine was a good thing – however, I was mindful that the routine couldn’t just be waking, working and sleeping.

I don’t do any kind of crazy rigorous workout! It’s just a place to go, with a focus and target to feel that sense of accomplishment afterwards. I adore life so being more mindful of my physical and mental health is definitely a priority – particularly considering the madness of the world in the past couple of years.

I also like to challenge myself so I ordered a wedding dress one size down – the gym was necessary to make that happen and it was a goal I absolutely couldn’t avoid! It worked!

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

In terms of books and podcasts, I’ll always choose a biography over anything else. My favourite genre will always be motivational, mindset and education and usually include or are inspired by leaders so I adore Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Podcast and Steven Bartlett’s Diary of a CEO

Or a bit of fun factoring with Jonathan Van Ness in Getting Curious. 

A local photographer from Northern Ireland, Lauren Chambers, has an awesome podcast based on honest conversations about life as a woman in modern times – she covers Mum Life, Wife Life, Boss Lady – it’s real, emotive and inspiring @lifefromlit. My awesome wedding photographer turned into a new friend too!

The Daily Pep is worth another bookmark for a lil lighthearted daily encouragement!

If I’m on holiday, I’ll choose a Nicolas Sparks or a Marian Keyes novel to relax and get lost in. 

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

Spotify: I’m a huge music lover and Spotify is a constant for me.

Evernote: I use my Evernote daily – it’s full of little notes that I refer to all the time! I have a joint notebook I share with my husband for travelling, saving boarding passes and tickets etc.

OKI Robot Vacuum: We call him Kevin – he lives under the sofa and is programmed to hoover the entire house every second day! Absolute legend!

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

Sarah Friar, CEO of Nextdoor and one of Cloudsmith’s investors is a woman in business I absolutely admire. I’m always intrigued by her tenacity, knowledge and ambition, all the while, raising a family. I’m genuinely baffled how she does it!

I often remark on how I want to be Sarah Friar when I grow up! Truth is, she’s on a whole other level, and that’s ok!

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

Finding balance is entirely a personal thing. Everyone deals with everything differently. 

A part of my job is to encourage people to take breaks and use annual leave in order to avoid any form of burn out. That advice I’d give to every level of employee. We should all consider our physical and mental health a lot more than we do. 

We spend a lot of our lives working, it’s so very important to enjoy that work but it’s also vital to ensure that we embrace time away from that work. Life is too short to lose out on the good things – both personally and professionally.

I’d also say, and I speak from experience, don’t chase the job, money or title – choose the right people, culture fit is so incredibly important to maintain a healthy and happy workplace.

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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.