Balancing the Grind with Leanne Isabella, Head of People & Culture at Hysata

Leanne Isabella is the Head of People & Culture at Hysata, a company on a mission is to accelerate the world’s shift away from fossil fuels to green hydrogen by delivering the world’s best electrolyser.

Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to?

I’m a creative, problem-solving geek who has had an amazing career in the world of tech start-ups and scale-ups. 

I love starting with a blank canvas, working closely with founders, and creating unique workplace cultures. I enjoy building teams from the ground up, with no preconceived ideas on how things should be, and with the freedom to test new ideas and push boundaries.  

My experience has seen me work across the entire HR function, from creative recruitment campaigns and curating some cool employee experiences to building high-performance cultures where people thrive. I’ve supported businesses as they scale to grow locally and overseas. With a focus on aligning business goals with people goals, I’ve drawn on people-first principles to create the best possible environment where everyone can thrive and succeed.

As well as working in a start-up I also mentor startups at the University of Wollongong’s IAccelerate.  Here I get to work with some incredible founders who have taken the leap of faith to leave their 9-5 jobs and embark on their own start-up journey. 

We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday?

I usually start my day by hitting the gym early and going for a walk with my dog to get energised for the day ahead. I kickstart work by checking emails and prioritising tasks, tackling the most important ones first during my peak morning focus.

In my role as a People & Culture at Hysata, my responsibilities span across various areas as I am establishing the entire P&C Function from scratch, including recruitment, HR system implementation, employee experience, board collaboration, community engagement, remuneration and benefits, training coordination, and P&C support for our leadership team. We have a great culture at Hysata and it’s important that we are able to scale that culture as we grow the business, that’s always a challenge in a startup.  

I like to take short breaks to stretch and prefer to talk to people in person rather than messaging or over email. Our recent office move to MM Beach in Port Kembla allows me to enjoy seaside walks during lunch where possible.

Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach in maintaining it?

While I genuinely love what I do, I sometimes find myself engrossed in work to the extent that it leaves little room for anything else, so, I’ve identified key indicators that help me recognise when the equilibrium is shifting too far towards work:

  • Insufficient time spent with my family.
  • Challenges in maintaining a regular exercise routine.
  • Struggling to honour personal commitments, such as charity work, mentoring obligations and community engagement activities.  Giving back is very important to me.   
  • Getting enough sleep.

These aspects are integral to who I am, and it remains a significant priority for me to ensure I can successfully balance these facets of my life.

Change is constant, and it’s essential for growth. Have you made any lifestyle changes in the past year to improve your work-life balance?

I’ve made a few changes this past year

I’ve become better at saying “no”. I really don’t like letting anyone down and in the past this has contributed to me overextending myself and burning out. Learning to decline additional commitments and responsibilities has helped me maintain balance.

Prioritising Self-Care: Identifying that I need time to incorporate self-care routines into my daily and weekly like exercise and spending quality time with loved ones.

Stepping out of my comfort zone and trying new things as this is where growth and transformation thrive. I’ve found that achieving success outside my comfort zone reaffirms my belief in my capabilities and boosts my self-esteem.

Also talking to friends, family, and professionals for emotional support and guidance in managing stress and achieving a healthier work-life balance.

We’re always on the lookout for new resources! Can you recommend any books, podcasts, or newsletters that have helped you in your journey towards balance.  

My favourite podcast is definitely The Startup Podcast by Yaniv Bernstein and Chris Saad, it has helped with my own journey of navigating ambiguity in a startup and it has a great focus on the people side of startups. 

The Mel Robbins podcast is also a goodie as well as How I work by Dr Amantha Imber who interviews some of the world’s leading innovators about their habits, rituals and strategies for structuring their day. 

Books: Definitely Atomic Habits by James Clear and probably the first book I ever read when I started my People and Culture career was Maverick by Riccardo Semler. It really set the scene for me and the type of people and culture professional I wanted to be.

Final Words of Wisdom: Achieving work-life balance is an ongoing process that varies from person to person. It often involves setting boundaries, prioritising self-care, and learning to say no when necessary. Remember that balance doesn’t mean equal time for work and life but finding a blend that aligns with your values and goals. Continuously reassess and adjust your approach as your life circumstances change and remember to always be kind to yourself!

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.