HR & Culture / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Liam McNally, Diversity & Inclusion Partner at GitLab

Liam McNally is the Diversity & Inclusion Partner at GitLab, where he is responsible for diversity, inclusion and belonging (DIB) initiatives for employees.

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

I have been working in various roles within the People & Talent space for 10 years. I started as a recruitment consultant within the finance industry, then moved to tech when I moved to Australia in 2014.

I moved into different Talent & Culture roles at start-ups, where I was involved in building the culture manifesto and employee value proposition, hiring as well as building the whole foundation for people ops. 

I joined GitLab initially as a Senior Recruiter, quickly moving into the Recruiting Manager role, with the goal from the outset to build a diverse and inclusive team within engineering. I recently moved to a Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging (DIB) Partner role. 

DIB is fundamental to the success of GitLab, based on the premise that GitLab is a place where people from every background and circumstance feel like they belong and can contribute. 

In my role, I am responsible for DIB initiatives to ensure that employees from every group can have their voices heard and listened to, as well as provide opportunities for allies to engage with groups and learn.

I work within the team to build programs both externally and internally that will create a more diverse and inclusive business, but also a business where every team member feels that they belong.

This is done through consulting with senior leadership, building mentorship programs, developing connections through Team Member Resource Groups (Employee Resource Groups) and challenging the way we do things. 

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

Being in Australia, I work very flexibly around different time zones with many of our team across the world. 

I usually get up at 6.30AM which will allow me to have some time to connect with colleagues in US or South American time zones. I will usually have a couple of Zoom meetings whether that be a coffee chat, or a work meeting. Once that is wrapped, usually 10AM, I will head to the gym and get a solid one-hour workout. 

From 11AM, I will have breakfast and get down to doing work in a  no-meeting space. This could be iterating on process, building or developing existing or new programs, or communicating with team members asynchronously on any blockers I may have.

I usually have a 20-30 minute nap around 2PM to refresh and then eat some lunch before getting back to work around 3-4PM depending on whether I have meetings with the EMEA time zones. I will wrap up work around 4.30-6.30PM depending on when I have started in the morning.

One thing I love about my work day is that I have complete flexibility on my day, allowing me to truly integrate my life with my work. 

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

GitLab is a fully remote organisation, with people in over 65 countries who are expected to work their workday in their  time zone rather than assimilating to the USA, where a little more than half of our team members are based. 

I have been working remotely for three years and find that remote work presents unique career opportunities. It has allowed me to work for organisations based in Silicon Valley where I would have never had the opportunity to work for otherwise. It has also allowed me to have a much more fulfilling life. I don’t have to wait until 5.30PM to get to the gym, have that dentist appointment or have a coffee with a friend. 

I am also much more productive, being able to achieve results quicker as I have fewer distractions. I am able to take action more easily, which ultimately allows me to take more advantage of our unlimited leave policy. 

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

For me work-life balance is about having the ability to integrate my work and life. Having to take out 8-10 hours (including commuting time) of your day to one single thing is difficult for most people, but many have to.

I am able to work, take regular breaks to get to the gym, do groceries, take a friend’s dog for a walk. It is very important for me to have that integration in order to be productive. I achieve this by being strict with my flexibility, an oxymoron of sorts.

By putting work time in my diary, I am able to be productive for an hour or two, and then have that break to clear my mind and ensure that when the day is done, I am not overburdened with life’s many tasks. 

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

One thing I started is daily naps, which have made me much more productive and I hardly ever have an afternoon lull. This has also led me to no longer drinking coffee, which has made me less anxious, which in turn has made me more productive both with work but also with my life. I just seem to have much more energy with this new habit. 

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

I recently read The 5 Dualities of Diversity and Inclusion by Monica Diaz, which was very enlightening. I think if you read this as a leader or aspiring leader, it will go a long way in how you move from intent to impact from a D&I perspective. 

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig is a great fiction novel that will allow anyone who is having a tough time in 2020 to gain a new perspective on life.

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

The Calm app, which is a meditation app, offering a catalogue of meditation for various different predicaments. It also provides ASMR and sleep meditations which I have found amazing as someone who has a very active mind before bed.

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

Assuming I could pick absolutely anyone, it would be Serena Williams. She is one of the most successful sports women in history, a mother and part of a huge family. As the oldest of seven, I understand the responsibility that brings. I would love to understand how she manages being an elite athlete and juggling life’s many responsibilities. 

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

The best way to think of work is that it is and should be a part of your life, rather than a separate component from it. Do something you love doing or for a business you are able to be passionate about. Then figure out how you can integrate all of the modalities of life.

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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.