HR & Culture / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Lisa Lie, Head of People & Culture at Half Dome and Founder at Learna

Lisa Lie is the Founder at Learna and Head of People & Culture at Half Dome, which combines marketing and technology to deliver compellingly simple business solutions for companies.

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

Sure thing. I started out in advertising because I was curious about people. What motivated them, why they preferred certain things, how they went about their professions and what they were looking for.

My career shift took place when I was leading a high-performing team and realised I was much more invested in helping people grow than helping brands grow. From that point, I started searching for and learning everything I could about people and what they needed to feel valued and motivated at work.

In 2019, I was offered an opportunity to follow my passion, and I took a leap, moving to a Digital Media Agency (Half Dome) as their Head of People & Culture. Sounds pretty straightforward, right? It wasn’t. Half Dome was in complete start-up mode with founders who shared my love of challenging the status quo.

They gave me their unwavering support to try new things and the culture we created wouldn’t be what it is today without this. Together we effectively set out to create the workplace we always wanted from scratch, an exciting opportunity that has come with great reward.

Over the three years I’ve been with Half Dome, we’ve continually pushed to experiment and try new ways of working, and it’s created a highly motivated and happy team. 

Working in an environment that fosters curiosity, problem-solving and shaking things up led me to want to create a new way for people to learn the skills they need at work. As a result, I’m currently developing a micro-learning app for people skills at work (Learna), designed with Gen Z in mind and informed by modern ways of working.

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

Every day is completely different, but one thing is consistent – mornings are a wild ride in our house with two young children.

Take this week, for example – one morning, I was doing the Macarena at 6.30 am to encourage them to get dressed, and the next, we were working through a full-blown meltdown about porridge. Sometimes I calm the morning chaos, other times I contribute to it. You win some, you lose some.

A recent Monday went like this:

  • 5.50 am wake up from my son for breakfast (he’s my alarm clock)
  • Morning wild ride of getting ready (as above)
  • Walking my daughter to school
  • Checking out my list to understand what outcomes I want to achieve from the day
  • Meeting with the App Developer for Learna
  • Reading through a coaching brief and preparing for a coaching session with one of the Half Dome team leads. Creating a project plan for a new experiment at Half Dome. Mornings are the best time for me to do focused, independent work.
  • Taking the dog for a walk around the block and listening to a podcast, cutting it short to catch up on the massive amounts of life admin that come with Prep and school
  • Lots of phone calls about recruitment as the Half Dome team grows, plus checking in with my team on the week ahead
  • Realising that 3.30 pm has already rolled around and rushing to school pick up
  • Trying to figure out what I can serve up for dinner that will actually get eaten
  • Reading library books to keep my children in front of said dinner
  • Bedtime for both children, I love winding down with them using HeadSpace at the end of the day
  • Running out the door to catch up with a friend at the gym (notice more emphasis on the catch-up than the actual exercise part)
  • Wine, dinner, and a debrief on our days with my husband before we move into getting things ready for the next day (attempting to make the morning smoother with less rush)
  • Finishing off work on process and ways of working updates to better support performance development at Half Dome
  • Catching up on emails and prepping for Half Dome and Learna meetings for the week ahead
  • 10 pm (ish) in bed. On an ambitious day, I might be reading future work-type articles. On a day I just need to switch off, it’s more of a mindless Instagram scroll/random news article read

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

To me, the term’ work-life balance’ is about achieving an ideal state and implies a trade-off between the two. This mindset can bring on a lot of guilt by viewing work and life as competing forces that have to be compartmentalised.

I prefer to aim for ‘work-life integration’ where we can openly bring work and life closer together.

What does this actually mean? Well, less about what’s ‘work time’ and what’s ‘personal time’ and focusing instead on the best time to do these things. This means letting go of the traditional workday or hours to normalise flexibility and focus on the outcomes I want to achieve that day. I will highlight this is my aim, not always my reality.

We often think of work-life balance or integration as the individual’s responsibility. However, organisations and their cultures are a fundamental component in the equation. I’m part of a team at Half Dome that prioritises flexibility and choice for people to support work-life integration. We share our learnings with others to ensure we’re doing our part in shifting mindsets around how work can happen.

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

Things I’ve started:

  • Understanding the best time of day for me to do different types of work. I now purposely meeting stack after lunch, and save any meeting prep or focused work for around either 9am or 8pm, depending on what’s on for the day    
  • Swimming in the bay. I started with friends in the middle of a Melbourne winter and covid lockdown and have kept it up. It’s really, really cold but it’s so good for your health and wellbeing.

Things I’ve stopped:

  • Trying to complete an endless ‘to-do list’ or reach ‘inbox zero’. It might sound obvious to some, but I’ve accepted that the very nature of work means that there’s always more you can do. I’ve been able to gradually shift my mindset to become more outcome based. One of the ways I do this is writing my list at the start of the week with the question, “what does good look like?”, top of mind.  
  • The morning rush before work and school. I think back to how we used to live in 2019, and I will never go back to that. Of course, we get up pretty early, but we now try and allow enough time to make the ‘getting ready for the day’ routine more enjoyable.

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

I love a good podcast. The four I have on rotation right now are:

  • How I Work: Working habits and strategies from interesting people
  • The Imperfects: Awesome and honest conversations about wellbeing
  • This Working Life: Work stories, experiments, and ideas
  • Show & Tell: Something mindless to laugh out loud to

In terms of books, these are my go-to recommendations:

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

Any and every working parent. We’re all muddling, juggling, balancing, or trying to harmonise work and life in different ways. No one has the perfect solution, but we all know greater flexibility at work not only has an impact on work outcomes but also on every aspect of our lives. 

By being honest about our own experiences, supporting each other, improving our organisations, and bringing flexible solutions to the forefront, I hope we can see more of a ‘work-life integration’ approach for all.

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

There are always problems, but there are always more solutions to problems.

The more we can share how we’re going, how we’re juggling, balancing, or muddling through life, the more we can support each other and find solutions. 

I know the next few years will see an even bigger shift in how work can happen. It’s up to individuals and organisations to see the opportunity to work together to become more flexible and outcome-oriented for the greater good – not just stick with ‘the way it’s always been done’. Reminiscing doesn’t create progress. 

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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.