Balancing the Grind with Liz Ross, Hearts and Minds at Dovetail

Liz Ross is the Hearts and Minds at Dovetail, a company on a mission is to enable the world to create better products and services through deep customer understanding.

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

Before my move into tech, I spent my time marketing insurance. The challenges of marketing something that people deem a grudge purchase and a generally dry subject matter moulded me into the marketer I am today. I was forced to understand the audience and communicate how a product or service can add value to the customer.

Gone are the days of speaking to the audience about things they may or may not even care about; it is all about measurable customer centricity and messaging and positioning to match. To this day, I hold marketers with experience in B2B Financial Services in high regard—they’re known to be some of the most robust and enterprising marketers around.

After leaving the insurance industry, I moved into the technology space. I can say that while I am marketing vastly different products and services, the importance of solving for the customer is the same.

After cutting my teeth at Microsoft and being exposed to expert global marketing programs, I made the move to Dovetail, a rapidly growing Sydney-based startup that helps teams worldwide understand their customers, make better decisions, and do great work.

I lead a small but mighty team that drives revenue growth by developing engaging integrated marketing programs that build brand preference and drive customer action. We work towards winning the hearts and minds of our audiences through powerful storytelling.

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

  • Wake up at 6:30 for my favourite rhythm riding class at Cycology Club—Usually, my sunrise alarm clock helps me wake up naturally, but these cold mornings are extra rough, so I had to opt for the five-second get-out bed technique.
  • A quick walk to work for a scheduled 8 am coffee meeting with an incredible Marketing Manager candidate where we discussed the role, her experience, and what she’s looking for in her next opportunity.
  • Our fortnightly all-hands kicks off at nine, where our Head of Product, Brian, runs through a refreshed strategy and goals, followed by an open leadership Q&A session.
  • I try to batch my Slack messages and Front emails together so that when I check in, I can action them accordingly. What action I take next falls into three baskets.
    • Basket one, this will take me less than 2-5 minutes to action
    • Basket two, this will take me more than 5 minutes to action and requires some attention (and some blocked out time in my diary), and
    • Bucket three, this is an interesting read or a nice to have email that I look forward to engaging with during my allotted balcony time.
  • At 11 am, I’ve set aside some balcony time. We seldom have time to reflect during our day-to-day life, to sit up on the balcony and contemplate what’s happening on the dance floor. I spend this time journaling to record things worth remembering and grapple with things worth thinking about, including lessons, perspective, gratitude, and vision. I pick a couple of these questions to answer during the hour:
    • Feelings. What has negatively impacted my mood? What am I feeling anxious, guilty, or angry about? What are the needs of others in my mind? What do I need to stop thinking about?
    • Lessons. What am I learning? What do I wish I knew? What unanswered questions would I like to have answered?
    • Success. What can I celebrate? What has been a win? When have I been smiling? What has felt like success?
    • Challenges. What is the biggest problem I have and why? What has been challenging? Where am I feeling stuck? What have been sources of discouragement? What needs planning?
  • At Midday, the whole company hops downstairs for delicious rice paper rolls and a lunch and learn where our Head of Sales, Alex, dives into some of our enterprise pricing and packaging changes.
  • One of our incredible Marketing Managers, Carlyn, facilitates a roundtable discussion at 1 pm, where we work through the focus areas and general goals for our Employer Brand team over the coming quarter.
  • We’ve had lots of exciting new joiners, so I’ve set aside some time at 2 pm to go for a walk and cold brew from Sample Coffee to get to know our new Creative Director, Marina. Marina joins us to supercharge our creative studio, and we chat about some exciting new projects on the horizon.
  • All hopped up on cold brew; I joined Sean (the content king himself) at 3 pm to map out the content strategy for our new multimedia content series celebrating the dedication, ingenuity, and creativity of best-in-class designers working in well-known organisations around the world.
  • At 5 pm, I do a quick run through any tasks I didn’t get around to in the day, blocking out chunks of time to tackle them in the coming days
  • It’s home time, so to create boundaries between work and home, I leave my laptop in the office at 6 pm and pop out for a spot of dinner at Jane.

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

With leading organisations like Twitter, Dropbox, Atlassian, and Stripe prioritising a remote-first employee experience, Dovetail bucks the trend with its belief that world-class in-person office culture is still the best way for high-performing, creative teams to thrive.

The advantages of a designed, curated office environment for collaboration and creativity are hard to overlook. While most Dovetailers spend, on average, four days in the office, I crave the structure of five days.

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

The lines between work and life are often blurred in our hyper-connected world. I try to be as disciplined as possible in creating boundaries. My approach is not to allow my workday to seep too heavily into my downtime so that I can switch off completely.

I intentionally create that boundary by leaving my laptop exclusively in the office and by not having any work applications on my phone except my calendar so that I can check in on my upcoming meetings. The aim is to hustle efficiently when in the office and completely switch off when not.

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

  • Phone boundaries. When visiting my friend Clare in Amsterdam, I’d see her and her fabulous partner Brad demarcate their bedroom as a phone-free zone. Ever since seeing this example of boundaries, I’ve done the same and it has changed my life.
  • Scheduling. I view my day as chunks of time and assign activity blocks this way.
  • Notifications. I have no notifications on my phone (besides badges when unlocked, and allowing calls to come through). I find that the person contacting you will often prefer a considered response instead of just shooting something back so I split my comms up relative to time at work and time at home.
  • Uni-tasking. I try to dedicate my time to one task at any given time. It’s easy to pretend you can multitask, but it’s a myth—the human brain can only house one conscious thought at a time.
  • Golden task. I write down the one thing I want to complete that day. Every day, things crop up, but I’ll make sure to finish that crucial thing.

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

The most instrumental books I have read over the years relating to self-improvement within a work setting include Scrum by Jeff Sutherland, Start with Why by Simon Sinek, Radical Candor by Kim Scott, and The Making of a Manager by Julie Zhou.

Great podcasts that I’d recommend are How I Built This with Guy Raz, Masters of Scale, a podcast hosted by Reid Hoffman, and Fast Track: Career conversations with Margie Hartley.

All these sources have helped me foster habits that make me a better employee, colleague, and mentor and aid in clarifying my thoughts and processes.

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

  • We use Slack to communicate with colleagues on the internal Dovetail Slack and customers on the public Dovetail Slack.
  • The whole organisation utilises Notion as our home for all work.
  • The focus to-do app is a Pomodoro timer for when I want to be ultra-focused.

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

Heidi Myers, Director of Marketing at Figma.

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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.