Founders / Growth / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Lucinda Hartley, Co-Founder & Chief Growth Officer of Neighbourlytics

Lucinda Hartley is the Co-founder and Chief Growth Officer of Neighbourlytics, a social data analytics platform helping property developers and governments map how cities work.

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

Where you live – your postcode –  is as likely to affect your life expectancy as your genetic code, and I want to help change that. 

I’m an urban designer turned entrepreneur and co-founder of Neighbourlytics, a social analytics platform for neighbourhoods. We harness rich digital data about what people are doing and valuing in relation to local neighbourhoods so that we can provide property developers and governments with unique insights about neighbourhood vibrancy and social life.

We kicked off three years ago and are now working with 60+ of the world’s leading city makers in 12 countries. COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of local neighbourhoods. Right now, we’re busy working on bringing recent, reliable data to inform recovery. 

I’ve spent my career looking at developing new solutions to improving the social sustainability of cities. A decade ago I set aside my traditional urban design career designing stadiums and streets to take up a role working with informal settlements in SE Asia.

There I saw first hand the impact that neighbourhoods have on wellbeing. Following this I had the opportunity to work on the creation of Sustainable Development Goal 11 (Cities) with UN-Habitat and got excited about the power of goals, measures and data to drive change. 

Returning to Australia, I got excited about the need to improve social connection in our cities and launched CoDesign Studio – a placemaking consultancy that has helped governments and developers deliver over 100 creative neighbourhood renewal projects.

Now I’m focusing on Neighourlytics and how big data can be used to transform our cities. There have been a few career chapters, and more to come, but all focusing on solving the same issue of creating places for people. 

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

I’m a super super early riser. I aim to get up at 4am on weekdays. I try to meditate or at least do some journaling with a strong coffee, before diving into whatever critical work tasks I need to take care of for the day.

That could be writing a proposal, responding to important emails, writing a blog. I find my 9-5 work day is almost entirely taken up with meetings, so I try to do any deep thinking or strategy work in the wee hours. 

Then I’ll go for a run or do pilates around 6-7am before turning my attention to my kids. 7-9am is a mayhem of breakfast, packing lunches, teeth and arguing as to why they have to put sunscreen on – again. Once the kids are off to school and kinder, I start my proper work day. 

The mornings are full, but I generally don’t work in the evenings. I used to work late in the evening but since having kids I’ve switched my schedule to get up early instead. Evenings are for Netflix or wine. 

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

We have only introduced remote working during the pandemic. Like many businesses, we’re surprised at how well it has worked, and the flexibility it offers staff. It’s also allowed us to employ staff in other locations, which we hadn’t previously considered. 

That said, I personally don’t like working from home. I like the routine of leaving home. And as an extrovert, I do my best thinking with others – usually out loud with a whiteboard. Also my job mostly involves having meetings with my team or clients, so working from home can mean 8 hours of zoom calls which isn’t fun for anyone.

But the concept of working from ‘anywhere’ is very liberating. In pre-pandemic times, I would travel a lot, and then get behind on team and office matters. In future I look forward to being able to travel and still be engaged with our team.

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

I don’t really believe in work-life balance. To me this assumes that I have a work life and personal life that don’t mix, as if I could divide myself in two and be one person at work and another at home. Life is messy, work is messy, I’d rather be one messy whole than two balanced halves. 

I think of it more like work-life integration. My work is something I love and am passionate about, that means it’s part of my personal life. I bring my work-life home, I work strange hours, but I also bring my family into my work-life.

It’s also not uncommon that I’ll have my kids with me on a work trip, or at a conference. COVID-19 has brought work and life together in many ways.

One thing I’ve loved about how work has changed is getting visibility into peoples’ messy lives (and kids and pets and kitchens and living rooms) and seeing our colleagues as whole (messy) humans rather than putting on a brave face for work. 

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

The last year I’ve come to accept more of the messiness and imperfections that come with trying to do work, life, school and everything else from home. 

The most significant shift in my routine itself happened about 5 years ago, when I started shifting my work routine to early mornings, rather than late evenings. 

The other change I made around this time was a commitment to myself that exercise was non-negotiable. Previously when I’d got busy, exercise was the first thing to drop and then it became a self fulfilling cycle of less exercise, less energy, etc.

I’m a runner, and that’s my preferred exercise, but whatever it is you like – yoga, walking, netball – I really encourage you to keep it up, no matter how busy you get.

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

I love podcasts (that I listen to while running). Right now I’m loving How I Built This by NPR and Without Fail by Gimlet – stories of founders and entrepreneurs on how they’ve won and failed and how they learned. 

I also love Blinkist. I’m an avid consumer of *boring* business books and find the 15 minute mini summaries a great way to get your head around them. 

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

My Garmin watch and dry shampoo. 

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

Jacinda Adern. While I’d love to know how she manages being Prime Minister with a toddler, I’m more interested in how she manages her energy and positivity. Keeping that level of presence and positive mindset requires a lot of intentionality and I often hear her speak and think – how? 

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

I tried to put on a brave face for work for far too long, rather than accepting that life would always be messy and beautiful and imperfect. I would move mountains just to make it to the office on time (with cereal or whatever else on my shoulder). Now I’d be more likely to ask for help, or just take the kids with me, or be late, or all of the above. 

I hope the experience of lockdown and the pandemic will help us be kinder and more open about our integrated work-lives and to see our bosses, colleagues, friends as people all managing complexity in the background.

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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.