Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Lucy Wark, Founder of NORMAL

Lucy Wark is the founder of NORMAL, a sexual wellness and sex education company on a mission to change the conversation on sexual wellness.

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

I studied social science and business at university, and then started my career in consulting at McKinsey, but I really got the startup bug through working on a new student publication called The Cambridge Globalist with a couple of close friends during uni.

Even though it was low stakes, the experience of seeing a vision come to life and a group of people rally around it to produce something great was really exciting.

I left consulting unsure of my path, and found that I kept coming back to startup and venture capital related work as an independent consultant – plus I found myself developing a strong interest in sex education and the general sextech space.

The Startmate Fellowship was a really important turning point for me, helping me to sharpen my ambition and be in a position to launch NORMAL (a sexual wellness and sex education company) earlier this year. 

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

I always read these ‘high performer routine’ articles and feel a massive dose of imposter syndrome, so I think it’s important to emphasise that all my routines are aspirational and can / do falter at times! 

But a good day looks like getting outside early for exercise and friends (e.g. walking around Centennial Park in Sydney with a coffee, or hitting up Cycology for spin class and very sweaty coffee after). I like starting the day occupying a totally different bit of my identity to my work self. 

My working days are pretty variable – a mix of deep work on strategy / reporting, / analytics, representing the brand, creating content on sexual wellness, project managing across 10-15 priorities from ops to marketing, and a bunch of the quick ‘batched’ stuff like emails and troubleshooting for team members. 

Within that list, it’s easy to feel like you’re always playing catchup, so something I find really helpful is an end of day routine – I have a spreadsheet where I track hours worked, peak rating and low rating, overall rating, what I did and reflections for the day.

It takes about 5 minutes, but it’s the best 5 minutes I spend – basically a reminder that you actually have done a lot, and a good forcing function for thinking through whether your next day can be structured better. And then evenings are usually something social with friends. 

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

To a degree! We do a lot of work which is creative or analytical in group settings, and that can be hard or exhausting to do over Zoom, but I’m a big fan of self-managing in the way that best suits your energy levels, so at the moment, I probably work from home 2-3 days per week. I try to always wear pants even if I’m working from home, because that’s what having standards looks like, right? 

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

I love my job, but I work more than I want to, and it takes more of my energy than I’d like it to in an ideal world. So I guess I’m still working on this one. What’s important to me is being intentional about the trade offs (are you choosing this, or defaulting into it? How long are you choosing it for?), and then working towards sustainability in the medium term. 

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

I’ve spoken about a couple of routines above, but I think the biggest one is this – having a great therapist is something I’ve done on and off for the last decade, and when we decided to launch this business, I knew that was something I wanted to invest in preemptively.

I think I’ve probably recommended the practice I go to to about 20 people in the Australian startup scene now!

Whether it’s developing healthy boundaries between your work and your identity, managing stress, or managing the specific challenges of the space we work in (for a lot of people, sex can bring up uncomfortable memories, and that’s certainly true for me), I think it’s an incredibly valuable thing to do. 

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

On newsletters, I love Jax Vullinghs’ newsletter, and the Afterwork Ventures investment writeups. 

In terms of books, I’m terrible at reading startup books, but I really loved Cultish and Wordslut recently – anything giving me applied social science goes straight to the top of the list. 

And for podcasts, I am HOOKED on Maintenance Phase and Sentimental Garbage at the moment. 

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

I’m a total philistine, I can live without it all – but I’d be very sad without YouTube for music video rabbit holes. 

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

One thing I remember realising distinctly in my twenties was that many of my role models with ‘big careers’ had really lopsided lives that I didn’t want to emulate – because it’s genuinely very hard to make a big impact with your career and be a full partner, parent, child, friend and person.

It’s not impossible, but it’s really hard. So in terms of whose book I’d like to read, they’re probably not well known or celebrated for their professional life! But I hope they’re very happy. Suggestions welcome. 

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

Nah I’m going to go and fill out my spreadsheet! We’re done for the day! 

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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.