Balancing the Grind with Makenzie Thomas, Program & Community Coordinator at MedTech Actuator

Makenzie Thomas is the Program & Community Coordinator at MedTech Actuator, Asia Pacific’s industry-led, venture-backed, 12-month acceleration program for health startups

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

So, I’m one of those people who have a windy career path thus far. I started out in marketing, landing a role at a social enterprise covering everything from social media to events to graphic design.

From there, I dove into a Master’s of Management which took me all the way to Montreal, Canada on exchange. I tapped into the business innovation and entrepreneurship world while I was studying at HEC Montreal and landed a consulting role at the Center for Circus Arts Research, Innovation, and Knowledge Transfer across the road from Cirque du Soleil. 

With a master’s degree to finish, a global pandemic, and an expired work visa, I made my way back to Melbourne and landed at MedTech Actuator, where I’ve been running programs and, most recently, building the community and looking after alumni.

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

When you’re running programs and community activities, it can be a real mixed bag which is exactly what I like. I normally start my day with movement, so either walking to work, yoga, a run, or just a quick stretch.

From there, I’ll usually kick off the day with coffee and touch base with the team. Mornings take the form of emails, meetings, and anything urgent before I try to settle into focused work for the afternoon. I try my best to leave at 5:30 pm, but this doesn’t always happen!

Usually one night a week there will be an industry event or meet-up that I try to go to. There are so many in the startup world and sometimes you can accidentally oversubscribe, so I try to limit myself to one per week these days.

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

Yes, absolutely! And I’ve found that I really need it – I don’t think I could handle full-time in the office post-lockdown.

Over time, I’ve found that I really thrive when I can work autonomously, so I set my own hours and make sure I get what I need to get done. For my sanity and for touching base with the team often, I keep my work hours close to the 9-to-5.

In terms of working remotely, it feels really natural for me to just open my laptop wherever I am and jump into work. Our team touches base a lot in person, so I normally do three days in the office and two at home, but if I’m travelling for work then I can log in wherever there is wifi and a zoom-friendly environment.

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

To me, work-life balance means being present in what I’m doing at any moment and really being conscious of what I’m adding to my plate. In this space, my goal is awareness as I’ve previously just said yes to everything and felt the need to ‘do/have it all’. 

This year, I’ve set myself a goal to be more selective about what I say yes and no to and to increase my awareness of where I am spending my time. This means that when things are picking up momentum, I’ve been able to recognise that I need to either press pause, ask for help or let people around me know that I need some space or a hand to get through a busy period.

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

Over the past year, I’ve started learning about the different phases of my hormone cycle and how this impacts my energy and ability to do things across a 28-cycle.

As a menstruating woman, I’ve noticed that when I take this into account (e.g. planning for social events and big work discussions) and when I tune in to what I’m feeling on a certain day and why that might be, then I have been able to better meet the expectations of those around me or adjust them when need be. 

Hormonal cycles aside, I’m a sucker for a to-do list. I have two: the first one is electronic, which I can access on my phone and laptop, so I’m keeping track of everything in one place and can update from anywhere; the second one is the one I write each morning. I’ll usually come in, go over the electronic one, go through emails and then hand-write my daily to do it. Do I get it all done? Never, but the intention is there though!

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

Firstly, for anyone who menstruates, or knows someone who menstruates, taking the time to read Period Power or Period Queen can be life-changing. Seriously, it makes a world of difference if you’re on board with your partner’s cycle and know why they might be extra tired or hyper-productive at certain times of the month.

I’d highly recommend 7am as a daily news podcast as well. This keeps me feeling up to date with Australia. For healthcare, I’d check out Talking HealthTech’s podcast and quarterly summits, which are a great way to see what is happening in the healthcare ecosystem. 

As for newsletters? I have a few that come into my inbox each day/week, including Letter of Intent (a great daily round-up of what’s happening in the financial world), What the Health?! (my favourite healthtech startup roundup), StartupVic (go-to weekly newsletter for Vic-based events), Spark Festival (their weekly sparks cover all startup events in Aus) and a heap of VC, such as GiantLeap, Blackbird Ventures, AirTree, SquarePeg, newsletters which share events and highlight industry trends.

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

I won’t pinpoint a particular gadget or product, but I love how I have set up my phone and laptop so they’re integrated. I can basically access everything I need from both, which makes urgent tasks where I’m away from my laptop a thousand times easier to deal with.

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

Considering that we had an election recently, I’d love to see how some of the incoming independents plan to run their days and lives now that they’ve won seats in parliament.

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

Whilst it is important to talk about achieving work-life balance and share strategies on how to do so, I think it is equally important to recognise that it comes and goes in waves. I’d love to say I’ve got it covered but this isn’t always true. Like any other person, I forget and then things get away from me but I’m working on it. 

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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.