Mal Chia is a marketing consultant and former CMO at activewear brand Ryderwear. He is now working with ecommerce brands to help them scale.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I started my career as a DJ playing at clubs and festivals around Australia. I then started organising and promoting where I realised I was getting more enjoyment from the business side of music.
This led me back to uni where I ultimately completed a Masters in Marketing and got my first “real” job at the Adelaide Fringe first as the marketing assistant. But because I’d taught myself how to code, run online ads and use social media to grow my own DJ business, I quickly ended up running all their digital marketing.
From there my career really took off, as a digital strategist on the agency side to heading up digital marketing Adelaide Uni and other blue chip brands.
I also caught the startup bug, working at some early stage fintech and social apps, as well as founding my own venture. It was after that that I joined Uber as the Senior Marketing Manager for A/NZ, helping to drive user acquisition and launch new markets.
Fast forward a few years and I’m the Chief Marketing officer at Ryderwear where I’m responsible for anything that touches the customer. I lead a team of 35 across brand, ecommerce, performance, customer experience and creative to grow a global brand that inspires people to live their best life through fitness.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I’m all about routine. I get up at 5am and hit the gym. That’s a non-negotiable for me. Then I get my kids ready for school and daycare before starting my workday at 8:30am.
On the drive into the office I’ll catch up on podcasts (I never miss an episode of Pivot, Six Pixels of Separation and The CMO Podcast). When I get there I make a point of greeting everyone that I pass on the way to my desk.
The first thing I do at my desk is go through dashboards and make sure there’s nothing hinky going on. Then I check in with my direct reports and with my counterpart on the operations side to make sure priorities are aligned.
I like to use my mornings for collaborative time and tend to schedule weekly recurring meetings with different teams then. Afternoons I reserve for ad hoc meetings but also my focus time to get on top of what needs to be done. I usually try to leave the office no later than 6pm, or earlier if I am on pick-up duties.
Once I’m home it’s helping with homework, cooking dinner (I love cooking) and getting kids to bed. If I have to, I’ll jump online after and attend to anything pressing, but otherwise the rest of the evening is debriefing with my wife, an episode of whatever we’re streaming and then reading and bed.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Going back to the office after the first lockdown, we all learned it was (a) okay to work from home; and (b) we could get a lot done.
While we’re still very much in-person first, we are starting to embrace a more hybrid model where for most roles, working from home one or two days a week is fine as long as it doesn’t adversely impact your team. There’s still huge amounts of value in being there, in-person collaborating which our culture and technology haven’t found a way to solve (yet).
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
I don’t really look at it as being work-life, it’s all life. It’s about keeping all the aspects of that – relationship, work, leisure, etc – in balance. Particularly when the workday is being blurred and we are flipping from work-family tasks, it’s super important to make sure you are shifting priorities and your focus as required to keep it in balance.
I used to be terrible at it and overemphasised the wrong parts, but as I’ve got older I intuitively know when to adjust or if I don’t, my wife will tell me.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
After reading Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep, I’ve really come to appreciate sleep as being a superpower. I used to routinely get 5 or less hours of sleep, now I aim for no less than 6, ideally 7 or 8 hours. This means consciously winding down earlier and shutting off devices by 10pm.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
I try to read (actually read) a book a month, a few that have really stuck with me:
- Liz Wiseman, Multipliers
- Bill Gates, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster
- Tom Peter, The Excellence Dividend
- Ryan Holiday, Conspiracy
- Six Pixels of Separation
- The CMO Podcast
- The Daily
- The Art of Manliness
- Masters of Scale
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
The Strong app on iOS is my strength training app. I’ve been using it for 6 years and have logged hundreds of workouts.
Skitch is probably the best screenshot app around. Ridiculously easy to use, markup and share.
And because I’ve recently started using the Pomodoro method of time management, Be Focused.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Kristian Livolsi, one of my best friends who fits more into his life professionally and personally than anyone else I know and manages to crush it.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Find out your why and everything else comes into focus.
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