Balancing the Grind with Marie Krebs, People Experience Design Lead at Learnerbly

Marie Krebs is the People Experience Design Lead at Learnerbly, a workplace learning platform that works with organisations to create a progressive learning culture.

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

My current role

I’m the People Experience Design Lead at Learnerbly. My job is designing the best user experience for our employees. 

Think of it as the job of a Product Manager, except the product is the experience our people have. And the users are, well, our people at Learnerbly!

Where I do that

Learnerbly is a learning resources marketplace that enables employees to grow through the use of a personal learning budget and access to curated resources.

It’s also quite simply the best place I’ve ever worked at – thanks to all the incredible people who make it what it is.

A bit of background

The short version is that:

  • I started there 4 odd years ago as a junior Office Manager
  • Grew into the first People role and put the employee experience foundations in place 
  • Left for my first lead role in a unicorn-type company
  • Ended up boomeranging back a few months later – Lauren Mason, the Head of People they’d hired, was too inspirational to miss out on 

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

I typically juggle a few big projects that may be at different stages. 

At the moment, the two big ones are Parenthood Guidance and Fueling Performance. 

If you look at it from an Agile methodology lens, Parenthood Guidance is between discovery and design, and Fueling Performance is between design and development. 

Here’s an example about the Parenthood Guidance project – last week I: 

  • analysed data on the back of a user workshop we ran with our Parenthood project’s user group
  • conducted one of a few user interviews to better understand people’s needs when it comes to Parenthood
  • started drafting the proposal I’ll present to our Leadership team
  • completed progress and upcoming progress can be tracked in our People Experience Kanban board

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

Hell yeah to both. Fancy taking a longer lunch because it’s a nice day? Indulge. Working flexibly means I can make work and life work for me.

My examples may be mundane (I don’t have any caring responsibilities at the moment), but it makes a huge difference to my mental health and how efficiently I work. How I.. balance the grind, if you will.

Learnerbly allows me to work remotely, so I’m based in Brighton although we’re headquartered in London. 

And I don’t need to go to London every week – na-ah. Though I can if I want to, to socialise with colleagues for example! 

I’ve worked from abroad before on a temporary basis, but we’ve now started partnering with Omnipresent, which means technically I could move to somewhere even sunnier someday and keep my job.

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

It means having quality time in life and quality focus in work – work for Learnerbly but also my unpaid People community work.

I think both of those can only happen if you have the flexibility to work however is best for you, and the freedom to set and respect your boundaries.

A few start need to align for this to be possible, I think:

  • The system: Do you evolve in an environment that allows you to define your own boundaries and do your best work? Learnerbly is great at giving me that flexibility.
  • The people: Do the people you work with enable and encourage healthy habits? My team is great at respecting each other’s time, but also at holding one another accountable. My girlfriend is definitely great at calling me out if I slip into overworking too!
  • The self (knowledge): Do you know what works best for you? I use Google Calendar religiously so anyone can see what my availability is at any given time, and so I can reflect on how I’ve been using it – did I achieve what I needed to? Am I stressed? How do I spend my time?

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

Last month my colleague Leanne Orton (who’s got Product Management experience) led an OKR planning session where we used the Definition of Done process (from Agile). 

So far it’s been pretty transformative to 

1. Focus on what done looks like vs what good looks like. Of course we clarify what good looks like too, but to keep a nimble outcome-focussed approach we focus on the done side of life. It forces us to think MVP vs perfection and prioritise effectively!

2. Add timestamps to tasks on a more granular level so we plan our roadmap against how much availability we have in each sprint. That way, we don’t have our eyes bigger than our bellies in how much work we plan to achieve.

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

  • Demanding More by Sheree Atcheson read this to understand the importance and impact of inclusion & diversity at work
  • Mental Health at Work by Oliva, a super insightful podcast featuring super insightful leaders
  • Offbeat by Lavinia Mehedintu, a great newsletter to learn more about learning (and designing great learning experiences)

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

  • Learnerbly, to wisely spend my learning budget and never get too cosy in my comfort zone
  • Notion, the best app to live in. Absolutely transformed how I work.
  • Slack, I swear I use it more than WhatsApp or Telegram 

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

Aušrinė Keršanskaitė – this woman achieves so much for Ops Stories, Operations Nation, and her own full time job as a Head of Ops. I want to know all her secrets.

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

What does work-life balance mean to you, reader? 

Define it, and then design your life around your needs so you can reach your goals. 

Whatever that means for you, you do you. And if you’re not sure what it looks like, try a few things! Learn by doing.

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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.