Balancing the Grind with Mary Proulx, Co-Founder at Bread Agency

Mary Proulx is the Co-Founder at Bread Agency, a social media agency with social commerce at the core.

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Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to?

Funnily enough, my career choice was made based on a dinner-time conversation with my family in London, Ontario Canada when I was about 16 years old.

My older sister had a friend who was working in PR, and she suggested that I look into it. “I think you’d really like it. It leans on your strengths,” she told me. Following research into what a job in PR entailed, and conversations with people who worked in the field, I was convinced that this was the path for me.

So off I went to Toronto, the big city… 

My post-graduate PR program included an internship as part of the graduation requirements. That was where I hit the jackpot working for a startup PR agency that had the most incredible founders. They were experienced, talented and really cared about fostering young talent. They were also forward thinkers and built out their PR offering with specialist social and content streams. 

Slowly but surely I started to swap pitch lists for content calendars and media releases for photoshoots and quickly realised that if PR was my first crush, social and content were my true loves. 

The creativity, community and the possibilities that social offered had me hooked. Over the next couple of years I specialised in social and content working with incredible brands and had the privilege to learn from the best in the biz. 

But, the Canadian winters aren’t easy and after getting frostbite on a walk home from work one too many times, I decided that it was time for a change. I said farewell to Toronto and booked my flight to Australia, for what I thought would be a year… 

Here I am 7 years later and it’s been quite the journey.

My first job in Sydney was at a content marketing agency. It was there that I really honed my strategic chops and considered the wider sphere of content and comms. 

Then to Red Havas where I worked for a few years as Social Media Director and Group Account Director, before jumping teams within the Havas network to head up the social and influencer team at One Green Bean. My time at Havas was amazing. I worked on some incredible brands including NIVEA, Toyota, Nikon, Amazon and Virgin Australia to name a few. But even better than the brands, were the people. 

Which leads me to where I am today. Last year, I co-founded a specialist social media agency with Amaury Treguer, called Bread Agency. Amaury and I had worked together while at Havas and after some time off, we decided to create the type of social media agency we had always wanted to work at.

Bread is a social media agency that does everything you’d expect but with a specialism in social commerce. We work with brands to turn their social channels from a discovery platform to a commerce powerhouse.

It’s been incredible so far, and we’re just getting started. 

We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday?

Growing a new agency involves taking on a range of roles throughout the day. 

This requires a clear and energised mind so I need to start my mornings on the right foot. For me it’s a gym session followed by a walk to either listen to a podcast or catch family and friends at home for a chat. That 16-hour time difference between Canada and Aus is a tough one – so mornings are the perfect time. 

I grab a coffee and head to my office to read both world and industry/platform news and scroll through the many newsletters I subscribe to. This might be my favourite time of the day as the little nuggets of inspiration and insight that I get from this activity fuels a lot of my thinking later on.

Then it might be a series of client WIPs, putting new business proposals together or reviewing content plans and campaign performance. Client or potential client meetings happen a few times a week, so we’re in the car heading to meetings across the city.

Afternoons are when I can be super focused and work on social strategies or bigger campaign ideas and activations. I tend to block out chunks of time so that I can give this work the right amount of thought and consideration.

I like to end my workday with a clear (or close to clear) inbox, so I spend a bit of time going through emails that need actioning and start to formulate my priorities for the next day. Keeping my inbox completely clear is new for me, but damn does it feel good! I’ve pledged to keep this up.

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Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach in maintaining it?

Getting work-life balance right has been a journey for me. Earlier in my career, I thought that focusing too much on the “life” bit of work-life took away from my productivity and so the scales tipped in favour of the hustle. 

Over time, I have come to realise that having a full life makes me more creative, more focused and better at my job, so I make sure that the scale feels more balanced. It’s been a mindset change from feeling guilty when not working to feeling empowered to prioritise both. 

Getting work-life balance right doesn’t mean that you have to split your time perfectly between the two, but that the energy you find for both feels equal. For example, I am not a 5am riser and you won’t find me at my computer first thing.

I need that time for myself. If I let that slip, I don’t have the right energy to give to the work that day or that week. And if I hit a wall at 4:30pm, I might go for a swim to have a bit of a break and recharge, but then I jump back online after dinner for a couple of hours when I feel more focused. 

It’s an ongoing dance that requires both parts to work in tandem. 

Change is constant, and it’s essential for growth. Have you made any lifestyle changes in the past year to improve your work-life balance?

I’ve listened to a lot of podcasts on the importance of sleep and sunlight lately.  The learnings have forced me to move past pushing through too many late nights, to calling it early enough to know that I’ll have a clear head the next day. 

And when I wake up, I get outside and soak in the sunlight. It’s all about the circadian rhythm. It has been a game changer for energy in the day and sleep at night. 

I’ve not yet got onboard with the ice baths and cold showers… that is a step too far for me. 

We’re always on the lookout for new resources! Can you recommend any books, podcasts, or newsletters that have helped you in your journey towards balance?

Oh, I have so many, but two of the most influential lately have been: 

Podcast – Huberman Lab – Andrew Huberman is a neuroscientist who takes complex health and wellness topics and makes them easy to understand and implement. His episodes on sleep and focus are must-listens. Although not specific to finding balance, they’ve made me realise the impact that not prioritising these areas was having on my work. 

Book – The Creative Act – Rick Rubin. Most of you will be familiar with Rick Rubin as a music producer for some of the biggest artists and tracks. His book on creativity was a great read that has again influenced my point of view on how living a full life makes for more unique, creative and impactful work. I can guarantee you’ll be going back to this one for years to come. 

Before we wrap up, do you have any final words of wisdom or insights on work, life, or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Reframe how you think about work-life balance. Time at work should make you a better person at home and enjoying life should make you better at your job. It’s an energy balance, not a time split. 

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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.