Mel Johnstone is the founder & Strategist at Rocket Science Strategic Services, a modern, flexible and cost-effective alternative to traditional ad agencies and large consultancies.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I’ve been in marketing for nearly 30 years, with the last 20 running my own business, Rocket Science Strategic Services, which is a modern, flexible and cost-effective alternative to traditional ad agencies and large consultancies.
Over the last six years, I have fallen in love with B2B and the technology sector – so much so that this has become my 100% focus. I help all types of businesses in the IT ecosystem (distributors, vendors, partners and solution providers) to take their solution and service offerings to market with a unique approach that is crafted to spark interest, drive engagement and lead customers to them, but at the right time.
It’s all about building these IT experts up as trusted teachers (not sellers) who can support and guide their clients to achieve positive change and incredible outcomes in business and society, enabled by technology.
I have found working with the tech industry to be both professionally and personally fulfilling. Tech clients have revolutionary ideas and solutions as to how to improve how we work and live, but they often need help to package up all the complexity so that it resonates with their end prospects and customers – at the same time as driving commercial return for them. Keeping them focused on their customers, and mapping the customer journey to deliver a seamless experience across all touchpoints, is where I come in.
2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I get up around 5.30 am and head to the gym, go for a run or walk my dog, then I get my kids off to school and settle down for a workday.
Depending on what kind of project I have on at any given time, my days are filled with running client workshops, interviewing customers, desk research, conducting competitor audits, writing strategies or executive documents, building financial forecast models, holding project kick-off sessions with creative teams, meeting and liaising with new and existing clients and suppliers – and making sure all the project management and deliverables are humming.
3) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
Having work-life balance to me is about making sure I find time to exercise, and to be present with the family mornings, evenings and weekends. It’s only then I can be at my best at work.
I find that surrounding myself with clients and suppliers who are good, kind people and who are as passionate about the projects and outcomes as I am, keeps me grounded, motivated and excited about the potential of what we can achieve as a team.
4) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
In the past 18 months, I have had several life-changing moments.
My family made the sea-change from a busy inner-Sydney suburb to Shell Cove in South Wollongong (for those in NSW, we are about 8 minutes before Kiama).
I also relaunched Rocket Science after a six-year hiatus where I was investing my time in the business of one of my previous clients.
Both these changes have been really positive for me.
I love living regionally. I find it’s so easy to get around and I can get real efficiencies into my day, which means I have more time for family, friends, hobbies and exercise. And I love it that it’s just a short walk to any one of five beaches from our house. The sunrises and sunsets here are so beautiful and instantly fill me with a sense of gratitude that helps to wash away any stress.
Being back working for myself –doing what I love, in my own way, and working with inspirational clients and a fantastic team of trusted suppliers – has set me up well for my next phase of work and life. I work remotely but head into Sydney to attend meetings and offsites as needed. I am also grateful I have found a niche within the B2B technology sector so I can stay focused on building my breadth and depth of experience, supporting clients, and feeding my own learning journey.
I also have a daily ritual of listening to my ‘Calm’ meditation app morning and night, keeping a gratitude diary and burning different oils when I am working.
5) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
The Challenger Customer, Brent Adamson & Matthew Dixon. Research into the complex decision journeys of B2B buyers that’s as much about sales and marketing as it is about business. I also follow Brent’s more recent webinars and podcasts on LinkedIn as he has progressive ideas in this space.
Strategy Is Your Words, Mark Pollard, a bit of a crazy read but it has some great strategy frameworks that are very valuable and one of which has become a permanent resident in my strategic approach.
The Anxiety Guy Podcast – talks honestly about the hard stuff, and makes you feel completely supported and normal, whatever you are going through.
Becoming, by Michelle Obama – a wonderfully honest and entertaining autobiography of the strong and inspiring woman behind the man.
6) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Mothers who are kicking goals professionally and personally and how they do it. And the people behind them who have most likely sidelined their own careers to enable them to do what they do.
7) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
I think if you are passionate about what you do and enjoy who you work with, that work blends into life and vice versa. But I am seeing, in this tough market where it’s hard to get talent, people around me – including my husband and clients who are in full-time jobs – are working themselves ragged trying to stay on top of everything they need to do.
To those I would say, try and find support wherever you can to protect your health and wellbeing. There are likely to be external trusted experts you can call on to support you and help to reduce your load during these extra stressful times. If it’s a budget issue, most suppliers will be able to find a way to make it work for you and for them, so just take that first step and reach out.
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