Interviews / PR & Communications

Balancing the Grind with Mia MacKinnon, Senior PR & Brand Awareness Manager – APAC at HubSpot

Mia MacKinnon is the Senior PR & Brand Awareness Manager at HubSpot APAC, working to grow and position HubSpot’s brand across Australia, NZ, Singapore and India.

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

I’ve worked in marketing and communications my whole career, bar a short break to teach English in South Korea, about ten years now. 

I’ve spent the majority of those ten years working in the aged care industry, something I fell into by chance and loved. It’s an industry where there are huge perceptions to challenge and change, and where customer experience and brand storytelling are incredibly important, yet have a long way to go.

During my nearly 8 years in the industry I worked with Whiddon, a leading not-for-profit, firstly establishing communications and PR for the business, and then leading their Marketing, Communications and Sales departments.

We were one of the first aged care organisations in Australia to really leverage PR and storytelling strategically, and to build campaigns to address perceptions on ageing and aged care – something I’m very proud of. 

I’m now at HubSpot, leading PR for APAC and working with our teams to grow and position HubSpot’s brand across Australia, NZ, Singapore and India. It’s a big change and I am loving the new role, and the challenge of learning a new industry. 

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

I should preface this by sharing that I started this role just as Sydney went into lockdown. I’ve been remote for my whole time with HubSpot, about two months now, so my current norm is very different. 

I try to start most days with a walk with my dog, and my husband often joins us. If I’m alone, I’ve been using the time to listen to podcasts. I’m normally an early riser, before 6am, but this WFH life has got me a bit out of tune and I’m trying to not let it worry me.

Sometime around 8am, I spend a bit of time catching up on the latest news and checking in with my colleagues in EMEA and the US – doing this first thing allows us connect before their day finishes. There are usually a few meetings scattered across the day, with agencies or the ANZ and Asia marketing teams as we collaborate on campaigns and launches.

Working from home has actually meant I can split my day to work across our APAC time zones. It’s probably not how I’d normally work, but while I’m learning the role and getting to know the teams, it’s working well. It means I take a break for a couple of hours in the middle of the day to exercise, chill out, read a book or do a few things around the house.

Then I’m back online in the afternoon and early evening to work with our teams and agencies in Singapore and India. My dog, Penny, is great at letting me know when she’s ready for me to finish for the day- it’s not uncommon for her to start tossing her toys around the room when I’m on an evening call.

Right now, this structure lets me get the best out of my day so I’m keeping it going. I’m also having a strange streak (for a morning person) where late evenings are my best time for writing – you’ve got to roll with inspiration when it hits. 

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

HubSpot has a great approach to flexible work and a permanent remote workforce of more than 300 people globally. We’re well set up to work from home and were already using collaboration and communication tools, I feel like this has made the process a bit smoother.

Right now, the flexibility is enabling me to map my day to what my role and the business needs, and what I need. It’s working for me and that’s what matters right now. And as anyone who works in public relations knows, our roles are always flexible to go with the flow of the media landscape and the opportunities we’re working on. 

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

I think work-life balance, or integration, or whatever you term it, is a really personal thing. It’s about what works for you, not someone else. I also think it evolves, both in terms of what balance means to you at a point in your life, and how you achieve it. 

What I called balance 5 years ago, or even 6 months ago, isn’t necessarily right for me today. Cutting back on my commute was a goal of mine for many years – I was working out of the city and commuting about 2 hours a day, something that was fine for a few years, but grew to be a challenge as I wanted different things.

I’ve now achieved that with my role at HubSpot (more so than I ever imagined, with a 20 second commute downstairs to work for the time being) and an office in the city, a very short train ride from Sydney’s Inner West. 

I think there’s a dual role for employers and employees in enabling balance or integration. As an employer, you need to set parameters that make achieving this possible, despite the many individual circumstances your employees might experience. As an employee, you’ve got to find what works for you and advocate for it. 

HubSpot’s Chief People Officer, Katie Burke, recently published a piece called  Take a Break on Medium. In it, she talked about leaving loudly. Of all the parts of the article, this one resonated most with me as it was something I’d previously felt a bit uncomfortable with.

Until now. I came into my new role with a goal to leave my self-imposed barriers behind, and I’ve loved seeing my colleagues leave loudly to go on a lunchtime walk, for a Kmart run, to get their haircut. I needed this, and I’m proud that I’ve joined them in leaving loudly for a midday workout and even to read a book in the sun for a break. 

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

I’ve had around two hours a day returned to me since changing jobs, something I’m still getting used to! Instead of a commute, I get a morning walk and a leisurely coffee with my husband.

I’ve been trying to get back into running and practice yoga more consistently, I’m still working on this. The (mild) Aussie winter is making it feel tougher than it should.

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

I’ve been a bit late to the party with podcasts. I think I was trying to make myself listen to them for learning only, and once I switched to listening to ones I enjoy, I got a whole lot more interested. 

I’m loving The Business of Hype at the moment – there’s a new episode with CJ Hendry that’s worth a listen. Face2Face by Facebook is an old fave, especially as they interview Aussie and Kiwi marketers.

I listen to HubSpot’s The Growth Show a bit too – I pick the brands that I’m really interested in and listen to those episodes – I’d recommend the new one with Coffee on Cue’s Ryan Spaccavento. I think there’s a real knack to getting that fine balance of entertainment, cultural nuance, and education in a podcast.

I’ve had a bit more time to read lately too, I loved Bad Blood, The Ride of a Lifetime and That Will Never Work. Bad Blood and That Will Never Work were particularly tough to put down!

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

Lists. I’m a list person, they keep me feeling organised and on top of things. I’ve been slowly transitioning from a notebook to digital over the past 6 or so months and I think I’m finally there.

I use a combination of Asana and Google Keep to track my work – bigger or longer term projects on Asana, and my daily or weekly hit list on Keep. I usually check in, update and add to these throughout the day.

Genmai roasted rice green tea. It’s a Japanese tea that I love and got very into while living in Korea, luckily the local Miracle Supermarket stocks it. Also, really good coffee. 

Gadget wise, for someone who loves to read I left it embarrassingly late to get a Kindle – that’s definitely high on the list of must-haves. Whatsapp – my family and a lot of friends live overseas so we chat on there, and Spotify. 

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

There’s a lot out there already, but Susan Wojcicki on separating work and life, Jack Dorsey on 16 hour days, Jacinda Ardern on juggling it all.

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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.