Biz Dev & Sales / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Natalie Ristov, Specialty Pharmaceutical Sales Representative at AbbVie Australia

Natalie Ristov is a Specialty Pharmaceutical Sales Representative at pharmaceutical research & development company AbbVie Australia.

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

I am a pharmacist who early on in my career decided that the pharmaceutical industry is where I wanted to work.

I have worked in a few different roles and for a few different companies in my time and am currently a Speciality Sales Executive at AbbVie. I was drawn to the industry as I wanted to be closer to innovation in the development side of medicines and being part of the AbbVie team has really delivered on that.

I believe that my broad exposure to various areas within the business has given me an appreciation of how complex bringing medicine to patients can be, and how rewarding it is when we finally have a medicine that can improve someone’s life. 

I am also a member of the Innovation Team at AbbVie, where we empower employees to keep the innovation process front of mind when solving everyday challenges within their roles.  

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

My day usually starts at 6am with a gym workout and a black coffee before work. 

When COVID restrictions aren’t in place, my work day usually involves speaking with key clinicians, understanding their needs and providing information and service offerings to address their specific needs.

One day I might be in Westmead Hospital, and another day driving to Newcastle or flying to Port Macquarie. I cover the northern region of NSW, which is quite a large territory. I spend a lot of my time on the road connecting with colleagues. 

I am also a part of AbbVie’s Synapse team, a cross-functional group that helps the business innovate processes and ideas. Sometimes my day will include a meeting with the team to discuss and strategise ways to enable and elevate innovation within our roles, and as a business.

Having innovation embedded formally is one of the reasons why we are consistently recognised in the AFR Boss Most Innovative List – it’s something I am really proud of. 

After a long day on the road, I also like to get on top of my emails (usually aiming to get my inbox down to five emails at the end of the week) and then indulging in a delicious home-cooked meal that I share with my family, and an occasional glass of wine. 

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

My role is an in-field role, meaning I am not office based, so it’s entirely flexible and remote. My office is my home (and often my office is my car) and my schedule is largely dependent on how I organise my appointments.

It requires exceptional organisation skills as my working hours each day vary according to my priorities. Some days I start work at 5am and other days I start work at 9am, and that’s all part of the flexible nature of this role. 

How does it fit into my life? I’m a great planner so I know well in advance which nights I will be working late and which nights I’ll be away from home on a business trip so I can manage my personal life accordingly.

I fit my exercise in each morning as a mandatory, because I know that if I don’t do it first thing, it won’t get done at all. 

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

For me personally, work life balance involves planning ahead of time when you will shut off from work each day and keeping yourself accountable to it. And that might be a different time each day. 

I set up hard stop times on days that I have social things planned, and on other days where I might not have any plans, I am quite happy to respond to all my emails at 9pm. 

Work-life balance is about ensuring that I have enough time to do a great job at work every day, and also have enough time to enjoy my life too.

I have never struggled with this at AbbVie. We have a fantastic culture and the encouragement to find the right balance comes from our senior leaders and cascades all the way down.

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

During COVID I started reading again. It has been my way of winding down and switching off and I am loving it! I am currently reading The Count of Monte Cristo and it’s probably the longest novel I will ever read, but it’s a great escape and it’s my form of meditation. 

I led a Mental Health Month initiative at work this year where one of the activities was to encourage employees to “keep learning” through an AbbVie book club. The current book we are reading is called Shuggie Bain and we are all meeting in February to discuss it. 

2020 was a difficult year but a highlight for me was working within the AbbVie Innovation team to deliver ‘Innovation Week,’ a symposium that helped equip our teams with the tools and knowledge they need to practice innovation daily.

We were able to run workshops and practical sessions that helped our teams understand that innovation is really about focusing on delivering change that creates value for our patients.

This has been so important in informing new routines and ways of working as we navigate a challenging year. It was also great timing as just before the week we were ranked #5 in the AFR Boss Most Innovative List – our best rank ever. 

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

My favourite recent read is Where the Crawdad’s Sing and I cannot recommend this book enough.

I also listen to a podcast called She’s On The Money about a Melbourne-based financial advisor talking about topics that many of us prefer to leave in the too-hard basket; topics like superannuation, HECS debts, home loans, investing, etc.

I’m a science girl, and finance is definitely not my strong point. This podcast presents things in an easy to digest way and I love listening to their hacks and tips each week. 

I definitely find that consuming a range of content that exposes you to varying views and opinions is integral in keeping you on your toes. This is how I like to make sure I am feeding my creativity and innovation across both my personal and work lives.  

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

 I can’t live without my Apple Watch. Since getting one, I don’t need to take my phone out of my handbag, I just talk to Siri. I look a bit weird talking into a watch while walking down the street, but I don’t care too much. 

I’m also loving Apple Pay on my mobile and the new Service NSW app where you can have a digital copy of your driver’s license. I don’t need to take my wallet out with me ever again! 

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

I’d love to hear more about how women in senior leadership roles are managing their professional and personal lives.

If you are Jacinda Ardern, how do you tell a global leader that it’s your child’s birthday and so you can’t attend a meeting because you’ve promised to take them bowling? Now that would be an interesting read! 

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

I would encourage people to continually feed their curiosity in both their professional and personal lives.

Curiosity is something we have in spades as children and yet it tends to lessen as we age. If something isn’t working for you in helping you to achieve work-life balance, ask yourself questions about how the problem could be solved. 

In my current role I am really supported to think differently and consider new ideas. I think this has helped me to be the master of my own destiny, and find innovative ways to achieve a work life balance.

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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.