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Balancing the Grind with Neville James, Director of Channels & Alliances ANZ at NetApp

Neville James is the Director of Channels & Alliances ANZ at NetApp, a hybrid cloud data services and data management company headquartered in Sunnyvale, California.

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

I’ve been fortunate to have a wide variety of roles in my career. As the Director of Channel and Alliances ANZ at NetApp, I have drawn on my past experiences where I have been a partner, vendor and customer at various stages.

Some of my previous experiences include time at Norton, time at Cisco and even operating my own system integrator business.

These experiences over twenty-five years have given me an end-to-end understanding of the channel ecosystem and help me understand every party’s pain points and goals.

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

There is a typical rhythm to my days which mainly involves partner meetings and helping my team. This can add up to about seven to twelve Zoom calls a day, so the Zoom fatigue for my team and I can be all too real sometimes.

I think everyone gets invited to more meetings than when we were in the office, perhaps since there’s less travel and it’s easier to set up a virtual meeting.

This is something I am super conscious of and encourage my team to think, “would I take this meeting if it was in person?” If not, then I recommend my team use that time where it’s needed more.

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

I’ve always had the flexibility to work when and how I need to, especially since a large part of my role before 2020 was taken up by travel. I’ve definitely changed how I structure my day with travel off the table and everyone working from home.

Without travel, I’ve challenged myself to consciously substitute that time I would be travelling to be productive – this keeps me on track with fitness by holding onto old routines or schedules.

4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you manage your workload and schedule?

Firstly, avoid back-to-back meetings at all costs. They drain you and your productivity. This takes a lot of discipline and you can’t be afraid to say no.

Secondly, I think we have already witnessed from various lockdowns that mental health is something that cannot be neglected. Taking time for mental health boosters, such as healthy eating, exercise, downtime and spending time with friends/family needs to be a priority.

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

I’m a big believer in having interests outside of work. For me, I love spending time with my wife and two teenage children. I also make time for my own interests like working out or reading The Economist from cover-to-cover.

6) What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help you strive for success and balance?

Once you have ‘turned off’ from work for the day, don’t think about it. I have a rule that I never look at my devices once I get home, unless it’s an absolute emergency. There is never a shortage of stuff to take up your time, so I like to set firm boundaries to make sure my days work for me, not the other way round. 

I also think having a good business coach/mentor can really help you see the bigger picture. One of my fondest memories is a lesson I learnt from my business coach. He pulled out a whiteboard and asked me to write down everything that annoyed or frustrated me over the course of a month.

At the end of the month, he looked at my whiteboard and he drew a tombstone across it. The lesson? Stress will kill you if you don’t get on top of it, so was anything on that whiteboard really worth agonising over? The answer was, of course, no. 

7) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?

I’m sure there are a bunch of self-help books out there that I would learn something from, but honestly, my favourite read is The Economist (I make sure to read it every week).

On one page you are learning about how malaria is being treated, the next thing is an analysis of US politics, then geophysics – it really broadens your perspective on a wide variety of topics. I make sure to read it every week. I also love a good novel from time-to-time.

8) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

Delegate, I think I have the best channel team in Australia, so I have to give them the chance to be good. You can’t be the conductor and play every instrument, so you have got to give your team a chance to do what they have been hired to do.

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

It seems Zoom meetings will be around for a while, so you have to make them work for you. I now walk while I Zoom so I’m getting some exercise while working. I’m sure everything will go back to (a version) of ‘normal’ someday, so make what you have now work for you.

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About Author

Balance the Grind is a work-life balance publication on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.