Balancing the Grind with Nicholas Robert, Founder at Learning Vault

Nicholas Robert is the founder at Learning Vault, Australia’s first digital credentialing agency, offering digital credentialing and certification solutions for individuals, businesses, employers, and governments.

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

I originally studied and worked in Hotel Management, which is an industry that I still hold dear to my heart.

I then worked my way up through hotels and eventually into the quality assurance and guest experience area of a large hotel chain where my team and I worked across quality concerns for 184 hotels (at that time) in Australia, New Zealand and French Polynesia. 

This role ultimately taught me the most effective way of changing a business is through education and training of staff. I decided to transition into education and consultancy and from there I created and ran a successful registered training organisation specialising in management, leadership, hospitality, and business.

I then founded Learning Vault, Australia’s first digital credentialing agency, offering digital credentialing and certification solutions for individuals, businesses, employers, and governments.

At Learning Vault, I work with an awesome team of people, and together we power education providers and companies globally to train, certify or credential their workforce. 

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

Learning Vault is Australian headquartered with partners and satellite offices globally – our teams in NSW and VIC enjoy the benefits of a distributed workforce, so there is no central requirement to work in an office regularly. 

For me, an average day starts with waking up and mentally planning what needs to be achieved for the day, what meetings I have and the outcomes that are required from those meetings. I then quickly glance through emails that have come in overnight (a terrible habit, I know) and go to personal training (Mon, Wed, Fri).

Return, shower – get comfortably dressed in a black or white v-neck t-shirt and then make a flat white for myself and my wife. I am then ready to start my workday and head to my desk to begin reading through the calendar and emails. 

My first call is always with a staff member, and I make it an ongoing rule that the first part of every conversation with every staff member cannot be about work – it must be focused on how they are going or what is new with them. 

From there the day typically has back-to-back meetings internally or externally and phone calls with time scheduled throughout the day to reflect, make decisions and delegate workflow. I always make sure that I alternate between sitting and standing for different meetings and calls. 

I either make lunch or step away to consume lunch, albeit briefly. I then typically continue the pattern of meetings until about 6 pm where I stop and spend time with my wife and usually take our fur-baby for a walk.

We both cook dinner, and then three nights a week I will have evening calls with the different teams scattered across Singapore, the UK & Ireland as well as Nepal and India. I make sure that I do not have meetings past 9 pm so that I can maximise mental agility. I then relax and make sure to settle my thoughts before going to bed.

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

Absolutely! I truly believe that one of the most important things for a CEO or founder to have is a flexible calendar. You need to be able to work from anywhere and be contactable by your team, yet you also need to be able to switch off and have a break to recharge.

Additionally, I think being able to get away for a long weekend or take a much-needed holiday is so important and should be prioritised to prevent the dreaded effects of burnout.

Also, changing up your work location is another very effective tactic – a change of scenery can really help to develop thought processes and creative energy. I think a lot of people overlook this and rather just get used to the same repetitive routine. That is what I love about my current role – I can work from anywhere!

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

 I believe that mastering the right work-life balance is one of the most important things in your career. I do, however, think at different times in your life a ‘work-life balance’ does take on different meanings.

In my experience, as a founder, you have to make sure that you are taking the time away from work, to enjoy and experience other things in life, which can then actually make you more effective whilst you are at work. 

I think being completely grounded in what you want in life ultimately leads to a full, complete, and happy life that enriches all things. To me, it is being able to step away from work when I want to spend time with friends or family and having the flexibility to know that some weeks I can work harder to allow for more time with friends and family in another week. To me, work-life balance is yin and yan that need to be in sync.

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

 Yes, during lock-down I think everyone found life a little complex, I feel like everyone was playing the game of life on ‘hardcore’ mode and as a result, many fell into habits to assist them to get through.

I found myself having a glass or two of red wine every night, and for me, this is not something that I wanted to be doing. For the past 6 months, I do not drink at all during the week and I feel a lot healthier, cleaner and more alert for it – I then look forward to a glass of wine over the weekend with friends or family. 

I have also joined a club of entrepreneurs and business leaders where we talk, and problem solve all things (no selling to each other) and it has been fantastic to engage and talk about the future with some incredible and inspiring people.

From a work tweak perspective, I have found that scheduling periods throughout the day as a “no meeting zone” has been invaluable to relieve feelings of stress, but also leads to an increase in productivity. 

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

I am quite interested in education and hospitality, so I subscribe to a few of these selections – I go through a broad range of different newsletters to make sure that I am getting a good cross-section of what is happening out there in the industry. 

Typically, I prefer to meet with other people and engage in conversations as there is a decent amount of reading that takes place throughout the working day, so I do not enjoy this as much in downtime. Human connection is key!

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

  • Grammarly! (I am wonderfully dyslexic)
  • My phone
  • Wireless headset/earphones – amazing!

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

 Jeff Bezos, founder CEO, Amazon – one of the greatest BHAG’s and he has absolutely crushed it – I would love to know his daily grind. 

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

I think we live in a world where everyone has perceptions of what success is. A lot of people that I talk to that are in start-up as a business say that they feel bad taking breaks, that they should be working 24-7.

I think, from my experience, it is the absolute opposite – I think if you have time away from work and you can focus on things that make you happy, you will naturally have more energy for work, you will be happier, more productive, and more efficient!

If you feel like having a meeting while you go for a walk around a park – DO IT. I think people should stop listening to ‘the masses’ and figure out what works best for them!

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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.