CEOs / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Nicole O’Brien, CEO at Fishburners

Nicole O’Brien is the CEO at Fishburners, one of Australia’s leading hubs for early-stage founders, and also Australia’s largest host of start-up focused events.

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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 social entrepreneur with a passion for improving lives and communities.

My career working with social enterprises in the not for profit sector began in 1989 at the Australian Conservation Foundation where I thrived being able to have a positive impact on growing green consumerism whilst growing the ACF’s revenue base.

A trip to Asia followed with the opportunity to work on an Australian Aid project in Cambodia working with the Khmer Journalists association as a business Development Advisor to support the establishment of a free press.

This was an incredibly exciting and optimistic time following the first Democratic elections in Cambodia and there was a lot to achieve. This led to work  with the United Nations Development Program as a Communications Consultant and the Shandwick Group as a PR Executive working for the Cambodian Government.

Back in Australia I then worked for Team Publications, a small start up with a new approach to organisational learning where she was charged with taking a range of management coaching tools to market.

This was followed by a role as Marketing Manager for the women’s and youth titles. After a couple of years in publishing my passion for making a difference took over and I spent the next 10 years transforming the social enterprises of YWCA NSW and repositioning the organisation to be recognised for the critical support it provided to women and their families.

That was followed by a 10 year stint  using my leadership, governance, financial, , marketing and entrepreneurial skills to ensure that ACON Health continued to be the leading health promotion organisation providing opportunities for its community to live their healthiest lives.

Today I am the CEO of Fishburners Australia;s leading not for profit incubator dedicated to supporting Founders to thrive so they can create and grow successful businesses.

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

Well it looks a little different to what it did 18 months ago with some days working from home mixed with days at the Office.

I am definitely more of an ‘in the office’ person I prefer the structure of getting up and dressed and leaving the house and mess behind so that I can focus on building and growing our community of Founders and helping them to build and grow their ventures

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

Up until the pandemic myself and the Team were always at the office. Having a large physical community of founders in our hub it has been important to be present for them as well as to be onsite to manage all of the services and facilities that we provide for them. We will definitely be back to the Office as soon as we can.

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

Work life balance for me means being able to fit in regular exercise, having the flexibility to take time out when it’s needed  and being available for my two children and husband at important times.

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

Yes I stopped going to the gym and started running and doing my own exercise routines at home. I find exercise so important to my mental wellbeing that it is a non-negotiable part of my weekly routine.

I also started to listen to a Mediation app in the evening to try and wash away the stresses and worries of the day and improve my sleep which I have always struggled with- it is definitely helping.

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

The Brilliant is a great newsletter about new developments in science but done in a really accessible way for the non scientific. I also like the Mckinsey Daily Read for great insights on management and leadership 

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

My phone of course – they do so much for you now from storing your health information to providing you with on the go payments and everything in between.

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

Nicole Kidman and Jacinda Ardern.

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

Exercise is the key to good physical and mental health.

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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.