Balancing the Grind with Paloma Newton, Marketing & Storytelling Lead at Blackbird

Paloma Newton is the Marketing & Storytelling Lead at VC firm Blackbird Ventures and podcast host of Calling Operator.

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Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to?

I’m the newly appointed marketing and storytelling lead at Blackbird Ventures and have a side project which is a podcast called Calling Operator, where I interview operators in some of Australia & NZ’s brightest start-ups. 

My career path was typically non-typical. I took a job while studying in a Surry Hills bar, which led me on a 7-year journey in hospitality, managing restaurants and bars, opening pop-ups with chefs, etc. I actually learnt so many of my strengths during that period. From there, I started a NFP with a group of friends with the aim of combating sexual harassment online, which led to a court case, helping train NSW police around online harassment and eventually, assisting with the revenge porn laws. 

From there, I went into advertising agencies, working for globally recognized creative agencies on big brand campaigns, which is where I got my strategic and structured chops. After moving to Melbourne to work in ad land, I found myself getting a little bit bored and a friend (TY George) suggested I apply for the Startmate women’s fellowship which was this huge universe slap in the face oh where I was meant to be, the start-up ecosystem was this place that had the community I loved from hospitality, the drive and creativity I loved in advertising and the tenacity of starting a NFP. 

Through the fellowship, I scored a job at Baraja, a hardware start-up that has reinvented LiDAR for self-driving vehicles, where I spent two years among some of the smartest people I have ever met, building a marketing department and supporting their efforts in commercialisation. It was a rush, and I fell in love with being part of building things that people were so passionate about, and bringing my commercial training from adland to the companies of the future. 

We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday?

What I love about my work is that no day looks the same- it’s also still early days, so this is a typical recent day! I start out (early) by going to the gym then taking my dog for a walk while listening to a few podcasts. Next, I walk to work, cramming in another podcast for the day.

Once at work, I’ll skim through content calendars, read news headlines, catch up on emails and Slack, then look at my planned focus for the day. That might be working on a strategy for a program, writing newsletters and social posts, thinking about how to reach different audiences on different channels, chatting to the team about their ideas etc. by the end of the day, I generally read newsletters, plan things for the next day and reflect on what I was able to move forward/ didn’t get to etc. 

Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach in maintaining it?

My approach to work-life balance is being honest with myself, thinking about what I am getting joy from and what is draining me and being conscious that no one can perform at 100% 24/7. I recognise that when I’m excited about what I’m working on, I tend to over-do it so I have a few non-negotiables.

The first one is the gym, min 4 days a week as that keeps my brain in a good place. The second is giving myself time to cook meals most nights- this is time for me to think, relax and turn off and finally, if I need to take a break from something- I do it.

Recently I had a lot of my plate and decided to take a month off producing the podcast. At first I was super anxious about it, but taking that time actually allowed me to perform better when I came back. Ensuring I give myself the time to perform highly is something I constantly remind myself to do- I ask, am I ‘getting this done’ or am I doing it? if i’m not ‘doing it’ it’s time to chill for a minute. 

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Change is constant, and it’s essential for growth. Have you made any lifestyle changes in the past year to improve your work-life balance?

Yes. I very rarely work on weekends, going back to that rest and recovery idea, Sundays specifically are days where I have zero pressure on myself. No housework, no work-work, no gym. It’s my day to veg out.

Other than that, I recently interviewed Carrie Grey from Atlassian, who gave me a framework for weekly reflections. I’ve been sticking to doing that every Friday at 3pm which has really helped me to feel organised, understand what I’m doing well and badly and come into every new week feeling centred, rested and ready to give 100%.

We’re always on the lookout for new resources! Can you recommend any books, podcasts, or newsletters that have helped you in your journey towards balance?

Ooooh, ok yes: 

  • I use Overnight Success (newsletter) to stay up to date without having to go through hundreds of Google alerts 
  • I say ‘good morning, google’ before I jump in the shower every morning, which delivers me Techcrunch/ ABC new & This week in tech while I get ready
  • Atomic Habits is a good read, I have naturally been ‘habit stacking’ thanks to how you work in hospitality but I’m far more intentional 
  • Shameless plug but I have taken away/ learnt something new from every single operator I’ve interviewed on Calling Operator on how to work more efficiently 
  • and if you really want to level up, check out Michael Batko from Startmate’s ‘Puddle pod’ and sign-up for his productivity newsletter 

Before we wrap up, do you have any final words of wisdom or insights on work, life, or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

My biggest advice is to make time for the people you love. No matter how much you enjoy your job, no matter how much satisfaction you get from feeling successful, there will be times you can’t throw yourself into work and having people around you who you put as much energy, love and care into as your work will pay off in those times. 

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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.