Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Rachael Vorwerk, Co-Founder at FireThrive

Rachael Vorwerk is the Co-Founder at FireThrive, a social enterprise with a collective interest in addressing social and environmental issues through human-centred design, storytelling, and interactive technology.

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

I’ve always loved science and even studied it, but in my science degree I realised I wanted to talk about science, but not necessarily do research myself. So, I became a science communicator.

This means I help researchers to communicate their work in a way that people can understand. I have worked with a number of researchers across my career so far, from researchers at CSIRO to engineers at RMIT, which is where I’m currently working

After a close call in the 2019 bushfires, I also co-founded our bushfire education company called FireThrive, where we help bushfire-prone communities to better prepare for climate-related disasters. 

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

My work week is structured to work three days a week at RMIT (Tuesday through to Thursday), and Mondays and Fridays at FireThrive. My workday on Monday this week (a FireThrive day) began with a morning meeting with my co-founders Dan and Danielle doing some social media planning and client meeting preparation.

Then we did some presentation preparation for the AFAC conference coming up in Adelaide. Then I had a coffee with a fellow science communicator to talk about the industry. After that, my team had a client kick off meeting and then I wrote some follow-up meeting notes for the client. 

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

Over the last two years I have been working three different jobs – at FireThrive, RMIT and as a communications consultant. I like the diversity, however, managing my time for each is quite a challenge!

I have learnt to become quite disciplined to draw a line in the sand and allocate different days to different jobs – things like writing in my email signature ‘I work Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays’ can really go a long way and helps people to understand my work days. 

I’m especially proud of the workplace culture we have created at FireThrive in achieving work-life balance. We really prioritise mental health and are very open about it. If someone looks as though they can’t get something done by the time they said they could, we all pitch in and ask how to help, or what the blockers are. It’s an extremely supportive work environment and one that is absolutely conducive to work-life balance. 

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

I would say defining my jobs to different days is quite a new routine for me. I tried doing ‘half days’ for different jobs and it didn’t work – one job would blend into the other then I’d get disappointed I didn’t get all my work done. So now allocating full days to different jobs really helps. 

Routines that I have really enjoyed with my FireThrive team are our ‘Church of honesty’ sessions in our Monday and Friday catch ups. It’s a place where we can be honest with one another,and reflect on what has and hasn’t worked. Another great routine is putting 10 minutes aside in these meetings to write as many social media posts as we can. 

For my time management, I also use the ‘tasks’ function in Outlook and have really found that this has made me very productive. I categorise items into each job, and can see each day how many tasks I’ve finished. 

At the end of the week, I can also see if any of the jobs timetabled have encroached on time allocated for other jobs 

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

I am often reading a lot of scientific papers, so I like to read fiction in my spare time. I am a big fan of Elena Ferrante and her My Brilliant Friend novels. I also absolutely loved Kevin from The Office (US) version’s podcast about The Office. 

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

Ash Barty! She is a fantastic role model and I’d love to hear more from her and from her wellbeing coach! 

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

I think routine is extremely powerful. Allocating lines in the sand for yourself can really help to develop habits, particularly if you’re trying to balance a lot of things at once. One thing that has really helped me to take the pressure off myself is this change in my emails.

Instead of saying ‘I’ll get that to you by Thursday 4pm,’ I instead now say ‘I’ll get that to you late next week.’ Things always pop up that may blow a plan out of place, and to take the pressure off yourself, you can say a vaguer time of the week. 

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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.