Balancing the Grind with Raphael Duvoisin, People Lead at Transcelestial

Raphael Duvoisin is the People Lead at Transcelestial, a company building the future of Internet Distribution.

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

I spent the past 10 years navigating between various roles in HR in different industries (Manufacturing, Cosmetics, Professionals Services, Tech), companies of different sizes (from massive MNCs to scale-ups), in different regions of the world (Australia, France and Singapore).

Today my role is to lead all aspects of the HR spectrum for Transcelestial, with a strong emphasis on Talent Acquisition. 

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

It is a question I often get: “what’s a typical day in your company – in the role?”. If there was such a thing as a “typical day” in my job, I would not last long in the role! What I enjoy a lot in my current role are the changes, the pivots, the unexpected.

A good example to illustrate these pivots would be on Talent Acquisition. We try to stay alert and constantly challenge the way we hire, what kind of candidate we want to attract or how we design a role. We track progress on recruitment and review our pipeline weekly. Analysing data enables us to make a call when we are not going fast enough or when the pipeline gets dry.

If we are stuck, is it because candidates find the role unattractive? If so, let’s have an in depth review of the role with the hiring team. Is it because interviewers can’t make it fast enough to the next round? Then, let’s shuffle the interview process.

Of course I also need some structure, so I do my best to follow these two principles in my “typical day”.

What I need to be happy:

  • Time to read, whether it is the news, a book or chatting with my friends & family back in Europe
  • Time to exercise. I am competitive in Triathlon and running which means I train almost everyday
  • Time with my family. One great thing about my job today is the flexibility I have. I can work from home and be super independent & flexible in my work hours. This means I can spend a lot of time with my kid, which is an awesome change compared to the generation of my parents

What I need to be efficient:

  • I start my workday only from the moment I walk through the office door. I try as much as possible not to connect before, on Slack or emails.
  • My day begins in the office pantry having a quick chat with the early birds.
  • Then I check my emails, Slack and WhatsApp and unlock some quick wins by responding to some queries. I’ll keep bigger items that need more work and thinking for later.
  • Then I check recent applications on our open roles and schedule interviews right away.
  • Finally, the more “interactive” work happens. It’s usually a combination of interviews, meetings with Co-Founders, the People & Recruitment team (my team), Team Leads and some solo work on projects.

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

I have had experience in work environments which did not allow work-life balance. I felt no fulfilment there and decided not to spend one more second in such places.

At Transcelestial, work-life balance has been at the core of our culture since day 1. To illustrate this, I can mention our Work From Home Fund we opened during the Covid pandemic allowing employees to create a comfortable workspace at home or our Unlimited Leave policy.

Another way the balance happens is on working hours: we don’t really have those (even if contractually they exist). As long as you get the job done and are present during important meetings, you can arrange your time the way it works best for you.

For me growth, fulfilment and happiness come from various aspects of my life. I am not only Raph the HR professional, or Raph the Triathlon junkie or Raph the husband & father. I am a combination of all these, and more! I need all these pieces of myself to exist and live together.

To sum up: for work-life balance to exist, it needs to be prioritised (among other priorities, of course) and scheduled into your day (with some flexibility). Find yourself a job, a team, a company which genuinely promotes work-life balance.

Then organise your time to make sure you can spend parts of your day on your passions. For example: no meetings outside certain hours / automate all the menial and repetitive tasks / select and structure your meetings well to make sure you do not spend your days sitting there wasting your time.

On not wasting your time in meetings: make sure you are clear about meeting objectives and that you can contribute to it. If you are unclear, ask the organiser to clarify in advance or at the beginning of the meeting. Ask the organiser to make sure someone takes notes during the meeting and shares it afterwards (also great in order to follow up on action items).

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

During Covid, most Triathlon and running competitions were cancelled. On top of that, I became a father for the first time which has been a beautiful yet exhausting experience. It has been tough finding the energy and motivation to focus on my health and form.

In the past few months I decided to put some more effort into it: allocating specific slots during my day to exercise, if possible everyday, and switching to a vegetarian diet. I sleep better and have more energy throughout the day while doing my part in saving the planet.

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

I am rather eclectic: I read international newspapers, graphic novels, fiction, biographies, and listen to history podcasts. Top of mind, what has inspired me lately was:

  • Balthasar’s Odyssey by Amin Maalouf, a French-Lebanese author. A beautiful journey across the Orient and Europe, telling about our relationship to our ancestors and the mark one leaves on Earth. 
  • Letters from an Astrophysicist by Neil deGrasse Tyson. A perfect introduction to Astrophysics for everybody whatever your age or knowledge.
  • Harvard Business Review. It is not a groundbreaking recommendation but the truth is HBR has awesome content
  • No Rules Rules by Erin Meyer and Reed Hastings. An insider look at what made Netflix so successful. From an HR perspective, it is a great example of how innovative a People function can be.

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

I would actually love to hear about work-life balance from people who do not see any value in it or do not promote it. The “give it all to your job and rest when you are old” type of thinking.

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

  • Find yourself a job where the company culture promotes a genuine work-life balance. When interviewing for a new job, ask recruiters and the hiring team about what this means to them and how they live a balanced life. Do not stop at generic and inspirational speeches: ask for details.
  • Build your own balance. You might face external challenges deteriorating your balance (projects with tight deadlines, unexpected trip to a client facility). Well, this is bound to happen. You cannot really control that so you must focus on things you can control: block slots in your agenda for some solo time / make sure meetings you are taking part in are useful for you and you can actually bring value to them / when you organise a meeting, ensure the agenda and the structure is clear for everybody, share it in advance and then do follow up on action items.

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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.