Interviews / Software Engineers & Developers

Balancing the Grind with Samuel Sentongo, Senior Product Security Engineer at Atlassian

Samuel Sentongo is a Senior Product Security Engineer at Atlassian, an Australian tech company providing collaboration, development, and issue tracking software for teams.

Learn about the daily routines from the most successful people in the world by signing up to our newsletter.

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

My name is Samuel Sentongo. I’m a cybersecurity engineer, I have, however, worked as a Salesperson, Penetration tester, and mobile security researcher, and the common thread there is curiosity and doing things that either scare me or am passionate about.

In my current role, I see my work as the link between software developers and the Security team. I liken myself to a marriage counsellor between security and software developers through sharing my expertise and learned knowledge to drive decision-making when it comes to having security as an enabler of business.

I treat my career like a tour of duty. I have been lucky and privileged enough to learn a few lessons in the various roles I have embodied.

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

It starts with a groggy wake-up at 445am and rushing to the gym to make it by 515am. This usually involves having already set my gym clothes outside the room so as not to wake my partner up.

I try to avoid looking at my phone immediately because that can have an effect on the type of day I will have and my mental health. By 6am, I am done with the gym, come back to take the dog for a walk and check my calendar for my schedule for the rest of the day.

At 7am, I check my emails and work on tasks that need heavy concentration, like reviewing a document, sending feedback, and doing data analysis.

I work with people across different time zones, so it’s not uncommon for me to have calls and conversations then. Lunch by midday and have a shutdown routine starting at 7pm. I’m usually in bed by 830pm.

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

My definition has changed over the years, and I used to think there had to be strict delineations for what is work and what is life or that there are no such things as work-life balance and we are doomed.

I have, however, come to understand it’s a continuum for me. Some seasons are all in and doing loads of physical stuff and working on my body because that feeds into how I feel about myself; other times, it’s doing more of the mental element, wellness activities and sometimes, I’m all into my work, and that takes priority because of the career ambitions I have.

I just keep sight of the goals and north star for the next year or so. I acknowledge that I may not be perfect. I might not work as hard or take care of myself, but I try to do something that contributes toward those goals consistently.

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

I started journaling, then stopped it and am getting back into that. Cal Newport has this framework for his work and setup that I am experimenting with. Link here. I’m experimenting with it and will check in 6 months with how I have gone.

The early morning gym routine is something I’m 4 months into and locked into. I have found that it sets the intention for the day and really gets me going and excited. I will caveat this with my gym being 7 mins door to door from my house.

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

Yeah, sure, I have a couple, and no one year is the same, but the staples that I read and listen to and watch are the following:

  • The Diff: He talks things about business and how the world works, and he is engaging and replies to comments.
  •  Phil MD&A
  • Earn your Leisure podcast – Great podcast and interviews on all things personal finance and real estate.
  • TLDR Sec – All things Cyber Security 

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

Shaquille O’Neal and Kevin Hart, their work ethic, as evidenced by the content and work they produce, is at a high level and done with intent and purpose; those two are the ones I’d love to read about.

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

Something I have been thinking about and taking inspiration from Cal Newport and the book Die with Zero is thinking about the type of lifestyle I want to live in the near term and immediate future and then working backwards on how I can add those things to your day to day life.

An analogy is that if you like fishing and travelling and your dream is to retire and fish all day, why not try fishing on weekends or travelling while working if you’re fortunate to and give that a go to see if you would actually like that.

Work-life balance is not a destination IMO; you won’t reach a particular type of income or job or company to get to that work-life balance distance; you have to work on that daily. We, as human beings, underestimate the length of time we have on this earth. Something I have been guilty of is not being present in a moment but thinking of the following achievement or next milestone.

Celebrate yourself and your accomplishments, reclaim your time and focus on activities that are important to the work-life balance you seek, even if it’s a small step. A thought process I ask myself is if someone came and told me I have 5 months to live, what are some of the things I would stop doing, and what would I do more of?

That will help you prioritise what’s essential. I am not advocating for hedonism, but if you realise you don’t like attending certain social events (gender reveals), then it’s okay not to attend them, or if you feel like you don’t like spending your Saturdays mowing your lawn and would instead be bowling with your mates, then pay someone else to do it, and reclaim that time.

Mileage will vary with the responsibilities you have, but there is still room in your life to reclaim your time as an act of self-love.

This article is something I read: Life Is Not Short

Before you go…

If you’d like to sponsor or advertise with Balance the Grind, let’s talk here

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.