CEOs / Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Sharon Gray, Co-Founder & CEO at The Spec Sheet

Sharon Gray is the co-founder & CEO at The Spec Sheet, a new online hub for managing and sharing up-to-date ad specs between media owners, planners, and producers.

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

I originally started off in finance (this was many many moons ago!). When I left school, career paths were (by today’s standards) limited. Studying to become a lawyer, doctor, accountant, engineer or vet were considered the paths one needed to take to be successful. The idea of being creative and forging a career as a creative were considered “high risk” (of failure)

Apple released their first desktop computer (yes I am that old!) and QuarkXpress opened up a creative path for those of use who love to create but could not traditionally draw. I decided to drop out of university and pursue my love of colour and all things print.

I took a class as a desktop publisher, convinced my employer that they needed an in-house print designer and spent the next 5 years designing flyers, annual reports, outdoor signage etc

Digital photography and the www then took the world by storm. The idea that you could create assets that were no longer static that could be edited and updated “in real time” was mind blowing for me. I decided to learn about the “how” and my hunt for knowledge led me down the path of digital creation. Websites, Apps, Digital Ads, Videos and today – software.

I found my true love in wrangling talent and understanding the technical challenges of making digital products and fell in love with being a Digital Producer.

6 years ago, on a Saturday night late, I received an email from Cade Heyde at Special Group asking if I was available to work with his team. Special were (at the time) a start-up looking to grow their team. I said “sure, sounds great” and I was brought in to head up the digital team.

I had always wanted to work in advertising and Cade afforded me that opportunity, which set me on the path (unwittingly) to The Spec Sheet. It was during my time at Special that I witnessed ad specs explode into 16 different channels and saw, first hand how our industry was struggling to manage and share the latest ad specs.

Today, I am co-founder and CEO of The Spec Sheet. Living and breathing in a start-up company that you have co-founded is life on a roller coaster.

No two days are the same and you ride the lows and highs of a new business at pace. But I love my days at The Spec Sheet and feel incredibly fortunate to be on this journey with my Co-Founder and business partner extraordinaire Jesse McLallen.

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

No two days are alike, but a typical day goes something like this:

Alarm goes off at 5:20am

5:45 am – gym, ocean swim, coffee and chat with friends

7am – home, second coffee with my husband Gav and morning chats with my daughter Maddie. 

8:30am – at my desk. Respond to emails and read through industry news

9am – catch up with Jesse (co-founder) we generally run through outstanding issues we need to work on (typically review spec sheet reports and product related tasks)

10am – 30mins with the product team to review job tickets

10:30am – run through any UAT (user acceptance tests) that our Project Manager Daniel has set up.

11am – catch up with Bryan and Monica Business & Customer team leads to check in on potential new & existing business opportunities + review customer feedback

12pm to 6pm 

Enter ad specs or QC specs that other team members have entered into the database.

Sit in on demo session with new customers

Attend financial meetings with our accountant or if in a fundraising phase, meetings with investors

6:30pm home for dinner with my family and then time spent reading.

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

Yes – we 100% allow for flexible and remote working. For all staff. 

80% of The Spec Sheet has been built through COVID lockdown. I am incredibly proud of the team who have been amazing with regards to working remotely – they have shown great maturity and discipline re work and made an awesome product. 

I keep my days structured when I WFH, making sure I am at my desk by 8:30 am, dressed and ready to go! I do enjoy the company of my Labrador Doug throughout the day and a lunchtime walk with him helps keep my stress levels in check.

Plus I have to say, I thoroughly enjoy the time not spent travelling to and from the office. And there is zero chance of getting a parking ticket!

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

For me it means that I get equal time with my family and with work. But as with most things in life you are trying to balance, you inevitably swing too much one way or the other.

Work will typically take up more than its fair share of my time, but I know that communicating with my family and making sure I have time blocked out in my diary so I do not miss the important family moment means life is more balanced. And Sundays are sacred. It is a day of no work and 100% family time.

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

I have been pretty consistent for the past 12 months. My morning routine before work means a lot to starting my day “right”. I have started eating more consciously and try my best to stop skipping meals (a real bad habit of mine) but each week I am getting better!

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

I am avid reader and below what I have recently read:

  • Theroux The Keyhole: Diaries of a Grounded Documentary Maker – Louis Theroux
  • Any Ordinary Day – Leigh Sales
  • The Devil you Know – Dr Gwen Ashead
  • Extraordinary Old Dogs – Laura Greaves
  • Hooked How to Build Habit-Forming Products – Nir Eyal
  • The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse – Charlie Macksey (everyone should own a copy of this beautiful, beautiful book)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee (I read this book once a year at Christmas)
  • Greenlights – Matthew Mcconaughey

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

My iPhone, I’m lost without it! My Garmin watch. Love that it tracks my steps and gives me a nudge when I have been sitting at my desk for too long. 

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

I would love to read about Chris Edwards. Chris was an Aussie expat living in Singapore who decided to create digital content on her website Honeycombers. She went on to expand into Bali and Hong Kong.

She is launching a new HK business (whilst she is now based in Byron Bay with her husband and three kids).

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

It is a balance and never a static state situation. No one gets it right 100% of the time. I think the trick is that when you feel / see the balance shift to acknowledge the situation and plan for realignment.

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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.