Balancing the Grind with Shaun Byrne, Head of User Experience at LinkTree

Shaun Byrne is a product design leader, currently working as the Head of User Experience at LinkTree, where he’s helping mature the design practice to deliver with more quality and efficiency.

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

I started off my career in Multimedia Design where everything was CD Authoring, Flash websites and Adobe still ruled creative tooling space. My career has spanned teaching, online learning, global eCommerce retail, and Global FinTech.

I’ve been fortunate enough to work with psychologists and learning designers to build award winning online learning, modern digital marketing teams to growth hack user acquisition, global product teams where we use the full gamut of data to understand users and measure their success.

All the while passionately advocating and creating healthy teams to better deliver for customers and make people happy at work.

My most recent role was at Openpay where I overhauled their entire product suite, systemised and scaled it into the UK, and spun up their first ever design team.

Now, I have recently joined the talented team at LinkTree where I’m excited to help mature the design practice and evolve the ways of working to better deliver for the customer.

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

I like starting my day with a walk, run, or bike ride. It gets the blood flowing. Depending on the day, that can start early, or overlap with the typical 9am starting time. If it does, I generally make that time up somewhere else in the day/week.

A typical remote day for me starts with a stand up or two. Either with a specific product team, or a leadership group. They are designed to be quick to uncover progress, roadblocks and answer any questions that might arise. It also keeps us all aligned. This method works in co-located and remote teams. It’s great.

My days are usually one of two things, meeting days where I facilitate workshops to ideate or align people together, or have One-on-One’s with my team to ensure they have what they need to succeed.

In remote times I have employed the use of modern collaboration tools like Miro or Mural. These are great and help create a central source of truth as well as reduce the need for undue documentation.

For one on ones, I have found myself doing these more as walking meetings to get out in the sunshine, or get fresh air. I tend to take notes post the session when this happens.

The other form of day is a focus day. I would usually still have Stand Up at the start of the day, that never changes, but often I am focusing on progressing a piece of work forward – strategy, research, design, or unblocking teams from achieving what they have set out to do.

This is often in my home or in a cafe, but during COVID my partner and I have enjoyed our courtyard when the weather is nice.

I would usually finish my day with rock climbing, baseball training, walking or seeing friends. Seeing friends is obviously harder right now due to COVID, so more often than not, walking with podcasts or music is the way I spend my time immediately post work.

Decompressing is an important part for me. That distinction between work and home is harder now, so I am making it a point to formalise it differently than when I am co-located in the office.

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

Yes. I think I shared a bit about how my life fits into my work above. For me, it’s about an honest give and take attitude. I know when I am on track with an outcome I’m driving towards. I move my personal and professional tasks around freely as long as it doesn’t impact that outcome, or my team negatively.

The use of cloud products like Google’s G-suite, Microsoft 360, Atlassian, Miro, Figma and more is immensely important to empowering remote work. It’s a lot easier to do work asynchronous. This just means bringing people together digitally to help you progress a piece of work you have.

Meetings are only used to collect information to help you progress, or to make an important decision. This really helps a remote culture. Reducing the amount of meetings by having a good culture of autonomy is something I evangelise and have seen work really well in my career, especially in remote cultures.

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

It’s challenging and always fluctuates. For me, it’s a balance between achieving my professional and personal goals. I don’t believe in doing all personal tasks outside of business hours.

Society is starting to really see how work and life can mix together to make people more efficient and happier in their life. It’s a huge competitive edge for attracting the best talent too. I am so much happier when I am ticking off boxes on both sides of my life throughout the day.

We’re all human after all, we should embrace that diversity and have empathy for our fellow workmates.

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

COVID has impacted everything in my routine. I am big on sport so cycling, baseball and rock climbing aren’t able to be done well or at all during this time. I have replaced these activities with running, walking and Zoom calls with friends to replicate after work drinks, dinners, birthdays and even playing cards.

The biggest routine change for me is replacing the morning commute. I would always catch the train to work and it was a good transition for me. Now, I get up and walk for a few KMs to replace that void. I even do it if the weather is terrible. So far it’s bearable, especially with podcasts.

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

I am an avid listener of the Intercom product podcast, but really enjoyed the “Scale Up” podcast that goes through some Australian Start-Ups and their journey to becoming established.

For books, I recently finished and enjoyed The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson. It’s a great no BS way of describing ways you can find inner happiness and strive toward your goals. There is great research and evidence to support his message too.

Right now, I am reading Drive by Daniel H. Pink. It has some great validation and evidence to the way intrinsic motivation can be a key ingredient in your successful and happier team culture.

I have recently subscribed to “Dear Valued User…” It’s an email list that assesses emails from businesses to users and breaks down how well the messaging is. It’s early days, but I am liking what I see.

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

I’m a minimalist. I’m trying to reduce the amount of technology asking for my attention. However, I am finding more and more value in a smart enabled home. I have been using Amazon Alexa, Lifx, Chime and some smart enabled PowerPoints to help me control my home with my voice more than my fingers. It’s pretty cool.

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

I am always impressed by the amount of work Jonathon Courtney puts into AJ&Smart. I would be super interested in how he goes about it. Or Julie Zhuo, she would be great to learn from about how she goes about her day personally and with her teams.

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

Work-life balance is here to stay, businesses should embrace it, rather than push it away. There is a lot of evidence to support it and its value to humans and businesses. I don’t know how I would adapt if I had to work in an environment that wasn’t flexible.

I feel fortunate to work in an industry that has that freedom. I have no idea how other industries would take on similar levels of flexibility. There would definitely be a way though. It’s time to innovate the working cultures of the world!

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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.