Balancing the Grind with Shea Warnes, Strategy Director at MediaMonks

Shea Warnes is the Strategy Director at MediaMonks, a global creative production company with offices in San Francisco, Singapore, Shanghai and other global locations.

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

It all began as a failed musician; I had high hopes to be a professional drummer, but it wasn’t to be. Fortunately, I had a good grasp of the business side, which led me to a job in New York, leading digital marketing for a music start-up.

Since then, I’ve spent the last decade in London and Sydney working in digital and strategy roles for agencies such as BBH, Havas and DDB.

I currently lead the strategic practice for S4’s MediaMonks in Australia, a digital and marketing services company with smart-production at its core.

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

I believe in a ‘healthy body, healthy mind’, so the day starts with getting the heart rate up. Usually, a 5.45 am ride followed by a coffee and a walk with the pup. 

The working day starts at 8, it’s a very precious hour for me to get the critical jobs going for the day before the distractions pour in. That might be finalising a brief, deep-diving into a business problem, creative feedback or new business.

The rest of the day will be a battle between meetings, not doing my expenses, and deep thinking time – I tend to block out a few hours at a time for that.

The days are full-on, so the evenings are about decompressing. Cooking dinner is a needed mental off-switch, and I try to avoid tech after 9 pm. Pretty wild, right?

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

Very flexible. We operate as a global family under one p&l, so much of my work and interactions are remote/virtual.

For example, in a recent winning pitch for a large consumer electronics brand, I led the strategy from Australia, we had creative teams in the Netherlands and S. Korea, a creative director and project managers in Singapore, and a social team in Mexico City. That’s the default OS, and it works incredibly well.

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

It comes in two parts; time-management and identity.

The number of video calls that come with remote working makes it challenging to get the grafting done. Soon days escape you, and work seeps into the evenings, so having discipline, blocking out time and the confidence to say no is critical to not spiraling out of control. Work smarter, not harder.

I also think we place too much of our identity in our careers, which is unhealthy. Particularly with the turbulence COVID-19 has brought. It’s critical to have a division between work and life for natural balance, so look outward to find passions that bring joy and help you grow.

I’ve started writing a novel based on my mother’s experiences growing up on a small island in the Philippines as a bi-sexual in a strictly Catholic society.

I also put in fitness goals to push myself. I’ve been racing in triathlons in an attempt to improve my swimming, but now I’ve got the bug I will be competing in my first Ironman later in the year. 

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

Valuing my sleep has been a significant change for me. I am useless on a lousy night’s sleep, so having a screen-free policy from 9 pm has been a tremendous help.

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

I read many biographies and nonfiction. Fiasco is an exciting read on strategy outside of the marketing bubble. It’s about the lack of planning which led to the many failings of the 2006 Iraq War.

Podcasts: Espionage, How I Built This, Almost Famous, and Presidential are inspiring listens.

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

Grammarly. Before any critical email or presentation goes out, it goes through the Grammarly filter to make sure my words are as structurally sound as my thinking. It catches a lot.

The online service Masterclass is also remarkable for creative writing as well as gaining other skill sets. One class is from a former FBI hostage negotiator who teaches the art of persuasions and negotiation. A must-watch before the following salary review.

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

I’d love to hear how Jacinda Ardern does it. I’m making a move into parenthood, so I would love to get the inside track on how she continues to be such an impressive leader while juggling kids, hobbies, friends and the critics.

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

Laughter is the best medicine.

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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.