Balancing the Grind with Siân Govind, Head of People at Halter

Siân Govind is the Head of People at Halter, an AgTech startup designing and building advanced technology to remotely guide animals.

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

My career in the people and talent space began roughly 12 years ago, in a recruitment agency. Prior to that I had been working in the travel sector and found it wasn’t for me.

I actually went to the agency to explore what opportunities may be suitable with my experience and qualifications when they ended up offering me a role on their team!

After my stint in agency recruitment I moved to the world of inhouse recruiting where I have had the privilege of working in two countries, supporting four continents in fast-paced technology companies from start up, to scale up, to large corporations.

The roles I held over that time were ever evolving. I have worked in sourcing, recruiting, DE&I, HR, and people management. I currently sit on the Senior Leadership Team as the Head of People at Halter, one of New Zealand’s fastest growing companies. 

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

It starts off fairly similar most days – wrangling the kids to get them to daycare! Once I get to work, it sounds very cliché, but no two days are the same. I wear many hats as we have a very lean People team at Halter.

Some days my work is more proactive and I will be working on things like strategic planning, our diversity equity & inclusion program or facilitating learning and development sessions. Other days may be more reactive and I will be supporting managers with employee relations, or stepping in to support our Talent Specialist with recruitment efforts.

There are, of course, some things that are constant like Senior Leadership meetings at the start and end of every week, company-wide all hands once a week and 1:1s with my team members and my manager.

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

I have two energetic little boys, 3 and 1. So work-life balance for me means that I have time (and energy) for my family and myself whilst also being able to deliver high-quality work for Halter.  

My schedule is a constant juggle but I have some non-negotiables like being home in time for dinner, bath time, and bedtime. That means leaving the office every day around 4.30pm. I have this time blocked out in my calendar with the clear title “family time”.

If people look at my calendar they know to respect that time and do not book meetings over it and if they haven’t checked my calendar and invite me to a meeting I politely decline and let them know that I must leave at 4.30pm for family time.

This often means I jump back online after dinner for an hour or two to wrap up my workday. My colleagues are aware of this, so they know I will come back to them later in the evening if need be.

When it comes to “me time” I try to be creative as I am so time-poor! I use my commute as my exercise (I bike), if I didn’t I wouldn’t have the time to exercise in the morning or evening. I also recently read a great article How Busy Parents Can Make Time for Mindfulness so I have started using some of these techniques.

Lastly, I try to have lunch on my own most days. It sounds like an odd thing to want to do but I am an introvert and my job as Head of People and my job as a mum means that there is very little time in the day that I am alone. As an introvert, I need some alone time each day, so lunch is it. 

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

I started biking to work once again. I spent 6.5 years living in Amsterdam, the city with more bikes than people! I didn’t own a car and biking everywhere was the norm. Moving back to Auckland and sitting in traffic everyday wasn’t serving me in any way.

After a recent visit back to Amsterdam and being reminded just how much I enjoy biking I decided that it was time to bring that aspect of my Dutch lifestyle back to NZ. It has been great for physical exercise but also for the endorphins and mental well-being.

Another thing I have changed is my evening routine. Getting out of the door with kids in the morning is a mission… and a highly unpredictable one. So my husband and I recently did an exercise to list everything that is within our control and came up with a plan to “streamline” that. So now daycare bags are packed and loaded into the car the night before, baby bottles are filled with water, and formula is measured out ready to go.

Outfits for everyone (parents included) are laid out the night before. Now when we have a tantrum while getting ready we are not trying to juggle all the other tasks at the same time!

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

I have a Digital Harvard Business Review subscription that I absolutely love and get so much value from. There are over 180 topics that you can follow. A few that I follow are Health and Wellbeing, Balancing Work and Family, and Burnout. 

A podcast I enjoy is Slo Mo: A Podcast with Mo Gawdat who is the best-selling author of Solve for Happy and a former Chief Business Officer at Google. A book that I recommend to everyone (although not so related to the topic we are discussing) is Rebel Ideas by Matthew Syed. The book examines the power of ‘cognitive diversity’.

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

Melinda Gates. As a successful female leader in the tech world, a mother and a philanthropist, she has juggled a lot. She is an inspirational figure to me and is someone I aspire to be like. 

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

Work-life balance is a journey, not a destination. At different stages of your life, you will need different things. So change it up as often as you need.

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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.