Balancing the Grind with Stephenie Pulis-Cassar, Chief Operating Officer at InternMatch

Stephenie Pulis-Cassar is the Chief Operating Officer at InternMatch, a global EdTech platform and community focused on employment and career outcomes.

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

“Started from the bottom, now we’re here” is literally my (and Drake’s) career mantra.

I fell into my first job which was a super early stage start-up and realised pretty quickly that the start-up life was a perfect fit for my personality and the way I liked to learn — so, I’ve managed to steer clear of the ‘corporate life’ and have honed my skills across various start-ups.

I spent most of my career in the PropertyTech sector and started as a Customer Service Rep working from the back kitchen of a real estate office, working my way up to Chief Operating Officer over ten very long years, seeing the company through an ASX listing (and subsequently, delisting from the market – the ups and downs of start-up life.)

My current role as Chief Operating Officer for EduTech company InternMatch has been one of the riskiest but most rewarding career moves I’ve ever made. We are in the business of creating opportunities for students, graduates and career changes through professional internships, training and mentorship — gaining vital real-life, hands-on industry experience and significantly improving their career prospects.

We’ve recently closed a Series A capital raise, secured major Government projects and throughout COVID still managed to take things globally, opening an office in the UK and have now expanded further into South Africa and Canada. Safe to say, I’m quickly learning what it takes to be across global markets and run global teams.

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

Historically speaking, I’ve certainly not considered myself a morning person. I’d read all the books about how ‘the most successful people start their day at 5am’ and couldn’t quite get around the idea — only recently have I started to embrace this (not by choice, apparently my body clock has other ideas, so I’m making the most of it).

A workday for me looks like:

  • Typically I start my day with a coffee in bed where I catch up on emails, check a few news sites (and a cheeky scroll or two of TikTok or Instagram).
  • It’s then time to jump in the shower, get myself ready and I like to be at my desk just after 8am.
  • My daily morning ritual is to update my daily tasks list (I am indeed a list maker) with everything I have on for the day.
  • I will likely spend 80% of my time in meetings with external stakeholders, our operational team, our tech team and our internal executive team.
  • Because of this, I tend to multitask in meetings (or at least try) and use various apps to take notes, action items and manage my productivity and to-do list. I find it’s the only way to get things done.
  • By around 5pm Australian time, my teams in the UK and South Africa start their days so I will then move into a few global meetings towards the end of the day.
  • After finalising meetings, catching up on work and filtering through my emails, I like to bring my workday to a close by decompressing on the couch and watching an episode or two of whatever show has hooked my attention at the time (currently it’s every episode of Below Deck)

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

I think previously I would have squirmed at this question because my work-life balance perhaps didn’t look the way I imagined it should.

As my career has progressed I’ve learnt that work-life is whatever works for you and I now appreciate that is different for everyone. I love my job, I love working, applying my mind to a challenge and producing solutions — as they say, do something you love and you won’t work a day in your life. 

I don’t enjoy sitting idle, I like being busy, I always have  — ever since I was a kid I remember after school it was always piano, drum lessons, tennis, swimming, soccer, gymnastics, all at the same time, because I loved it.

I feel the most comfortable when I’m ‘doing’, and I enjoy decompressing with friends, my family, playing sport, music and honestly we have such a great team at InterMatch, that my team is that balance. We get things done, we have fun and it makes working a joy – and it honestly fills my cup.

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

Like many I am sure, I found working from home a blessing and curse for creating ‘work-life balance’. On one hand, I found that being at my desk in my own home meant that the lines of ‘start and finish’ were blurred, meaning I would fall into the trap of working longer.

But on the same hand, I so appreciated the time that I gained back in my day by removing my daily commute, and when it was time to switch off, I was already home, in the warmth and comfort of my space – so decompressing was more immediate. 

I think we all really appreciate the lessons we learnt from that experience and as such we’ve embedded a hybrid work model at InternMatch, which allows all of our staff to enjoy the bonding that comes from seeing each other in the office, and appreciate the opportunity to work from the comfort of home and gain some time back each day.

Working from home also taught me a great habit of getting out for a daily walk, and I’ve recently fallen in love with tuning into Audible when I’m strolling — I’ve set myself a goal of getting through two books a month (with one being business or productivity based, and the other generally a biography).

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

On the book front, I recently finished Shoe Dog the story of Nike which was incredible; No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention by the co-founder Reed Hastings which is also fantastic.

I have to be in the zone for podcasts, but when I am I tune into Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard; the Foundr podcast is awesome, so much gold in there; and I also love Do You F*cking Mind with Alexis Fernandez.

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

I actually read a Balance the Grind insight into Kris Jenner’s daily routine and I would love to know more about just how-she-gets-it-done. 

You only have to visit her Instagram profile to see that Kris is either a co-founder, board director, advisor (or just absolute hype woman) for over ten of her kids companies and brands – not to mention managing her own brand – the brand of Kris (and it’s 49mil followers).

Whether you like or even follow along with the Kardashian/Jenner crew is completely personal, but I am unashamedly happy to admit I am fascinated by the brands this family has created and I feel exhausted just thinking about how they (and let’s be honest their huge teams) manage to get it all done.

That is a secret I would love to know. 

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

I’m all about working smarter, not harder. 

We live in an incredible world where we have insane technology (and humans behind it) to help us automate almost anything and everything. A huge part of my role at InterMatch is finding ways to streamline and make processes more efficient. If that means taking the time to fix and improve the way we work, even if it’s just to solve a 1% inconvenience — because many 1%-ers equate to so much more.

Look for platforms like Zapier, and a host of browser-based extensions which can connect and integrate the way you do things in your business, and make you work smarter.

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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.