Balancing the Grind with Tom Christodoulou, Sales Vice President ANZ at Zebra Technologies

Tom Christodoulou is the Sales Vice President ANZ at Zebra Technologies, a world leader in innovative digital solutions, hardware and software.

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

In an interesting way, I feel like I’ve come a full circle in my professional life. I dropped out of university and ended up working as a labourer. But after three years, I felt like there could be a better path for me.

So, step by step, I tried to establish a career in the corporate world. I initially began working as an office administrator but was able to work my way up the ladder, into the role of a project manager. From there, I shifted into sales and never really looked back. 

Today, I’m the Sales Vice President for ANZ at Zebra Technologies, leading our teams across the region in providing our innovative solutions to businesses across industries, including retail/ecommerce, healthcare, and logistics. I really believe however, that every part of my journey was meant to happen to get me here.

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

While there might be something new happening at work every day, there’s a constant push for the team to have a deep understanding of where the business currently stands and how we can help our customers innovate. 

My morning often starts with a coffee on the pergola with the dog. That first moment of peace helps me energise and prepare for the day ahead.

Brainstorming ideas and working through plans can often take up a whole day through to the evening. However, I think it’s equally important to have perspectives which are not just coming from the core team while strategizing.

That’s why I strongly encourage sitting down with other departments, getting out of the office to talk to partners and customers. So, there are days set aside to focus mainly on that aspect and relationship-building.

I believe it is important to take the time in my workday for some personal time to break up the day. While it can be easy for work to consume most of my day, I make an effort to set out time to work on myself. Exercise is essential, so I go either for a walk or a run. I also make sure to take out time for proper meals, no matter how busy I am! 

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

Zebra Technologies has a flexible work set up in Melbourne. Our offices are open for employees who prefer to work from the office, however, the offer still stands if they prefer to work remotely. Our hybrid model has been a work in progress and is starting to work itself out as we establish balance, routine, and boundaries in our work life. 

A large part of our team is customer and partner facing, and there’s nothing like being able to engage with stakeholders face to face, when it’s safe to do so of course. So, it varies in that sense. Ever since the pandemic, I find that as a company we do communicate more frequently, but our conversations are in smaller groups and more formal.

I’m sure business leaders all over can relate to the lack of water cooler conversations because our workspaces have changed so much. We also see how this plays out in our networks, as more effort is needed to keep them engaged. 

But I see with restrictions easing and life going back to normal, in-person events, functions and face-to-face meetings with customers and team members are great for reconnecting and rediscovering where new opportunities lie. 

4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you manage your workload and schedule?

My number one tip would be learning how to prioritise. There’ll always be a never-ending list of things that need to get done, especially since we have become so digitally connected and always ‘online’. But focus is key; invest the majority of your time in tasks that will create the greatest impact and matter most instead of scattering your energy trying to do everything. 

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

At the start of the pandemic when we first shifted to remote work, I wanted to put in the extra mile to ensure inclusivity was kept up throughout the working community. This meant rather than working on my individual priorities, my approach was team focused.

This meant working in a team environment inclusively and making the extra effort to ensure all team members can participate equally. The mental health of our employees is also extremely important, at Zebra we offer both zDay, a wellbeing global day off initiative, as well as offering volunteering paid time off, to encourage balance throughout our workforce. 

6) What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help you strive for success and balance?

Following on from the importance of inclusivity, communication and empowerment throughout a team can help deliver results and drive success. At Zebra, we place an emphasis on the overall employee experience and developing skills for members on the job.

A team should be able to recognise that the present marks their time to shine and make a difference. When a team is able to embrace what they are working towards and feed off each other’s energy, workloads become easier to balance and success is easier to achieve. 

Often when we look at our calendar for the weeks ahead, it reflects what other people think is important. I have quiet time allocated every single day and this is my time to think, make plans and prioritise what I believe is important.

7) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years? 

Recently, I read Belonging: The Ancient Code of Togetherness, which focused on the principle of inclusivity, especially when working with teams. This book deeply resonated with me, as it so eloquently put into words a philosophy I’ve held for years.

I believe that it’s key to gather a multitude of opinions when strategising and making decisions. In fact, sometimes there’s tremendous benefit in seeking opinions of those who aren’t directly related to the issue at hand, as they can offer a completely different perspective.

It’s being aware of the different ways of looking at a business issue which often helps one make the most informed decision. Talking and brainstorming with people is also a great way to encourage curiosity and innovation 

8) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

I’m a firm believer in the power of physical exercise. It’s a fantastic way to lower stress levels and feel good, allowing you to work in a better, more frictionless way, while also getting on with your co-workers better. I personally love to go for a walk or run every single day to release any built-up stress.

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

I’m excited to see what work life balance is going to look like moving forward, as some aspects are still to play out. This year there has been a lot of disruption to employment, many opportunities, and challenges as well as people looking at new options. I believe we’ll soon see what a post pandemic, productive, engaged, and healthy workforce will look like. 

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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.