Varun Bhandarkar is the Manager of Customer Success at HubSpot, where he leads the team responsible for driving growth and success for ANZ customers.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
My entire career I have been involved in some form of a customer-facing role. I started my career working in advertising after my under-grad during the peak of the GFC in 2008.
I then moved to Australia for my Masters in 2010 and moved into software sales after graduating. For the past few years, I’ve been working at HubSpot, a software company for marketing, sales, and services.
I started here as a Partner Consultant and am now managing the Australia and New Zealand Customer Success team since January 2019.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
Just like everyone else around the world, my average day has changed a little since COVID. As I’m no longer spending time on a bus each morning, I try and start my day with a short walk as I listen to a podcast or the news before I settle into work.
My workday is then determined by what support my team needs from me on the day, our scheduled 1:1s, and other internal meetings with my fellow managers.
When I don’t have a day packed with meetings, I take the time to work on internal programs, analysing our performance, innovating on strategic plays and plans for each of my CSM’s growth.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
HubSpot as a company has always been an advocate for flexible and remote working. There is an incredible amount of trust and autonomy given to everyone at the company and the focus has always been on value and quality of output – not where and when you work. I’ve actually interviewed and hired two of my star CSMs while traveling in Bali!
These days, if I want to take an hour during the day to go to the gym or run some errands, I just communicate that to my manager and my team and take it. My team also has complete autonomy to take some time off during the day if they need it.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
For me, work-life balance is the ability to bring your best to work everyday without having to compromise on being your best outside of work.
I take a lot of pride in my work and set the bar really high for myself. As a consequence, I tend to work long hours on some days depending on what I’m looking to accomplish. But I make sure that even on those busier days I still make the time to do some exercise to give me a boost.
I also take days off to go on short breaks to give myself an opportunity to recharge and spend quality time with my wife. Most importantly, over the past few years, I’ve been taking two long breaks (up to 3 weeks) each year to go on a holiday and see my family in India and Oman.
I always come back feeling 110% after each of these breaks which helps me to continue delivering excellence at work.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
One of the positive things that came as a consequence of COVID is that I have become a lot more diligent with exercising. I make time, regardless of how busy my day is to get in at least 60 minutes of high-intensity exercise and it’s really helped my energy level and ability to focus.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
My favourite business book of all time is Start with Why by Simon Sinek. I was first introduced to his TED Talk in 2013 which then led me to read the book and completely transformed how I think about business and consumer behaviour.
Another book that I cannot recommend enough is How to Be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi – it has really helped me shift my perspective on a lot of issues and made me aware of some of my own blindspots. Given everything happening in the world right now, I think it is a must-read for everyone.
I’m a big podcast guy! For self-improvement, my favourite ones are HBR IdeaCast, The Knowledge Project, and Kwik Brain.
I also listen to podcasts by two of our HubSpot Partners – Beyond Business with Synx and HubShots – The Unofficial Down Under HubSpot Podcast.
Finally, if you wanted to listen to an entertaining, well-produced podcast, I highly recommend Slow Burn, especially Season 3: Biggie and Tupac!
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
“Can’t live without” might be a hyperbole, but if I had to choose one, it would definitely be Spotify!
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Jacinda Arden. I admire absolutely everything she does and how she does it. She is a remarkably intelligent, compassionate, and poised leader.
From how she handled the changes to gun-laws, to eliminating COVID-19 from New Zealand, and even giving a live interview through an earthquake!
She does everything in a manner that is relatable and human, and in doing so, she has successfully broken down all the unfounded and misguided assumptions around working mothers. I would honestly love to know how she manages to balance all these priorities.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
I’m still learning how to do this well, but if I was to impart some advice based on my experiences, it would be to prioritise self-care and spending time with your loved ones. With how the COVID situation has unfolded, it has renewed my perspective on life and my priorities.
At the end of the day, it is extremely important to keep yourself physically and mentally energised while making time for the people you care for. When you do, your output at work will undoubtedly get better, making it so much easier for you to crush your goals!
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