Balancing the Grind with Victoria Berry, Head of Strategy at FutureBrand

Victoria Berry is the Head of Strategy at brand transformation company FutureBrand, working with brands like Flight Centre Travel Group, Guide Dogs Australia, Melbourne Festival and more.

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

Fresh out of university and desperate to see the world, I started my career in Dubai working for the luxury hotel and hospitality group Jumeirah.

I joined the corporate communications team as a junior exec and I had the pleasure of learning from some of the most exceptional hoteliers and operators in the world.

It was an exciting time of my life, amplified by Jumeirah and Dubai’s growth and impact on the world. I feel so lucky to have had that kind of start.

After a few years I realised I wanted to create not just communicate, so I was thrilled when an opportunity came up with FutureBrand in New York City. I knew the FutureBrand team and their work in the region and I was excited to learn how to build brands.

I moved to the US in September 2008 during the peak of the GFC. Obviously, it was an extremely challenging time, but over the next four years the business grew considerably. 

I carried some incredible personal and professional experiences with me when I left to come home to Australia in 2012 and I was lucky to transfer to the FutureBrand Australia team. Twelve years have passed since I first started working with FutureBrand, but I’m just as excited about working here as the day I started.

Under the leadership of Rich Curtis, we have a team of incredibly talented and genuinely nice people working to create and transform brands in sectors as diverse as financial services, healthcare and consumer goods, to travel, aviation, and more.

My role as Head of Strategy is to work side-by-side with our clients to develop rigorous but simple solutions that impact real change and help their brands and businesses grow. I’m passionate about delivering simplicity and sharing knowledge, especially for projects with real purpose. 

I’m now happily settled in Melbourne and in the time I’ve been back I’ve been so lucky to have met my husband Tristan and we’ve had two babies – Leo who is 4 and Seraphina who is 2.  They have all opened a whole new world of adventures to me!

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

In a post-COVID world every day looks a little different for me. I would love to say I wake up when I’m ready, exercise, then have a leisurely coffee, but that’s not really the phase of life I’m in – although I’m very much looking forward to going back to that in the future!

The kids and their schedule really drive what kind of morning we have. I try to get up before everyone else so I can get ready before the mayhem. We eat breakfast as a family and then, depending on who is working in the office or who has the earlier meeting, my husband or I will drop the kids to kindergarten and daycare.

Regardless of whether our team is working from home or in the office, we begin every day with a team check-in, which is a great way to stay connected and across what’s happening in the studio.

My days are then pretty packed with team meetings and brainstorms, client presentations and workshops, and, of course, new business pitches. I most love the moments of the day where I can stop and dive into the work as this is still the best part of my job.

The day ends with a dash to pick up the kids before the mad rush of kids’ dinner, bath, books, and bed begins. Like most parents, we mostly get a heavenly hour or two to decompress, eat and have a glass of wine. And repeat!

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

FutureBrand Australia has always had a flexible approach to work life, which has only been amplified by COVID and probably more so since Rich bought the business a year ago (we’re still part of the global FutureBrand network, but Rich owns the agency).

Our Melbourne office is in the Hub Parliament Station co-working space, which works well in terms of having a beautifully flexible place where our team can come together when we’re able to. Rich is based on the Central Coast, NSW and Stephen our Brand Experience Director is in Adelaide so we’re all constantly on Google Meet, Zoom and Slack regardless of our physical location.

There is a huge amount of trust, respect, and track record in our team, which goes a long way in creating an environment where people feel comfortable to work in the ways that suit them, and our clients.

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

Balance to me means experiencing different aspects of life in moderation (which is something my mum always taught me about eating), but I believe it can extend into everything we do.

Achieving balance in every moment of every day is impossible but if you consider it more holistically, knowing things will be off kilter some days and weeks but can come back around the other way at other times, then it is achievable.

I’m big on organisation – and dividing up the domestic load – so I prioritise and schedule in time to do the things I love (or know I need) to do. That said, I’m working on not being hard on myself when things don’t go to plan.

One brilliant perk of working at FutureBrand Australia, which Rich introduced late last year, is that we all get four “Healthie” days a year, to be taken on the same day at the same time in the middle of the week.

The idea is that it’s a day just for you to spend exactly how you would like, with no pressure, expectations, or prior commitments. I mostly spend mine enjoying the peace of a quiet house and rare, unaccounted-for time, and indulging in Netflix and a lunch-time nap. These days are truly restorative for me!

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

COVID hit just as I was returning from maternity leave after my second baby, Raphi. Before then, I was much more regimented and routine-driven.

Organisation soothes my soul but with juggling two children  and the unpredictability of Melbourne’s lockdowns and restrictions, I’ve had to adjust to setting up processes and systems rather than sticking to inflexible routines.

When we had one child and no lockdowns it was easier to fall into a set routine, but now each day is different, so we are learning to take each day at a time, and put systems in place to make it all run a bit smoother.

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

I need to make more time for reading for fun. I really miss that, but I mostly spend my downtime listening to podcasts. I would say I’m mainstream in my tastes and love to listen to everything from pop culture to in-depth profiles to current affairs.

In any one week I might listen to every episode of The Daily, Stuff You Should Know, Mamamia Outloud, The Pineapple Project and I love the Shameless girls.

I rely on my colleague Emma Waterman to up-the-ante a bit. She has a wealth of knowledge and has introduced me to lots of great reads. The Sociology of Business weekly newsletter from Ana Andjelic is one we both love.

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

Collaboration and co-creation have always been fundamental to the way we work at FutureBrand but since we introduced Slack (after trying many other internal messaging services), it’s been a lot smoother and far more intuitive.

We’ve also discovered Miro in the last 12 months, which has been an absolute game changer for us – not just in terms of working with clients who are inter-state or in other parts of the world but for working with each other too.

It’s so much more than just a digital whiteboard, it’s an amazing tool that helps us process huge amounts of information and draw out insights, together. I can’t imagine a time when we won’t be integrating Miro into the way we work, even when the world returns to some kind of normal.

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

I’m always interested to learn more about how women with highly-demanding and visible careers, like Leigh Sales or Helen McCabe are balancing it all. But I like just as much learning tips and tricks from anyone who is in a similar stage of life to me but finding ways to manage stress and recharge!

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

It sounds a bit clichéd but someone I admire very much once told me that the key to balancing it all is learning to focus your mind on the task at hand and blocking out everything else until it’s time to tackle it.

She was a very senior executive with a busy family life who I had the pleasure of travelling with on a few different occasions. We talked at length about the benefits of training yourself to truly live in the moment, and I try to remember that when I’m feeling overwhelmed and pulled in a million different directions.

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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.