Balancing the Grind with Wes Fagan, Chief Design Officer at Mudbath

Mudbath’s Chief Design Officer Wes Fagan embodies the business philosophy of being open to new ideas, challenging the status quo, and leading evolution within the digital product space.

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

Born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, I went on to study Visual Communication and Human-Computer Interface – an educational grounding that made me appreciate the juxtaposition of specificity in needs and the beauty of the design. 

Throughout my career, I have held senior leadership positions across many sectors, including technology, financial services, telecommunications, software, advertising, service design, and branding. Design is a discipline that I am truly passionate about – from typography to industrial design.

I have had the privilege, within my roles, to work across iconic brands, including Nike, Cochlear, Telstra, Commonwealth Bank, Toyota, Seat, Sydney Opera House, Three, Vodafone, McDonald’s, TAB, and Coles. Within this work, creating inspiring human-centric products and designs has always been the leading factor – in delivering transformative execution and outcomes.

Within my current role as Chief Design Officer at Mudbath, I’m tasked with giving design an executive order – growing our design community, while working with our new and existing customers to unlock the potential of their brands.

Helping leaders understand the clear connection between their brand and the outcomes of choice that we offer at Mudbath. In short, drive experience design excellence across every interaction, and every touchpoint.

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

I have a young family and I work between home and our Mudbath offices. My days are not often the same, so my routine is all about creating momentum! My son is two and a half, and my daughter is seven months old. For all parents reading this, they will know the morning is a hustle.

I love to see it as biting off chunks to get a rhythm and routines that work. At Mudbath, I feel very lucky as we offer Hyperflex – it is a way of you owning your day, to get the right outcomes for the work you do.

Generally, I’m awake from 5:30, to review the day ahead – I catch up on the news (check my favourite sports team news) and then check in on any client developments that may have come through overnight.

I’m a big believer in lists.

I’ll draft up a hit list of actions to get through or flag any meetings I need to check in on. Then I take a short break to help get the house in order. My wife is also working, so we balance the kids together and then as well, try to make time for each of us to do some exercise or grab some solo headspace. By 8:30AM it is straight into work mode.

Whether it’s at home or working from the office the flow remains the same. At Mudbath, there is an incredible focus on the time we use to discuss and time activities. As a rule of thumb, meetings are in 30-50 minute segments, so we can get the right topics covered, and get the right balance of activities.

After catching up with my exec cohorts, I like to follow up with the design leadership team, and then somewhere around mid-morning, I work through my client engagements and keep up to date with any trends or analyses that will help with what I’m working on.

I like to take my lunch with a side of a podcast (sports, work or tech related). If I don’t have a client workshop or meeting, I’ll usually work through till about 4:30 pm, jump into some family time, and then catch up on work later in the evening.

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

Balance is about not letting things pile up. I’ve worked a lot on prioritisation and compartmentalising actions and items. There are a lot of studies that show the time it takes to do something increases the closer it gets to the deadline.

I work to achieve balance with rhythm – start with the simple tasks, and build up a flow of the day. 90-20-90 is a model I often try to work too.

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

I recently changed jobs and had some time off between them. It allowed me the luxury of stopping and truly thinking about habits I wanted to start and stop. Habitually, I was always a big coffee drinker.

It was easy to land myself in 4 cups a day, especially with young kids around – it gave me the boost. However, I found myself becoming a little cloudy in judgement from it. I went cold on caffeine – cutting it out has helped my mindset tremendously.

I’ve been off it for five months now, and I genuinely believe I’m a more considered thinker and I have more headspace for approaching problems and client needs with a more strategic mindset.

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

A few of my recent reads – Reimagining Design by Kevin G Bethune, which I borrowed from an ex-colleague and I’m really enjoying the modelling and new ways of approach it is teaching me. The Myth of Normal by Gabor Mate – I am loving this.

It’s a deep dive into the details of our environment, and the impacts it has on our physical and mental health. Podcasts: A16Z is my go-to for tech learning and ventures, and lastly, a cheeky plug for all the Tottenham Hotspur podcasts out there!

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

Obviously, the major tech names jump to mind, especially with all the pressures on that industry. However, recently I’ve fallen in love with motorsport again, specifically Formula One.

I was a huge fan when I was younger, so I would love to know how Lewis Hamilton, Toto Wolff or Christian Horner manage their work-life balance. I can only imagine the pressures they are under, from the logistics of moving their companies from country to country week by week, and then performing at the top of their game.

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

I like to live my life following some advice I got from an uncle many years ago: At the very least be kind to yourself and put one front in front of the other, and see what you encounter on the way.

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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.