Balancing the Grind with Yasmin Ullah, Chief People Officer at CloudMargin

Yasmin Ullah is the Chief People Officer at CloudMargin, a London-based company which created the world’s first cloud-based collateral management workflow tool.

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

I started my career in 1990 at a retail bank in London in the regional Personnel team and fell in love with what I was doing from day one – this is where my professional passion was born and keeps me lit every single day.

I was privileged enough to work in some awesome HR teams within fantastic corporate organisations over my career (as well as some hugely challenging ones) and continued to hone my skills and experience, eventually specialising in Mergers & Acquisition HR and employment law.

I engaged in a couple of interesting senior roles mid-career, which is where I learnt the most due to covering global jurisdictions, travelling and immersing myself in those teams. In 2012, I was presented with an exciting growth opportunity within banking and I was hooked.

My next journey led me to CloudMargin in 2018 and I have, in awe, watched our people and business achieve immense milestones within a hugely competitive space. I am incredibly proud to be Chief People Officer of a business that is driven by the most special and talented global leadership team and our people – humbled to call them my team. 

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

I work part time; precisely 3 of the 5 days of the working week (and have successfully done so for the past 10 years), but the expectations and demands of my role are anything but part time!

I am incredibly organised, orderly and focused which means that I am able to successfully prioritise what our people and business truly need according to our strategy and leadership agenda.

Each day is an exciting meander into all things “people” which means that in any one day, I can focus on a whole array of things, including performance, culture, engagement, DE&I, learning & development, compensation and benefits, recruitment, corporate social responsibility, scaling and alignment and commercial strategy, to name a few.

For a small organisation, we are very well set up. From my career experience I have extracted all of the very best of corporate people practices, removed the bureaucracy and machine-like thinking and embedded best-fit complementary strategies and practices into our DNA.

This method has resulted in our low turnover, high engagement and outstanding performance, which is clear evidence that putting people first, no compromise, is the best strategy. And that applies across my entire leadership team. 

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

At Team CloudMargin we are human and simple. At this point in my career, I would not be a part of a team that didn’t prioritise this value at the top of the agenda. Flexible working has always been our standard practice.

Our team has the right to blend remote with office working. This rewards us with high levels of motivation, commitment, engagement and high performance – we respect and love our people, so we live what we believe in, together. This of course also applies to me and all our leaders. I not only work flexibly; I’m also part time, so win on both counts.

The importance of being a good fellow being, kind in my behaviour and positive in my mind set are at the top of my needs and that comes by being able to maintain good mental and physical health. I am afforded the opportunity to thrive professionally and personally due to my hybrid working pattern.

I’m all about focusing on that for me and helping others where I can. I am a mother to two daughters and a keen equestrian. The ability to be authentically me at this point in my life is what genuinely counts. I love travelling and exploring culture with my family. I am also competitive within my sport, and my love of dressage and showing are well documented by my long suffering family! 

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

Work-Life balance means that I give myself self-respect and time to reflect and heal mentally from daily strains. I spend a lot of time outdoors; this is precious in helping maintain my goal of this critical balance.

Learning to love oneself is a fantastic foundation upon which to build blocks of resilience and increase positive outcomes whether personally or professionally. I communicate – a lot. I also spend time listening, actively listening, and learning. I am more than just an employee, wife, daughter, sibling and mother; I am also me.

Being real about how I spend my time and what I am doing means that I can successfully (mostly) achieve a healthy balance. Spending time pursuing something that one is passionate about outside of work naturally encourages achievement of balance and overall wellbeing. 

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

I have started running again after a 20-year break, and wow, does it feel epic. Great soul food indeed.

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

I adore children’s books and always will. I have never outgrown them and am always drawn to them whenever I spot something new. My earliest fond memories include Charlie and The Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, The Iron Man by Ted Hughes, and the entire collection of Mr. Men books by Roger Hargreaves!

My usual “adult” reading consists of keeping abreast of progress and the latest news on DE&I, LGBTQ+, general market updates and employment law briefs. I love podcasts by awesome folks such as Michelle Obama and Shereen Daniels. I follow groundbreakers like Minaxi Mistry and employment lawyer Matt Gingell. I am drawn to genuine, authentic people within the public domain. 

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

I am extremely clean and tidy. My daughters would say that our vacuum cleaner is my best friend as I am fastidiously clean and tidy whether at home, the office or horse barn. However, I could not be without my iPhone and Google Maps as I travel up and down the UK attending equestrian competitions in places that I have never heard of.

Life would be so much tougher with paper maps! What3Words has saved me many times whilst galloping around the beautiful English countryside and getting utterly lost. Not a bad thing I say! 

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

Michelle Obama, she rocks. 

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

Do you. Seriously. If you care about yourself enough, then so will your employer and those in your circle. If you don’t, please find a way to work through it. Help is available – you can do this – live your best life and be the change.

You will be at your most buoyant when you’re genuinely content about how you’re best able to do you. Your employer – if this matters to them and they genuinely care about their people – will lead from the front and set the tone to support genuine work life balance for all. 

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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.