Catherine Miller is Team Leader of Campaign Management at News Xtend, a digital marketing services business powered by News Corp Australia. In addition to her role at News Xtend, Catherine is also pursuing an MBA at the University of Sydney.
Balance the Grind spoke with Catherine about her PR career which took her around the world, leading a team at News Xtend, the importance of self-awareness, and more.
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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your background and career?
My background is in communications – I worked 10+ years in PR consulting in Australia and the UK, travelling the world and working with FMCG brands on product launches, issues management and global brand strategy.
It was a dream job in my 20s but I knew I wanted a change once I hit 30. With a long term goal to end up in executive coaching, I started my MBA at the University of Sydney in 2018 and took what I like to call a career “shimmy”. I now work for News Xtend, a digital marketing division of News Corp Australia.
2) What is your current role and what does it entail on a day to day basis?
I’m a team leader at News Xtend, leading a team of 32 campaign managers. Predominantly Xtend works with small to medium businesses across Australia, providing innovative and bespoke digital campaigns and services.
My role is pretty broad, but predominantly involves a great deal of people and stakeholder management.
We have a high performance start-up culture so I work closely with my team to help them reach their maximum potential, while also servicing our vast sales network and working on new product launches, tech enhancements and initiatives designed to improve our offering.
While I’ve had a change in career, my PR skills have been very handy as a huge part of the role requires strong comms and effective change management.
3) What does a typical day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
No two days are the same at Xtend and that’s something I really love!
Xtend is incredibly dynamic and requires an agile approach. I directly line manage 12 people so I’ll usually have a couple of 1-2-1 sessions with my team, as well as working on projects or new initiatives and having calls and meetings with stakeholders.
While my day is pretty meeting heavy, I don’t like attending meetings for the sake of it and am fortunate to have a boss who feels the same.
4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you prioritise your workload?
I work in a fast paced environment servicing hundreds of stakeholders. Organisation is essential and while I couldn’t function without my ‘to do’ list, there’s also a lot of noise to cut through and if I constantly dropped everything to deal with “urgent” enquiries, I’d get nothing done.
Instead, I try to keep calm and regularly come up for air to consider what is actually most important; I always tackle those tasks first and – where possible – first thing in the morning, when my mind is most fresh.
5) In between your job, life and all your other responsibilities, how do you ensure you find some sort of balance in your life?
I’m a big believer that balance isn’t something you find, it’s something you create. One of the reasons I decided to step away from the world of PR consulting and return to uni was to future proof my career; my ultimate goal is to have more control over how and when I choose to work.
I’m someone who is go, go, go but I also appreciate how important time out is. Life is busy and it’s true that it often feels like there’s not enough hours in the day but if it’s far easier to work out how to spend your time if you know where your priorities are.
For me balance means I’m fulfilled and satisfied in my work and study without having to compromise on time spent with loved ones and keeping up my exercise routine.
And you can’t underestimate the importance of regular sleep and a healthy diet in keeping the mind and body happy and healthy.
6) What are some of the things you do to take time out and recharge?
As I mentioned, I love spending time with friends, family and loved ones, usually over a good meal, a long walk or going to a gig or the theatre. I’m career driven but at the end of the day, these relationships are more important than any role.
Exercise is also integral, I live an active life and particularly enjoy Pilates, boxing and exploring the great outdoors on foot. I also love reading, films and travelling as often as I can (I always have a trip or two in the works).
7) What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help you strive for success and balance?
It’s not a habit per se, but I think self-awareness is key. Being in touch with who you are and working to harness your strengths will enable you to thrive. For example, it took me some years to realise I was a perfectionist at work, I used to constantly work late.
I then realised that I was the common denominator and nothing would change unless I took control of the situation. So my mantra these days is “progress over perfectionism”, I apply the 80/20 rule and I don’t spend time worrying about things that are out of my control.
I think adversity also helped me to change my perspective on life and how I live it. I love my career and it’s a huge part of who I am but I also love all the other aspects of my life and value my health and happiness and the health and happiness of my loved ones above all else.
I am very conscious of this and stick to my social and “me time” schedule just as I do my work schedule!
Finally, I am a goal-driven person and like to have short and long term goals. My personal and professional life needs to be complementary so I approach goal-setting with a holistic mindset.
8) Are there any books you’ve read that have helped you with work-life balance?
I love reading, podcasts and often engage in passionate conversations with friends on the topic of work-life balance, particularly in the context of the future of work.
9) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?
I used to be the queen of multi-tasking but I’ll let you all in on a little secret – it’s totally unproductive.
So now rather than try to tick ten things off the list at once at a frantic pace, I make a big effort to stay focused on one task at a time. This requires a lot of discipline but has been a game changer for me.
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