Corey Ginnivan is a Product Designer & Front-end Developer at Appbot, a tool that aggregates app store reviews for all countries on iTunes, Google Play and Amazon stores and more.
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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
Let’s do this. I’ve had a pretty chaotic career so far, albeit mostly in creative fields. It took me a while to find my place in the design world and to settle on what felt right.
From an early age I always knew that I wanted to do something creative. I fell in love with Digital Design when I was 8 years old. That was when it clicked that everything I saw online or interacted with was actually designed and created by people – not some supercomputer that magically made it exist, and better yet, was an actual career path.
So that career path kicked off parallel to studying a Bachelor of Arts degree at University. My first job was a Junior Interactive Developer — basically making flash banner ads for an advertising company.
After taking a short stint to play Inline Hockey overseas in the Junior Olympics, I came back to find out I didn’t have a job anymore. Luckily I had been recommended for a job through my uni course and quickly landed a new gig at a small boutique agency doing print media and web design.
After a few years there (and graduating uni in the middle of it), I bounced to a different agency to be a Senior Designer for about a year, before quitting and trying to put everything in to building my own startup. It didn’t work out as I would have liked, but definitely don’t regret the decision.
I then did a few short design contract gigs for various startups, and had a go at tutoring at my old uni for Introduction to Motion Graphics, before ending up in my current role as Design Lead at Appbot – a tool that helps some of the biggest companies in the world monitor, analyse and understand their app’s reviews using machine learning and sentiment analysis.
I was brought in as the second employee (and only designer), so I’ve had to wear a few hats over the years, but a majority of my work has been:
- designing and helping build the Appbot interface
- creating (and managing) our design system
- completing a branding overhaul
- designing & helping build our marketing website and promotional materials
I’ve always been a generalist, so I love having the freedom to jump in to a plethora of different tasks.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I’ve been messing around with routines recently to find out what works better for me. This is roughly what a day looks like for me at the moment:
5am-ish: Wake up to do 15 minutes of stretching and just wake up a bit (I use Sleep Cycle which monitors my sleep and wakes me up during a light sleep, so it’s not as abrupt as a normal alarm).
5:30am: Jump in to “design practice + learning” – basically just reading articles, working on a side project, or writing up some Crash Course tweets. Gotta train that brain.
6:30am: Hit the gym for an hour.
7:30 – 8am: Have a protein shake for brekky, get ready for work, then jump on the bike and ride to work (only about a 5 – 10 min commute). Shower when I get there.
8/8:15am (depends if remote day): I make cold brew coffee at work, so I grab a glass of that and just start figuring out what I want/need to accomplish, get ideas out of my head on to paper.
8:15am – 4:30pm: Working! We’ve got a good thing going at Appbot where we don’t waste too much time with meetings, so most of the workday is actually knuckling down and getting things done.
Majority of my day is spent coding updates to our marketing site, working on new feature concepts, fixing bugs, planning out future updates or iterating on our design system. I take an hour for lunch somewhere in there with the team, or cook something if working from home.
4:30pm: Ride home and shower, then unwind a bit.
5pm – 6pm: More personal design work or learnings.
7pm – 10pm: Free time! Take the time to cook something nice, play games, chill with the housemate, head out for a beer with friends, play team sport (AFL or Netball generally), or just kick up the feet and watch some TV shows/movies.
10pm: Try and go to sleep, sometimes it’s a bit later though depending on what’s happening.
- On weekends I try to fit in some more design work because I can get a good run at it, but most of it is just disconnecting and relaxing, or seeing family/friends. I also cook a proper breakfast.
- I catch up on any sleep debt on the weekend too.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Appbot is super flexible. All of us generally work remote on Tuesdays and Thursdays to break up the week a bit. Every now and then I go work in a cafe for a bit of an environment change. My schedule remains pretty much the same on remote days though, just no commuting!
Additionally having this flexibility means if I go travelling (e.g. for a conference) I could setup a few days to work remote as well, which gives me a bit more time to just chill and explore + catchup with people. We just had a team member work over in Sweden for 3 months too – there’s not too many companies that have that level of flexibility.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
It’s pretty simple really: to not feel like shit, keep growing personally and professionally, and to enjoy it on the way.
My friend actually sat me down and we mapped out what makes me happy and what I want to avoid, then I designed my life around that. It’s taken a lot of trial and error (still working on it), but once you acknowledge you want a change it’s easy enough to focus on what you enjoy and hate and to build on that.
5) What do you think are some of the best habits or routines that you’ve developed over the years to help you achieve success in your life?
“Developed” is the keyword that jumps out here. A few things I’ve personally learnt is:
To never be stagnant – keep learning, growing, talking to people, find new experiences, etc.
Acknowledge personal/professional growth. It’s easy to be ignorant to incremental growth over time and often I feel like I haven’t improved at something. However if I take a step back and realise where I was one month, six months or 2 years ago, then actually I’ve had a massive leap.
If I’m unhappy with something, or feel like I’m in a slump, then there’s nothing really that’s stopping me from getting out except for my own mindset. Start working out how to move out of it, rather than just accepting that’s the way it is.
6) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?
I’m not too much in to books, I just get bored or my mind is racing to stay focussed. However I recommend watching these talks, they all had a massive impact on my life, my perspective, and my career:
- Wilson Miner – When We Build
- Brett Victor – Investing on Principle
- Tony Fadell – The First Secret of Design is … Noticing
- Parkway Drive – Home is for the Heartless (even if you’re not in to metal music, this is pretty amazing doco about passion and persistence)
- Flobots – Blurring the lines between audience and performer
7) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?
To make sure I’m actually mindfully present in whatever I’m doing. If it’s work, I’m working. If it’s talking to someone, I’m talking to them – not thinking about other things or on my phone.
If I’m playing sport, I’m committed to myself (or the team) to impact the game. Give everything and everyone the attention they deserve and then nothing will feel wasted.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Hands down Patima Tantiprasut. She’s someone who has personally helped me a tonne with my own work-life balance, and helping me hone in on what I enjoy doing and how to nurture that. She has an amazing work ethic, insight, and perspective that needs to be shared around with everyone a lot more.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Hell yeah I do. Not everything someone says is going to work for you or your lifestyle. Fuck following Bill Gates’ or Jeff Bezos’ diets and routines to find the same success. Build up your own routine, your own balance, your own path.
You also won’t find it immediately, and it’ll change if your lifestyle parameters change. If you have a partner your routine will be different than if you didn’t. Same if you get a dog, or want to lose weight, get more sleep, have to start work at 8:30am, etc – find out what works for you and your situation and build around it.
A few actionable points which may help you sort out your work-life balance could be:
- Talk to your GP and go on a mental health plan. It’s fantastic (and cheap in Australia) way to just talk to a professional who wants to help you get your thoughts in order
- Making a schedule and sticking to it
- Delete social network apps off your phone and disconnect a bit
- Try meditation – turns out it’s not a scam
- Use a sleep tracking app to wake up better (don’t need a smartwatch or anything)
- Get in the kitchen and learn how to cook, it’s a great way to relieve stress
- Hit the gym (and put in the time/effort to learn what to do)
- Join a team sport
Finally, if you need some advice or want to chat to anyone, hit me up on Twitter – I’d love to help if I can.
If you’d like to have a conversation with us about how you balance the grind, get in touch with us!