Interviews, Marketing & Comms

Balancing the Grind With Jen Marshall, Chief Product Officer at Isentia

July 23, 2019

Jen Marshall is the Chief Product Officer at media intelligence and data technology company, Isentia, where she leads the marketing, CX and product teams across Australian, New Zealand and Asia.

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

I started my career in 24/7 news and spent more than 10 years with Sky News in Australia and the UK.

I reported live from the scene of the Bali bombings in 2002, covered the Canberra bush fires in 2003 and was part of the Sky News team in London that reported the capture of Saddam Hussein, as well as his execution. I had a number of roles including Producer, Executive Producer, Deputy Director of News and Director of Digital News.

During that time I became interested in business management and studied for an MBA and that helped me get my first job in Product Management at Optus. I worked on apps and websites and started to learn about building and maintaining digital products.

Optus also gave me the opportunity to work on lots of business cases and do lots of commercial contract negotiations. It was a time of incredible learning for me and a massive shift from the newsroom roles I’d held before.

After a while, I had the opportunity to move to Fairfax as a Product Director and leapt at that chance. The team at Fairfax was amazing and even though it was a constant struggle to work in the context of structural decline in media revenues, we did some amazing work.

After going through four restructures in four years it was time for me to go, and that opened up an incredible opportunity to work with a Product Management training and consulting business called Brainmates. What started out as just come casual work, turned into three wonderful years, honing and crystallizing my Product Management skills with some of the best people I know.

2) What is your current role and what does it entail on a day to day basis?

Now, I’m the Chief Product Officer at Isentia. We provide a SaaS platform so communications and marketing professionals can track their media coverage across traditional and social media through Australia, New Zealand and Asia.

We also offer analytics, insights services and reporting tools that are designed to not only keep pace with the news of today, but also empower decision making at an organisational level.

As the CPO, I need to understand our client needs and bring value to our customers, while also generating value for Isentia. That means spending time with clients in a variety of forums, as well as analysing users feedback and product analytics, as well working on business cases and internal alignment to bring solutions to life.

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

I spend a lot of time with people, making sure that our product development is progressing well and ensuring we are executing on our strategy.

That often means a lot of meetings. Today I’m in Singapore and I’ll spend a lot of time catching up with the team here, as well as dialling into our Scrum of Scrums and remotely attending the showcase for the build of our new Isentia mobile app. In between those things I’ll be working on some upcoming business cases.

4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you manage your workload and schedule?

Every morning I use the five minute journal app to help me focus on what I’m grateful for, as well as the three things that I want to achieve for the day.

It’s incredibly important to express gratitude on a regular basis and remember all the wonderful things that happen to us as human beings. Just as important, I like to be very clear on my priorities for the day.

I don’t ever want to be driven to reaction, so I try to be clear on what I will get done. On a weekday that could be to complete a certain section of a strategy document, on a weekend that could include spending time with my family or completing a specific chore or errand.

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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 try to use time boxing to make sure that I’m focused on whatever is important in that moment. So on the weekend, if I’m taking a bike ride with my partner and son for 90 minutes, then I don’t think bout work during that time, I just focus on the ride.

Conversely, if I’m at work and I’ve given myself a day to complete a presentation, I like to get it done in that time frame. If I allocate the right time boxes to the right things, I can enjoy the work or activity in that moment and not worry about other things that might be due, because I know I’ve allocated time to get them done soon.

6) What does work life balance mean to you?

I think there are many dimensions in life. My executive coach Ruby Campbell introduced me to the Wheel of Life concept and I think it’s a really useful tool to assess all aspects of life in a holistic and personalised way. So I like to think about life balance and try to make sure I’m never too focused on one part of life at the sacrifice of others. Of course this isn’t easy!

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?

I have a very comprehensive personal to do list in Wunderlist. I look it at least one time a day (and sometimes more) and use Agile principles to groom the list to ensure I’m doing the most important things.

Every time I need to do something, I add it to the list, whether it’s getting some shoes mended, working towards my annual goals, or booking my son’s swimming lessons.

I know everything is captured there, so I never worry something has been forgotten and I can prioritise my list by due date and importance and make good decisions about what I should be doing right now.

8) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?

There are several books I regularly recommend:

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

Some of the best advice I’ve had is to not compare yourself to others, but to forge your own path, in line with your values and goals. Other people’s lives are never what they seem and if we were to try them on for size, we’d find they don’t suit us.

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