Interviews, Marketing & Comms

Balancing the Grind With JoJo Swords, Global Content Lead – Demand Marketing at ThoughtWorks

June 18, 2019

JoJo is a global content strategist and creator, with a particular passion for telling stories and the written word.

Her current role involves the strategic planning, creation and delivery of a series of global marketing programs that drive demand for ThoughtWorks.

Balance the Grind spoke to JoJo about her career transition from business to writing, staying up-to-date with a global schedule, remote working, balancing her work with creative and social sides, and more!

This conversation is brought to you by Teachable, a powerful yet simple all-in-one platform to create and sell beautiful online courses.

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

My biggest love has always been writing. I grew up in the UK, with my head constantly stuck in a book, devouring any stories I could lay my hands on.

I never really believed that I could make a career out of my passion- instead opting to undertake a degree in Business Management at Kings College London to give myself more career options.

I became a Business Analyst for ThoughtWorks, a global software consultancy. As a graduate, I was sent to ThoughtWorks University in India, to learn how we deliver value to our customers.

It sounds cheesy, but it honestly changed my life. I made friends from all over the world. My eyes were opened to a new culture and I met my husband and I followed him to Sydney, where we currently live, 13 years later.

After 9 years of delivering software, coaching clients and leading agile project teams, I realised that I didn’t want to deny my dreams of writing anymore.

A personal tragedy made me sit up and pay attention to what I wanted to do with this one life I had been given.

I joined a writing and social media apprenticeship with Elephant Journal, an online mindfulness journal. I wrote in the evenings and weekends, whilst still working my day job.

I was so lucky. My wonderful MD at the time really believed in me and my writing. He helped me to navigate the path to creating a brand new role as Content, Communications and Social Media Lead for the Australian arm of our business.

I absolutely loved it. I was taken under the wing of an amazing female leader, who mentored and supported me to later move into a global role, looking after content for demand marketing across 14 countries.

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

As Global Content Lead for Demand Marketing, every day is different!

I work closely with my partner-in-crime in the US to look at what our demand and demand marketing teams need in order to be successful, strategising and executing on materials and campaigns that they can leverage in their own regions.

My role involves unlocking the knowledge of global SMEs and surfacing that value for the rest of the organisation to use, as well as working on ongoing content pieces, including Perspectives, a digital publication for business and tech leaders, content for an upcoming global thought leadership event, and currently, we are creating a new podcast for digital leaders.

I love the variety and creativity of my role!

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

Step one is always a cup of tea in bed, looking out at the ocean.

A global role is not a 9-5 one, especially in an Australian timezone.

I wake up for a 6.30/7am call with my colleague in the US, so that we can talk through our to-do list, make plans and update each other on any conversations that we might have had since our last discussion.

My day will be full of conversations with stakeholders, connecting with other marketers, creating content, and social media campaigns.

If I know that I have late calls in the evening, I will take a break in the day, and meet friends for coffee, or a walk along the beach.

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

I use a physical to-do list, with different coloured notebooks for different projects. Writing things down really helps me to process information. I do have a post-it wall too, for visibility of tasks.

I mostly work from home, so it’s important to create boundaries around work. When I first started the global role, there were days where I found myself working 12 hours, because there isn’t that physical stop of leaving the office.

Now I look at my week holistically to work out which days will be heavy work-load wise, and where I can schedule some self-care, to ensure that I don’t get burned out.

I try to book in a yoga class in the morning, to clear my mind, and to make sure that I get out of the house into the fresh air.

I work in our spare room/ study, so that there is a clear space for work, versus spaces in the house for rest and relaxation.

This helps me know when I am switching off for the day. Sometimes this is easier said than done!

5) In between your job, life and all your other responsibilities, how do you ensure you find some sort of balance in your life?

In our busy lives, it can be really hard to find that balance. I am lucky that I love my job, so I get a huge amount of satisfaction from it, but I also know that it is just one part of my identity, and I must nurture my creative and social sides too.

I consciously make time to connect with friends and loved ones, as this is what gives me energy. I never want to be one of those people that misses the special moments (big and small) in life, because they were obsessed with what they ‘should’ be doing.

I write a lot. It gives me an outlet to express all the ‘big’ feelings I have. I am an empath, and I suffer with anxiety, which is a blessing and a curse at the same time.

It makes me hyper-aware of other people and allows me to form deep bonds with them, but sometimes means that I drown in that energy and worry. I have to give myself space to process my thoughts.

This includes regular therapy with a counsellor- which used to have such a stigma- but is gradually becoming accepted. We give so much attention to our physical health, but I really feel mental health is equally important.

6) What does work life balance mean to you?

To me, it means being able to give attention to all of the important aspects of my life.

Over time, my priorities will naturally shift and flex between career, family, creativity and health, and having a good work-life balance means that the way I spend my time/focus can reflect those shifts.

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 think communication is key. If you are struggling or swamped- you must speak out. People will understand, appreciate your honesty and find ways to help you.

There is no shame in needing support sometimes, and being able to express vulnerability helps you to build deeper relationships with others.

8) Are there any books on work life balance that have helped you over the years?

The Escape Manifesto: Quit Your Corporate Job. Do Something Different! When I was having my year of personal crisis and wanting to make a change, this book helped me to be brave in chasing new adventures.

For me it wasn’t about ‘quitting my corporate job’, but understanding that you can shape your own role and destiny at work if you are courageous enough to seize scary new opportunities to follow your passion.

You don’t have to fit in the box of expectations that everyone else has of you.

9) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

Before I wrap up each day, I make sure I know what I need to work on tomorrow. That way I can hit the ground running every morning- and be productive immediately.

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

I love the quote: ‘If you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life.’

Over the last five years, I have successfully crafted a life that I don’t want to escape from.

Monday mornings no longer faze me, and though I love to travel, it’s no longer a desperate need for a holiday to get away from the mundane or the rat race, it’s travel for passion and to enjoy new cultures and ideas.

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