Interviews, Marketing & Comms

Balancing the Grind With Julia Schembri, Head of Public Affairs, Communications & Sustainability at Kimberly-Clark

September 4, 2019

Julia Schembri is the Head of Public Affairs, Communications & Sustainability at Kimberly-Clark, where she heads up the sustainability, communications and public affairs team for Australia and New Zealand.

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

I’ve been lucky to work in communications roles across really different industries in both Australia and the UK.

From event marketing and sponsorship in the investment banking world, to community engagement in the government sector and now corporate communications and sustainability in the fast moving consumer goods space with Kimberly-Clark (home of household faves like Huggies, Kleenex and U by Kotex), where I’ve had amazing opportunities to grow alongside talented people.

I’ve also had my two beautiful babies during my time at K-C. Thanks to my managers and teammates, I’ve had great support in my transition to becoming a first time mum then a working mum, through paid maternity leave, a part-time return to work program and a flexible working arrangement. Not to mention, plenty of the best essentials like Huggies nappies and wipes!

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

I head-up the sustainability, communications and public affairs team for ANZ. We’re a small team of three, but I like to think we are making big impact on our business with the work we do.

The focus for the team is centered on protecting and enhancing the reputation of K-C and our brands by building trust with our employees and external stakeholders. What I love about my job is that there is so much diversity in it and every day brings something different.

One day, I’ll be meeting with our U by Kotex brand teams about work we’re progressing to address the issue of young women and girls experiencing period poverty (yes it’s a real issue here in Australia!).

The next I’ll be helping our brand teams manage social media issues, MC’ing our all employee town halls or talking sustainability with our brand teams and board members. I spend a lot of my time talking and listening to my colleagues, providing counsel on how to communicate with impact with our stakeholders.

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

Wake. Coffee. Chaos. I’m winning when the coffee comes before the chaos! More often than not, the day starts with me negotiating outfits and shoe options with my 4 year old daughter, while getting my 2 year old into her clothes and a fresh nappy (Huggies of course!).

Daycare drop off is touch and go – sometimes tears and clinging, sometimes kisses and smiles. The latter always means a better start to my work day. I drop the car back at home, breathe, then enjoy my 7 minutes of exercise for the day (gulp!) as I walk to the bus stop.

My 40 minute bus journey on my way to work is kid-free bliss – scanning emails and the news headlines of the day. I get to Milsons Point, take another deep breath in as I take in the amazing view of Sydney Harbour, feel thankful for where I work and then get stuck into the day.

Meetings about overnight issues, a conference call with the global sustainability team about new initiatives, a brainstorming session with my team planning content for our internal and communications external channels.

The end of the day is always a mad rush to finish what I’m working on and get on the bus for home. I use this time to think about what I achieved and start my list for the next day. The ‘welcome home mama’ hugs are most definitely the highlight of the day.

My husband has sorted dinner by the time I walk in. Then the chaos begins again – eat, play, bath, books, bed, breathe again, a token tidy up of the house, then crash onto the couch. One last look of the emails for the day. Relax.

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

For me, being as calm and organised as I can in the morning to get the girls to daycare happily. This creates enough time for me to catch public transport to work (instead of driving) which gives me a great head start to the day as I can get on top of emails and news.

I find driving to work in traffic frustratingly unproductive. Other than that, and the old school to-do list, I just let the coffee work its magic.

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5) What does work life balance mean to you?

Ahh, the elusive work life balance! I’ve come to learn that, for me, balance comes and goes – sometimes on an hourly or daily basis, sometimes weekly or monthly.

It’s a little bit like the ocean – sometimes there is a big swell coming in, sometimes it’s gentle consistent waves and it can change from one to the other pretty quickly! Regardless of the swell, I try to be aware of it and acknowledge it.

Once I have awareness, I can look to the future where I can see things calming down a little. It helps me get through the crazy patches. Sometimes it doesn’t work and I don’t quite catch it.

Stress comes and goes. I’m getting better at feeling the signs, but sometimes it creeps up on you when you least expect it. If I feel calm and clear in the head, then I feel pretty balanced generally.

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

As weird as it might sound, I actually think my kids help with that. They make life chaotic, but somehow more balanced.

For me, balance is mainly about my mindset and the way I feel, if I’m feeling positive and strong mentally it doesn’t really matter how much craziness is happening at work or in life. I’ve been learning and trying to practice mindfulness more regularly.

In doing this, I’ve come to the realisation that my kids actually force me to be more present in life. My 4 year old daughter makes me stop and smell the roses. She tells me to look at a beautiful tree or how blue the sky is. Kids also know when you’re not paying attention and feel it when you’re distracted by your phone.

For me, being in the moment and being aware of where I am at that moment is important for me to feel balance. But admittedly, in between the business of work and life there’s always a small sacrifice somewhere.

At the moment, I would say I’m a bit out of whack on exercise front. But right now, I’m prioritising Sunday morning snuggles in bed with my girls over the gym session, which is probably the best thing for me (and everyone in my life) as it’s an instant hit of balance for my soul.

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?

Definitely stress less and don’t over think things. Also, be confident and don’t doubt myself. When my mind is strong and content, so is my life.

Stress is ugly and if you don’t let it out somehow, it manifests and explodes. When it happens to me, it’s the people closes to me who get the worst of it.

Guided meditation apps are awesome. When I’m in a good rhythm of meditating regularly, things are better, but I’m still at the start of my journey with this. I also dabble in essential oils – they are incredibly powerful for resetting my mood and mindset.

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

Every book I read makes me improve in some way. Unfortunately, I don’t get to read much at the moment! The books sitting on my coffee table right now are about essential oils, low tox living and a health and wellbeing book by Dr Libby Weaver. Plenty of room for improvement in all these areas.

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

Coffee.

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

Balance is different for everyone. Find what works for you. Don’t compare yourself to others and don’t be too hard on yourself when you feel like you’ve lost it and things feel out of whack. Smile. Be happy and the rest will follow!

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