Interviews, Marketing & Comms

Balancing the Grind With Katie Philo, Social & Content Manager – BritBox

July 11, 2019

Katie Philo is the Social & Content Manager of BritBox.

Based in New York, Katie handles all things digital for BritBox and also runs a podcast on the side, When I Grow Up, where she interviews people, ranging from writers to lawyers to actors, about the trials, tribulations and joys of growing up.

Balance the Grind spoke to Katie about growing up in the UK and moving to New York for work, a day in her life working at BritBox, flexible working environments, and more.

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

I grew up in a small village in the UK, around an hour outside London. By the time I hit my teens I was already hooked on city life, tripping up at weekends by train and doing internships. It was perhaps inevitable then that London was the only place I wanted to go to University.

I studied History at University College London and still consider this time to be three of the best years of my life. We had world-famous museums, libraries and archives at our fingertips. Looking back, getting lost in medieval transcripts in the British Library for days on end was such a luxurious way to spend a day.

Understanding the past appeals to my propensity for storytelling and using my imagination, something I aim to leverage in my day-to-day life and work as much as possible.

Growing up, I was set on a creative career. This was definitely instigated by winning a competition to interview Madonna on national television for the BBC and triggered my calling and writing to every magazine, radio station or TV network to get as much experience as possible.

At university, I produced and presented a show on the student station. Upon graduating, I continued this foray into every possible platform I could imagine. After countless internships and balancing a job in a Supermarket to pay my way, I eventually landed a job at Reuters in New York on a career exchange.

When I came back to the UK, I committed to my childhood dream of working for the BBC and pretty much only applied for jobs there. It felt like I had won a competition the day I got my pass.

Since joining the BBC in July 2014, I’ve worked on so many different projects and that really is one of the great things about working at a large-scale media company. This has included working in Digital and Production on two seasons of Strictly Come Dancing, Radio 2, BBC Two, BBC One and BBC Podcasts.

The BBC has been a brilliant place to grow, learn and adapt to the ever-changing media landscapes. On the side, I produce and present a podcast called When I Grow Up, interviewing people about the many threads that have come together to make their career so far.

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

Since January 2018, I’ve been a Social and Content Manager for BritBox, a streaming service created by the BBC Studios and ITV in the US and Canada, headquartered in NYC.

This means I am part of a team responsible for sourcing, producing, then I publish and optimize the digital content that promotes the service, brand and British culture to BritBox subscribers and beyond.

On a day-to-day basis, I am the go-to person for anything digital or social media related. Whether it’s strategy related, creative research, video or asset briefs, numbers, community questions or even a GIF, I’m your woman.

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

I’ve just moved apartments from Manhattan to Brooklyn, so given that my commute and routine is yet to be established I’ll pretend I still live in the East Village.

I tend to wake up around 7.30am. I try to listen to the Daily or watch Reuters TV while getting ready for work. After breakfast and the obligatory cup of tea (you can take the Brit out of the UK), I walk to work.

I get my second caffeine installment in the form of a latte from a local coffee shop called The Roost. On my walk, I either speak to family or friends, leave long rambling voice notes (sorry friends), listen to podcasts or music. I also frequently stop and admire dogs. Why are there so many cute dogs in NY?

After getting into the office, I check emails, Slack and all the BritBox social channels to see what’s been happening over night, and also what’s been happening on the Internet.

There’s no standard format to my day, but I will generally divide my time between creative meetings, briefing and reviewing assets from our agency in London or in-house teams, planning and scheduling posts, engaging with the community, long-term campaign planning and any other ad hoc projects or post ideas.

I always try to get out of the office for lunch, even if it’s for 20 minutes to walk around the park.

I try not to leave too late and walk home if I have no plans. Otherwise, you’ll probably find me at yoga or Flywheel. I can count the number of times I’ve ordered in on one hand (I am obviously not a New Yorker), which means I nearly always cook.

Sleep is my favorite hobby and I can hardly function with less than 8 hours, so I try to read and unwind and get to sleep before 11pm.

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

My main tip is to find how you best work and really lean into that. For example, I know that I work best in the morning, when my brain is freshest. So I try not to schedule too many meetings during this time.

Also, when I need to concentrate for a prolonged period of time, I will set myself up for success by booking a meeting room or quiet space, turning off all distractions (Slack, Email, etc) and really getting in the zone.

Another tip is tools, tools, tools. I love using different list tools to move around and prioritise. I use Trello to manage my workload and move things around depending on priority. Wunderlist is another favourite.

Finally, don’t be afraid to say no. If you don’t have time for something, whether it’s personal or work-related, know your limits. I’m still learning how and when to do this, but I am aware of how important establishing boundaries is.

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

The biggest way I do this is by managing my phone usage. When working in social media, it’s so easy to be connected 24/7. I turned off all notifications on my phone recently and it’s actual bliss.

Now, if I want to see if I have an email or message, I have to physically open my inbox. I also use the iPhone screen time feature when possible too. That said, I’m still on my phone way too much. I’m thinking about trying a phone free day a week soon.

I also make a podcast in my spare time, and between that and my job, it can often leave little time for balance. I have accepted that there will be times when I’ll have less free time than others. And then, when I do have free time, I take a holistic look at my calendar and make a conscious effort to plan things with friends.

I particularly love going to the cinema or watching live music, as these kind of immersive experiences really encourage you to be entirely in the moment.

6) What does work-life balance mean to you?

I’m all about flexibility. I think the 9-5 structures and presenteeism in office environments is incredibly limiting. The reality is, we need to live our lives in and around work. This doesn’t mean that someone is not invested in their job.

I really admire companies that understand that careers are moving in this direction, and embrace the fact that employees are multifaceted individuals who may have a variety of feathers to their cap (AKA some side hustles and other projects), who need this kind of flexibility.

So, for me, work-life balance means being able to balance all aspects of your life and work alongside each other in a way that suits you.

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 it’s really important to understand what ‘success’ means to you. It’s so subjective. Once you know what success looks like, it becomes much easier to understand your motivations, ways you work and how to achieve balance too.

For me, success means being kind, compassionate and thoughtful in both my work and personal life. While money is important, I am motivated more by a sense of fulfillment I derive from living my values day-to-day. The way I see this success panning out in work is through telling stories that matter to me and that deserve to be told.

Success for me isn’t just work-related and while work has always been an important part of my life and identity, I’ve come to realise that it’s just one component of life. It’s really important not to over-emphasise the role of work in your self-worth and esteem, and to consider all the other areas of your life as places to invest time and thought too.

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

This book (The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings on Authenticity, Connection and Courage) is life-changing, truly.

I would also wholeheartedly recommend her TED talks and recent appearance on Russell Brand’s podcast Under the Skin. Brene Brown taught me so much about the human disposition, shame, vulnerability and the importance of boundaries.

The Element by Ken Robinson was the first book that made me reconsider the role of work in our lives and the importance of doing work that matters to you.

And finally, Eckhart Tolle and his teachings have been really important in understanding the importance of the present moment and its role in determining the quality of the future.

His most famous book is probably The Power of Now, but I absolutely loved his series with Oprah in which in unpacked his book A Whole New Earth, chapter by chapter. You can hear it on your Super Soul Conversations podcast. This episode is a particular favourite.

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

This may sound extremely morbid, but I think remembering that you only have a short time on this planet is a quick way to get the most out of every moment. I recently downloaded this app called WeCroak.

It’s based on a Bhutanese aphorism: “To find happiness, contemplate death five times a day.” Once downloaded to your phone, the app will remind you of your impending death randomly, five times a day.

I also read and watch a lot of documentaries about mortality (again, morbidity alert). I’ve found that contemplating death can be the best motivation to inject more life into the limited time we have.

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

For anyone who has ever worried about whether they’re on the right career path, I want people to know that’s quite ok and normal not to know what you want to do. This is why I started my podcast When I Grow Up.

I’ve learned so many important lessons about what success means, the importance of dealing with difficulty and the myths of ‘dream jobs’. If you fancy having a listen, you can find When I Grow Up on Spotify or Apple Podcasts.

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