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Balancing the Grind With Mark Uraine, Design Director at Automattic

Mark Uraine is a Southern California-based designer, currently working as the Design Director at Automattic, supporting a team of designers contributing to WordPress.

This conversation is sponsored by graphic design platform Canva. Empowering millions of people around the world to design.

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

I am a Southern California designer who started out in the Reprographics industry. Educated in graphic design, I eventually found myself building websites as the internet became a thing. Once I saw people interact with my designs via websites, I was hooked. My love of the digital world grew rapidly and I began to explore both art and design within software.

While jumping through a series of start ups, I created an iOS app that graphically aligned the colors of food people ate to various nutrients. At this time, I worked for a small startup that was acquired by a larger company in need of a holistic design system.

After learning more about complex systems, I began to improve my development skills which landed me a role at another startup building content management systems for political parties and non-profits.

As technology advanced, my work was capable of being completed entirely online without the need of commuting in Southern California. This prompted my desire to work remotely.

Today, I am a Design Director at Automattic supporting a team of designers dedicated to advancing the open source software, WordPress, by contributing to the design of a full site editing experience. Rather than building websites, I now help build the product that builds 35% of all websites in the world.

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

I have a wife and 3 kids, and I work remotely, so you can imagine that my family is a big part of my daily routine. In the morning I help get the kids ready for school and give them a hug on their way out.

Shortly thereafter, I jump into Slack and catch up on the conversations that have happened in other timezones. I provide immediate direction or support on anything that needs to be unblocked.

Once I catch up, I review my schedule for the day’s meetings and tasks. Much of this consists of routine check-ins, feedback on current design work, and project planning and communication in an open source community.

I translate the project vision by helping to organize strategy into tactics. My team is dedicated to contributing full-time to the open source software, WordPress, so we spend a great amount of our day working on understanding the goals, designing mockups and prototypes, and collaborating with developers to ensure we are building the best user experience.

During the day I’ll go for a walk or partake in another exercise activity. It is a blessing. When I am done with work, my family sits down for dinner together talking about our day without any electronics.

Some evenings I facilitate a Torah class or prepare for the weekend’s gathering at our congregation.

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

Yes, Automattic is a distributed company. There is no office and the people I work with daily are located all over the globe.

Wrangling a meeting with people in the UK and Australia at the same time during daylight saving timezone adjustments is nearly impossible, but somehow we still get it done. Working remotely means that my schedule is flexible and I have no Southern California commute.

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

Oftentimes my days can be stretched between catching up on timezone conversations, and planning for the next day’s activities. If I am not careful, days bleed into one another because there are always people online working somewhere.

Despite this, balance comes rather easy for me. I enjoy my family too much to miss out on their lives. Practicing the Sabbath keeps me involved in all sorts of activities with my children without work interfering. I enjoy studying Scripture and teaching it to my kids with my wife.

Most of the activities we like to do together include hiking trips, road trips, bike trips – anything that gets us outside.

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?

Communicating effectively goes a long way in an open source community. This involves direction and feedback that can encourage volunteers to continue supporting the project, and ethical communication that is both timely and empathetic.

One of my most effective routines is keeping a priority list of tasks. I have a list for pending tasks, today’s priorities, and in-progress. Moving these tasks along helps organize both my work and my sanity.

On the days I do physical activity, I notice a far stronger focus and attention to detail. So when possible, I’ll go for a run, do some yard work, or maintenance on my truck. This clears my mind and provides an outlet for stress.

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

The Bible is the book I turn to by far the most. My interactions, my beliefs, my worldviews, are all influenced heavily by the words therein.

Lately, I’ve been reading books about cultures and communication. A few of these include The Culture Map by Erin Meyer, The Geography of Thought by Richard Nisbett, and Through the Language Glass by Guy Deutscher.

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

I have noticed that getting a good amount of sleep at night prepares me best to get the most out of the day.

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

I would like to read an interview about Rabbi David Fohrman, the co-founder of Aleph Beta.

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

Find those things that inspire you and provide you with purpose outside of work. Whether this is your family, a hobby, an interest, it is important to remove yourself from your daily work and enjoy life with others.

Before you go…

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If you’d like to have a conversation with us about how you balance the grind, get in touch with us.

About Author

Balance The Grind gives me a platform to talk to these people about how they're achieving their ideal lifestyle. I'm inspired by the passion, the work ethic, the hustle; and these conversations motivate me to live life the way I want to live it.