Interviews, Marketing & Comms

Balancing the Grind With Min Kumar, Digital Editor-in-Chief at The University of Sydney

June 11, 2019

Min Kumar is the Digital Editor-in-Chief at The University of Sydney where she is responsible for the development and implementation of the university’s content marketing strategy and governance of the corporate website.

Prior to her current role, Min worked in several marketing and communications gigs, for Huddle Insurance and Amaysim, as well as spending over seven years as a Content Producer for her own channel on YouTube.

Balance the Grind spoke to  Min about her startup background, her content marketing work at USyd, splitting her day up into ‘supporting’ and ‘steering’ phases, road mapping everything 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?

Like most millennials, I started my career at the height of the global financial crisis.

Between juggling study, retail work, and completing unpaid internships, I started experimenting with making videos for YouTube.

Before long, I had amassed a decent cohort of subscribers. Back then, YouTube success wasn’t the ticket to riches it is today, so I leveraged it to get the attention of potential employers instead.

My efforts paid off when I was offered a junior production role at a content marketing agency. Video and social media marketing were still in their infancy, so every day brought learnings and more stakeholders keen to get in on the action.

After a few years, I moved client-side to a plucky telecommunications start-up that would change the trajectory of my career.

I’ve always had a powerful creative streak and assumed I’d continue down the production path, but my time at Amaysim put me in contact with some incredible strategic minds, driven by passion and a genuine desire to make positive change.

I was trusted with projects way above my position and pursued them with a dogged determination to prove myself.

Within a few short years, we’d acquired over one million customers, operated across two countries and had eight brands within the group.

During this period of rapid growth, I was privileged enough to be mentored and managed by some brilliant leaders whose influence helped shape the next few years of my career and prepared me for what would come next.

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

I’m currently the Digital Editor-in-Chief at the University of Sydney.

This entails managing the university’s content marketing strategy, which sounds simple enough until you realise that on an average day you could be working on sharing ground-breaking research, elevating marginalised voices, promoting life-changing scholarships or showing off the incredible achievements of our students.

It’s a huge gig but when you’re doing work you truly believe in you can’t help but jump in head first each day.

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

My day starts at 5:30AM, I’m not a morning person, but I like to ease into my day and waking up early gives me the chance to prioritise and plan ahead.

Once at work, I review the meetings and milestones for that day. Depending on what’s on, I like to split my day into ‘supporting’ and ‘steering’ phases.

The supporting part of my day is about ensuring I’m available for consultation, making sure my team and stakeholders have what they need from me and that reports, briefs or admin tasks are reviewed, approved and completed.

The steering part of my day is when I take a step back to look at how we’re tracking towards achieving our strategic objectives and determining what needs to change or be maintained to keep us moving in the right direction.

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

I road map everything! When a new project or campaign pops up, I break it into phases and key milestones. I then set hard deadlines and book regular sense checks.

This approach makes it easier for my team and myself to stay agile and deliver on ad hoc opportunities as there’s a clear list of priorities and output expectations already locked in.

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

When you genuinely enjoy the work you’re doing, your professional, and personal definitions of success and happiness can blur together. This is the case for me.

Chasing professional wins feels natural and has been great for my career, but at one point, this left me feeling seriously burnt out.

While balance can be hard to maintain, I’ve found prioritising my volunteer work, social commitments and family time the same way I prioritise my work day has made it easier to transition away from my inbox after hours.

6) What are some of the things you do to take time out and recharge?

Volunteering at the Refugee Council of Australia gives me the chance to hit reset on my mindset each week. It’s a reality check that keeps me humble, grateful, and in awe of the people, I’ve met as a result of my time there.

I’m also a big believer in making small changes to add a little more joy to your day.

For me, that’s sometimes taking a longer route when walking to work knowing I’ll pass through a park with dogs who’ll stroll over for a pat. Or going to a cafe where the service is a little slower so that I can enjoy a few more pages of my book.

On the weekends my Sundays are sacred, I avoid making plans and prefer to use the day to recharge mentally. It’s a chance to indulge in a little self-care and reflection, to check-in on personal goals and cook something comforting!

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?

Perhaps it’s my start-up roots, but I ensure everything I work on has a quantifiable goal and that 10% of my time every week is spent testing a new channel or experimenting with a new way of working.

You won’t always get it right, but the cost of not trying is far higher than the budget or time lost.

Personally, I’ve learnt to be more discerning with how I spend my time. It’s easy to drift along on auto-pilot.

But I’ve found directing energy at passion projects and spending time with people who add quality to my downtime has made an incredible difference to my overall sense of well being.

8) Are there any books you’ve read that have helped you with work-life balance?

Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky was so refreshing to read.

It fundamentally challenges the culture of ‘busyness’ and looks at how you can actively pursue the things that matter outside of work.

What I loved about it though is that it imparted very practical techniques that were game-changing in the way that I perceived and used my time.

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

I take time to create a realistic plan for each day. Planning doesn’t always mean getting everything done. It can sometimes simply help identify where you need to reset expectations.

There’s a sense of rigidity associated with planning, but if you do it right, it actually gives you agency to be more flexible with your time.

You know what you need to do, what you don’t have the capacity for and what can get shuffled around so that you’re not looking at the clock at 5:29PM wondering where the day went!

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