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Balancing the Grind with Diana Di Cecco, Chief Marketing Officer at 8 Star Energy

Diana Di Cecco is the Chief Marketing Officer at 8 Star Energy, a global provider of renewable energy products for residential, commercial, and industrial sectors.

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

My working life started when I was 14 and 9 months at McDonald’s – I loved the 12 years I spent there as it prepared me for the big bad world that awaited.

I have spent my career in a number of operations and marketing roles and have been lucky enough to work for amazing brands such as Nando’s, Specsavers, IDA, Network Seven, The Good Guys, Goodyear and Repco, to name a few.

In particular, I have been fortunate enough to work on a number of branding projects, which I believe is a privilege because as marketer, you don’t always get the opportunity to shape that – you usually inherit it.

Most recently, I came from the automotive aftermarket (I love cars) and now, I work in renewables – I am the Chief Marketing Officer for 8 Star Energy. We’re a start-up on a mission to educate society about how to integrate renewable energy into their lifestyle.

We’re a global licensee for Energizer and Eveready and in the midst of launching an impressive product portfolio in renewable categories, such as portable power, home energy storage, solar inverters and solar panels. I love the category and I love my job.

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

One thing is certain – no two days are ever the same but there are elements of continuity that prevail, no matter the day. I enjoy structure as it provides me with purpose.

Aspects that lend themselves to being variable are in the workday such having days predominantly made up of meetings, and then other days with fewer meetings.

Despite being a start-up, we’re a global company so, when we have meetings with team members in other parts of the world, such as Europe, they usually take place Australian time in the evening, although both regions just ticked over daylight savings so that makes it a little easier. More than 50% of my meetings are on Teams/Zoom/Google Meet these days so I try to keep my background game strong.

The aspects of my day where I need structure are more about how I face the day. Firstly, there is coffee – it’s a short black no sugar. I usually exercise 4-6 times a week which will entail prehab exercises and a training session of either walking, running, cycling, HIIT, boxing, or martial arts – this is my “me” time where I am able to switch off. Depending on the activity, I listen to podcasts or catch up on Netflix – admittedly, I watch Suits on repeat. 

I am a self-confessed food nerd so I bring my own lunch to work and prepare it in the morning.

I get ready as quickly as possible – dry shampoo is my best friend some days – and then head to work. On a WFH day, I start up a little earlier, going back and forth as I get ready. On an office day, I skim read emails before I get there in case anything urgent has occurred overnight so there are no surprises when I start my day.

By the end of the day and on my way home, my mind goes into “manage the home mode” – this is when I refer to my “dinners for the week” list and think about the meticulous order I will do tasks to achieve optimum efficiency when I get home. I cook and my husband cleans up, which makes for great teamwork because my side hustle is study. 

I’m a lifelong learner and am usually completing additional study. I recently completed the AICD Company Directors Course and am also currently studying a Master in Digital Law at Monash University. This means my evenings and weekends are precisely scheduled, especially when I have assessments due.

I have a very understanding husband who knows and appreciates how much work it all takes. My mum is also known to sometimes turn up to my house with dinner cooked when she knows I’m on a deadline – she is a gem and I appreciate the help, even when I say I don’t need it, but I actually do.

I try to get to bed early to support the idea of getting up early. By the end of the day, my brain is ready to switch off but that doesn’t happen very easily. I often write myself emails when I am trying to sleep as I have just come up with an idea or want to remind myself to take a certain action. My wind down consists of reading and scrolling on Pinterest, adding to my curation of “boards”.

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

In my current role, we have embraced the hybrid trend of 3 days at the office, 2 days at home, which seems to work well for the team. We have nominated the in-office days so we can physically be together and it helps create comradery.

Having the flex suits my lifestyle and routine. I have historically worked for rigid companies where WFH was not an option. I am 99% sure I was the only person who enjoyed WFH over COVID – at the time, I worked for a different organisation and my office was quite a distance from home.

Suffice to say I didn’t miss the commute and this exceedingly highlighted how much time I was wasting driving such a long distance every day. It is for this reason that location and distance to work is a much bigger priority for me these days. Time is the only thing money can’t buy so I won’t be wasting it commuting.

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

Work-life balance means something different to everyone depending on their situation – there is certainly no eutopia. For me, it means finding a way to fit in the things that are important, not just urgent, not dissimilar to the Boston Consulting Group Matrix.

I won’t profess that I achieve work-life balance but I am learning to do a better job of it. The best way to get better at something is to practice (I am having grade 4 déjà vu of my Dad giving me music lesson advice right now) but it is true.

If you just talk about wanting a form of balance but do nothing to change your behaviour, Tinkerbell will not magically appear and do it for you. You need to be comfortable with the idea that no day or week is the same and that sometimes it goes to plan and sometimes it doesn’t, and that’s ok. Life is not perfect, things come up – you need to learn to navigate. 

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

I stopped working through lunch and not eating lunch and instead, I started taking a lunch break. Most of my career, I have never stopped for lunch or to take breaks. It was hypocritical of me as I have always encouraged my teams to take lunch and get out of the building.

I noticed that the most successful and senior people took lunch breaks – people I respected – and so, if they could make time for a break, I should be able to find time to do the same. It’s a game changer. Mentally, it refreshes me and also provides a social angle as I make my colleagues do the same. You find out a lot about people when they’re more relaxed. 

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

Yes, I have many, especially podcasts – they seem to have taken over my media consumption these days.

My favourite podcasts are Mumbrellacast, What the Flux, Coronacast, Mi3, In Machines We Trust, The Law Report, The Driven, Smart Dust, Lawyers Weekly, The McKinsey Podcast, AdAge Marketer’s brief, Energy Insiders, Marketing Week, Rethink by Google, Rewired, The CMO Show, The Corporate Director Podcast, The Howie Games, Think with Google, and The Sounding Board.  

I don’t mind a good newsletter either such as McKinsey (& Co, Classics, the Week in Charts), Lexology, The New York Times, Google Ads Best Practices, Think with Google AUNZ, AdNews, Clean Energy Council, Marketing Week, ARENA, PV Magazine, SmartCompany, APRA, B&T, Roy Morgan, CMO Newsletters, Inside Retail, ADMA, Anisimoff Legal (Lunchtime Law Review), Tim Burrowes – Mumbrella Best Of The Week, Broadsheet, and Women’s Agenda.

And of course, who doesn’t love reading? My all-time favourite books are Shoe Dog by Phil Knight and Richard Branson’s autobiography. Some recent finds I really enjoyed include Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil and Tomorrow’s Lawyers by Richard Susskind.  

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

Admittedly, my iPhone is an extension of me – from it I can do anything and be anywhere, it improves my efficiency. Having said that, I recently switched off a large number of notifications which was liberating.

The product I cannot live without is my iWatch. Being able to answer/make calls from my watch often makes me feel like Maxwell Smart and I enjoy understanding the health data it provides.

And then of course, there are apps – I have over 200, which is way too many but my most used ones are: To Do, Food diary, Clubhouse, edX, SBS News, SBS On Demand, Nine NOW, Netflix, Fitness (iWatch), Kahoot!, Bloomberg, Snapchat, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Interval Timer, Uber, Google Maps, Trello, and Google Drive.

I love social media and given my profession, I like to make sure I know how each platform works. I have profiles on every platform – if I choose not to participate, I open profiles under an alias – this way, I also figure out which platforms are sharing my personal information as I create those profile names uniquely. I must have worked for ASIO in my former life. 

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

I have a dead and alive option.

Confucius – He always seems to have a meaningful way to make you think about a situation. While his vocation was different to mine, I enjoy seeing things from a different point of view and the nature of philosophy provides that.

Cindy Gallop – She came through the ranks of advertising and is now a business consultant, amongst other things. The self-proclaimed “Michael Bay of business” is seemingly taking the world by storm at the moment and I love her no BS approach.

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

There are 5 things I’d like to leave you with.

  1. Work and life aren’t that different – the effort you put in is a reflection of what you get out of it. 
  2. You never know what is around the corner – life can change in an instant. It heightens your awareness of what is really important. Don’t wait for something to happen to get your priorities straight.
  3. There is no perfect time to do things. If you want to do something, stop making excuses and make time.
  4. Always have a plan B, C and D.
  5. Ultimately, the most important thing in life is family – they are like your very own gang. They are there to dust us off when we fall, they are there to share the wins, they encourage us to do better, and they are there to give us a reality when we need it (my Dad is particularly good at the latter). Make time for family – it’s your best bet to be the most balanced and best version of yourself.

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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.