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Balancing the Grind with Emma Fawcett, General Manager SME at MYOB

Emma Fawcett is the General Manager SME at MYOB, where she leads the team that sets the vision for the small to medium sized enterprise products and services.

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

I’m passionate about customers and helping them grow their businesses. In my career I‘ve built and scaled new businesses as well as transforming and digitising existing ones. I love leading and empowering diverse teams of people to achieve great results.

I’ve worked in media most of my career, mainly at News Corp. ​​I led the commercial product teams and headed up the platform business, News Xtend, a digital marketing services business for SMEs, as well as News Connect, a data targeting platform.

In my current role I’m General Manager, SME at MYOB. I lead the team that sets the vision for our small to medium sized enterprise (SME) products and services, and then executes against that.

We have a diverse team of around 700 people across sales, marketing, product and technology, customer success and support responsible for developing and delivering the MYOB small business platform, to help our small business customers run their business more effectively.

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

A usual day in the life depends on which area of my life needs to be my focus for the day. I don’t really believe in work-life balance, I strive for work-life integration. That means sometimes work needs more of my time and sometimes family needs more of my time.  MYOB empowers teams with flexibility, allowing us to tailor work to include managing life commitments.  

Whether I’m working from home or in the office I’ll start my day with exercise, either pilates or a walk. If I’m going into the office I listen to podcasts on the train. I exercise with a friend at least three times a week so I’m getting social connection in at the same time – win!  

A typical workday is full of meetings. I’ll have meetings with our marketing, delivery and sales teams, external partners and customers, and other members of the MYOB executive team. 

If I’m in the office I aim to leave at 5.30 or 6pm. I try to ensure I have dinner with my children at least three nights a week, but there’s usually a few nights a week where I’ll log back on and work late.  

Weekends are my recharge and my family and friends time. One of the ways I do this is to put my work phone away on the weekend. I find having a work phone and personal phone really helpful for creating those boundaries. 

And then (outside the pandemic of course) I use my holidays well – we love the outdoors and regularly camp with a bunch of friends and family a few times per year.  Getting away from the office, into nature, with no tech is a great way to connect with the people most important to me.

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

The whole MYOB business is very comfortable working remotely and the company promotes flexible work. I tend to split my time evenly between the office and working from home.

I really believe in the importance of having some face-to-face collaboration time in the office. There’s nothing like the energy and creativity that comes from getting the team together in the office with whiteboards and markers.

It’s much more productive spending that time together problem solving and building strategy in person than on a video call, despite the advancements in online collaboration tools.  

That collaboration time doesn’t have to be every week. Coming back into the office after the pandemic, our team has been trialing specific collaboration days in the office each week.

Our start and finish times on those days are still fluid of course. I’ve always believed that outcomes matter more than clock watching; the important thing is producing work that has world class outcomes and benefits customers.

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

I think work-life balance is a misnomer. Work is actually my third priority, the first two being my husband and my kids.

My oldest child is 11 and I strived for work-life balance when he was younger. I tried to balance everything all the time which I failed miserably at, and I also found it really stressful. As a result of that experience I’ve moved to a strategy of keeping things overall in balance. 

For me that means taking time off for my kids when they have important moments like their birthdays, where we take them out of school and have a really special day for them. Or if I’m having a lighter work week I’ll try to over-index on family that week and do things like take the kids to cricket or ballet and spend that time with them.

If it’s a week with a big project at work or a  board meeting, I’ll make my apologies to my family at the start of the week and explain that this week it needs to be about work. 

Taking a longer view of keeping everything in balance over the month rather than keeping everything in balance every day has made me much happier. I’m not trying to keep everyone happy all the time,  I’m proactively balancing my family needs, with work needs, and my needs also.

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

Like everyone, the pandemic took me out of my usual routine and as a result a few things I loved doing fell away. For example I couldn’t keep up my meditation.

I was very zen-like for a while when I was doing pilates and running and meditating, and then the meditation just became hard to keep up when homeschooling became a priority. I would love to get back to the practice one day, I think it’s a very centering and calming thing if you’re in a high stress job.

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

I love reading so it is hard to narrow it down. One business book I recommend to any leader of teams, particularly new leaders of teams, is Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions Of A Team.

I’m a big believer in a team at work, I think that a great team and a great culture will eat strategy for breakfast. That book gives really wonderful strategies for high performance teams.

In terms of podcasts, I like Scott Galloway’s The Prof G Podcast and newsletter every week as well as Mark Mason’s audio articles on philosophy. Mark also has a great weekly newsletter called Mind F*ck Monday – Start Your Week with Three Life Changing Ideas. I love reading those each Monday.

In terms of news, The New York Times is my favourite media to consume. It makes me feel like a true citizen of the world. I find their coverage very balanced and their opinion pieces are excellent.

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

For reading, I love my Kindle. I love that I can take it anywhere and always have a new book, particularly when I used to travel a lot. I also can’t live without my phone for allowing me to work anywhere and get things done while I’m in transit. 

When I think of apps the one that jumps to mind first is the gym app I use. I love the convenience of being able to schedule in classes, cancel classes, give feedback and suggest a new class time. New class times can get voted on so the instructors will move classes weekly based on demand.  It’s a really clever piece of tech.

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

I’m going to say Therese Rein. I think she is very impressive. She has built an enormous and successful business with a great deal of smarts and humility; and she built it while raising three kids, and having a husband who was in politics (and our Prime Minister at one stage) which must have made great demands on them all. How she managed all of that concurrently, I would love to know!

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

I identify as a feminist and I love to mentor and sponsor young women in any organisation that I work with, and I’m very proud to work for a company that currently has a 50% female executive team.

When I sponsor or mentor younger women starting their career, I advise them to work really hard in their 20’s which is a piece of advice suitable for anyone really.

As you get older, naturally you’ll get more responsibilities in your personal life so it’s harder to balance work with your life outside of work. When I look back on my career, I worked very hard in my 20s (more than most of my peers) and it gave me the kickstart I needed to quickly progress.  

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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.