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Balancing the Grind with Linda Fagerlund, Chief Strategy Officer at Carat Australia

Linda Fagerlund is the Chief Strategy Officer at media agency, Carat Australia, where she leads product excellence across strategy, content and partnerships.

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

I am the Chief Strategy Officer at media agency Carat. My core responsibility is to lead product excellence across strategy, content and partnerships, and I am fortunate to have a very talented team of 15 strategists and content specialists who help me do this every day.  

My 15- year career as a strategist started at indie media agencies Ikon and Match Media, before heading to News Corp. I then moved to creative agency Leo Burnett, before landing back in the media agency world, to head up strategy at Spark Foundry most recently. I joined Carat 12 months ago. 

Every career decision I’ve made was based on saying yes to opportunities to personally and professionally grow and challenge myself. It’s never been boring and I’m always learning.

I’m incredibly grateful that I’ve been able to have had these opportunities with such wonderfully diverse companies and experience a holistic view of media and marketing. It’s helped shape me as a strategist that simply loves to connect the dots, and design experiences that are human, real and simply work.

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

My recent workdays in lockdown have been an orbit around my dining table. And as much as I would like to say I am a highly active morning person like many people who answer these interviews, I am sadly not!

The day will start with me waking with the alarm around 7, getting ready before making breakfast which I’ll sit down and have with my husband. It’s a nice way to set up the day and gives us time to manage our diaries while we’re both WFH in the same space.

I’ll be logging on around 8ish, and I like to catch up on the news of the day, personal emails and mentally preparing for meetings ahead.

My typical work day is filled with Teams calls, catch ups with my team and emails, broken up by windows of ‘focus time’ I purposely block out whenever I can to do more ‘deep work’ e.g. working on a strategy, prepping for a meeting or catching up on important reading.

Lunch is taken while I’m scrolling through the latest news, Instagram or sometimes while I’m reading a book. If I’m lucky, I get to do an afternoon walk with my dog and husband (or a solo run along the beach if I’m feeling virtuous) before winding down for the day. 

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

I’m fortunate as there is always a degree of flexibility you just intrinsically need as a strategist because it’s a job that requires a combination of solo work and team work, shallow work and deep work.

Each day looks different depending on the needs of the project at the time. For deep work, I like to work from home or from a quiet café, before spending time in the office sharing, collaborating and doing pressure testing with the teams.

I enjoy the variety, it keeps things stimulating and while managing the diary can sometimes be a juggle, I make sure to carve out time post-project to rest and reflect when I need to.

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

For me, work-life balance starts with doing work that I enjoy and gives me a feeling of personal reward. If I love the work, then work really becomes a part of my life and I’m completely okay with that, even if it sometimes might mean longer hours this month, or lots of travel the next.

It’s no longer a sacrifice between what I want to do, and what I do for a living. And after that, it’s about building in flexibility in my life and setting my own boundaries because I have learnt that no one else will do that for you.

It sometimes means saying no to things that I can’t commit to, putting in some mental health mornings or afternoons and generally just filling my credit/debit bucket so there’s always enough credit. My husband also helps me immensely in juggling personal commitments and sharing the load at home. 

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

I have certainly done more walking than ever thanks to lockdowns, but also because I recently got a dog (best decision ever). I have loved rediscovering my local neighbourhood over the past year and seeing things in a new light. I’ve also been more focussed on my physical and mental health, by taking time for reflection to recalibrate where needed and take a breather. 

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

Books are my favourite way to unwind and escape, so when I do have time to settle into a book, I always prefer to read fiction. A great book I just finished is Acts of Desperation by Megan Nolan, who is a huge talent. She’s tipped to be the next Sally Rooney.

When it comes to work inspiration, I love newsletters that give me a smart, unique take on the world of news, politics, business and culture. My favourites range from ad land strategy ones to future forecast-y ones such as The Hustle, Strands of Genius, Trends, Exponential, and Future Crunch. 

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

The Apple News app. The premium subscription means I have all my favourite news and magazines all in one place and I can’t live without it as I’m a voracious reader. Instagram and Spotify keeps me inspired and energised.

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

My mother. I’d love to read the story of how she managed a household of 4 kids as a single mum, while working every day of the week. She did it all on her own and for that, I’m constantly inspired by her.

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

Find your people, your allies in both work and life. Don’t chase the job, the money or the title. Go where your people are. It is infinitely harder to do it alone, and when you find people that share your values yet challenge you to see things in new ways, then work and life becomes a really rewarding journey. 

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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.