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Balancing the Grind with Madeleine Grummet, Founder of Future Amp

Madeleine Grummet is the founder of career education platform, Future Amp, and an investor at early stage capital investment fund Flying Fox Ventures.

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

I started my career as a journalist with NewsCorp (Herald-Sun) then worked across print media at Publishing & Broadcasting Ltd and Australian Consolidated Press, plus did a memorable stint at Channel Nine Melbourne back in the bad old days of the boys club that it was! 

I still love writing and the news cycle, and continue to find voice and tell stories as a keynote speaker, MC, regular media contributor and Cohost of the top-rating Human Cogs podcast. 

But my career these days is predominantly focussed on running my own edtech companies and working across the fast-growing startup and investment ecosystem in Australia. 

I’m really passionate about backing cracking founders, building great companies and growing thriving teams, and my current roles are distributed across girledworld and Future Amp, and active startup mentorship and angel investment with Flying Fox Ventures, Eleanore Ventures, Working Theory Angels, Blackbird Giants and SheEO.

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

I don’t really have a typical ‘day in the life’ to be honest. That’s likely because I have long been a convert of the portfolio career, and as a working parent of four fast-moving kids, I’ve had to find a way to make my work work for me. 

The 9am-5pm industrial worker model based on presenteeism and death by pointless meetings has never made sense to me. So I’ve designed a portfolio career that enables self-agency over when and how I work, that best leverages my knowledge and skill set, and which enables me to work with people and projects that light me up based on value (not time-based) metrics day to day.

In a portfolio career, I also parcel my work across different projects, so it’s entirely up to me to manage my prioritisation, productivity and portfolio segmentation based on what (or who) needs my attention that day.

What this means is that my workdays are often a mix of activities, such as internal meetings, stakeholder presentations, strategy and planning, research, writing, 1:1 founder mentoring, and tapping in with our Future Amp and girledworld teams depending on our product development sprints or project priorities.

More recently, my work day-to-day has been dominated by our programs of work in Future Amp in the leadup to the national release of V3 of our careers and employability platform. Future Amp is backed by Amazon Web Services, global and local companies and Future Minds chaired by David Gonski AC.

The smart platform connects thousands of students to the changing world of work through virtual work experience, industry deep dives and skills-based learning in an interactive personalised on-demand learning ecosystem. We’re super excited to bring it to market in Australia! It’s a game changer in real-world career education for the Next Gen.

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

Luckily, I have a fantastic light and plant-filled home recording studio and fully equipped office, so I’m really fortunate to be very well set up and am pretty used to working remotely as I’ve been doing it for years. 

Flexibility is super important to me, as it is to our Future Amp team, so we all design our own schedules and work autonomously and asynchronously across time zones, but also schedule regular weekly times for check-ins, retros, collaboration and healthy chit-chat.

Flexibility is about good prioritisation, organisation and communication. While we are remote and virtual first by design, we use a range of collaboration tools to enable this, including Slack, Notion, Jira, Loom, Airtable and Google Drive. 

Personally, I also set aside a day a week for my own deep work, when I can actually think, write or wonder without the distraction of meetings, pings and rings, and I do try to work in batches to optimise my productivity. I’m also a superfan of a tank-filling 30-minute nap mid-afternoon, whenever I can!

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 myth. We are all in a state of constant flux. And I actually don’t see my work and my life as separate domains.

I think this is true for so many people when you’re working in the sweet spot of your ikigai, because your work is your reason for being, your passion, what fuels you, what gets you up in the morning (and hopefully doesn’t keep you up at night too much!)

Startups are fast-moving and pull you in their vortex. This can be both exhausting and exhilarating, and can dominate your days, but to be honest I get to work with so many seriously smart and incredible humans in the startup and investment ecosystem that it’s a really energising and exciting space to work in! 

To manage the mix, I do try to carve out a morning ritual. Getting up early, starting the day intentionally, silently, authentically – it’s a total gift, and is when I can tap in with myself, greet the world anew, and on a good day, also find some precious hours of flow before the family wakes – it’s usually when I get my best thinking done.

Plus there’s no happier place for me to be at the end of the day than sitting around the fire with my family, or in a steaming bath with a good book and scented candle burning! 

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

Stopped: I love learning and exploring new ideas. I’m addicted to podcasts, and have always been a voracious reader of both nonfiction and fiction. But my problem is there’s not enough hours in the day to consume all the content I want to!

So in the past 12 months I’ve stopped buying new books until I’ve read the ones on my bedside table, and I try to make sure I capture and sketch out new ideas from books or pods in my notebook so I can remember them, and try to apply them. 

Started: One thing I’ve started doing in the last 12 months is saying ‘No’. It’s the most liberating thing. And yes, it’s completely changed my life!

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

It’s hard to narrow this down to a few, but my favourite recently read books would be Deep Work by Cal Newport, Effortless by Greg McKeown, The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz, Hooked by Nir Eyal, Three Women by Lisa Taddeo, and American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins, which completely blew me away. 

Podcasts I love include Sam Harris’ Waking Up, Work Life with Adam Grant, How I Built This with Guy Raz, Acquired by Ben Gilbert and David Rosenthal, Disgraceland with Jake Brennan, and Eric Weinstein’s The Portal.

Newsletters I subscribe to are AlleyWatch, FeldNotes by Brad Feld, Emerging Tech Brew, Fred Wilson, Singularity Hub, Nick Crocker’s Branches Substack and Brain Pickings by Maria Popova.

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

Slack, Spotify and Evernote – I love them all and use them daily! But I probably also couldn’t live without all the SaaS tools and products I use daily to collaborate on projects and communicate across teams. If the cloud goes down, I’m screwed!  

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

I can’t think of one particular person, because I learn different things from different people all the time! I’m lucky enough to interview some amazing people on Human Cogs every month, so I’m always getting new and fascinating insights into work and life through the deeply human stories of our guests. 

But I’m also currently collaborating on a new book on the best work and life advice from the world’s best women with Laura Youngson, Founder of Idasports and Equal Playing Field, for which we’re interviewing loads of kick-ass founders, investors and business leaders across the planet!

Those are the interviews I’ll be reading as a reminder that how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. So it’s up to me to make my life’s work, and work life, matter.  

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

I spend a lot of my time looking at data and research on the future of work. And what is clear is that work is changing at warp speed, and expectations around where, when and how work happens are rapidly shifting, compounded by the ongoing disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic across the planet.

So I think we will see a rise in portfolio careers, distributed remote workforces and more agile, adaptive and flexible work practices being adopted as the norm, no matter which sector you work in.

Across the world we see industries growing and shrinking, startups disrupting the incumbent market and global supply chains morphing, forcing organisations to increasingly seek fresh skilled talent to plug and play and solve a fresh suite of business problems – and opportunities – through rapid experimentation, remote collaboration and the use of new work and productivity-enabling technologies. 

Startups are driving a lot of this change in terms of sector evolution, speed to market, and the pace-setting of expectations of new and flexible ways of working through the adoption of new tools and technologies.

And we can already see this change happening in Australia. Instead of hiring for permanent roles, we’re seeing a rising demand in the market for short-term contractors, interim managers, industry experts and other independent professionals, who can think and act like first hires, and adeptly transfer their skills across projects based on shifting market dynamics and business demands. 

In fact, a recent OECD Future of Work study predicts that 50% of developed country workforces will be gig and portfolio career workers by 2030, and Australian demographer and social commentator Bernard Salt predicts the average 20-year-old in Australia today will have 20 jobs in 15 different organisations over a 45-year career.

So the reality is that even if you wanted to, it is very unlikely you will spend your entire career working in one industry, let alone in one company. And that the skill-based portfolio career will be the norm in the future of work.

So to your readers I would say think about future-proofing your working life by building a diversified range of transferable skills you can carry with you across a range of industries, companies and roles. This is the only way you can both adapt to and stay relevant in the shifting sands of the new economy and marketplace, and keep up in the precarity of a rapidly changing job market.

As Charles Darwin said: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

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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.