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Creative Directors / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Marina Vasilieva, Creative Art Director at Host/Havas

Marina Vasilieva is the Creative Art Director at advertising Host/Havas, where she has worked with clients such as The Heart Foundation, Sydney Water, NRL and more.

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

I’m a Creative Art Director with six years of experience in the creative and advertising industry.

In my time I’ve had the pleasure of working on clients such as McDonald’s, Nestle, Microsoft, Kirin Beer, and many more.

My work has given me the opportunity to travel around Australia, London, and New York for shoots and networking opportunities, and I’ve been recognised by industry publications and award shows both locally and globally.

I get to bring ideas into the world for a living, so I consider myself pretty lucky to do what I do and work with brilliant people from all walks of life in the process.

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

With the lockdown it’s been a bit of a blur, but it’s not much different to what a normal day for me looks like, the only exception being meetings and events which are now held online.

Morning:

Get up at 5:30 in the morning and exercise, read my go-to online publications, make a breakfast smoothie, and get ready for work. If I’m working on any side hustles or proactive pieces, I spend an hour or so each morning chipping away at it.

I like to make the most of my commute to work and get stuck into a book – it’s my calm before the storm. Right now, I’m reading Nice Girls Still Don’t Get the Corner Office.

My workday:

Usually I get into the agency around 9:00/9:30. The first thing I do is grab a coffee and regroup with my creative partner to look over and discuss our battleplan for the day, as well as share any interesting articles or inspiration pieces with one another.

From there my day can go anywhere: I could be crafting a single piece of work for a whole day, in back to back meetings with either my internal team or our clients, coming up with new ideas and campaigns, or being in production which could see me working with our design team or being interstate on shoots that span several days.

Evening:

I aim to wrap up around 6 and make my way home. Cooking is a great way to relieve stress, so I try to prepare a healthy meal from scratch each night, enjoy a nice glass of red, and spend some time with my partner.

During my evenings, I use this time to focus on connecting with friends and family, sending them a message or giving them a call to see how they’re doing.

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

As long as I’ve got my laptop and WiFi, I can work wherever I want. As a creative, having that level of flexibility helps my thinking, as I find switching up my location helps me think differently and come up with new creative territories.

It means my creative partner and I might meet up in the morning to do a working session somewhere out of the city for a couple of hours and head into the agency for lunch, or take our laptops down to any of the green areas by the Sydney Harbour Bridge for something different. Or the pub for a cold one.

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

Striking a great work-life balance has been something I’ve struggled with for a while, and have only found myself getting better at it in the past two or so years. For me, it comes down to boundaries: not only with ones you set with others, but ones you set for yourself as well.

When it comes to setting boundaries with my co-workers, my biggest hurdles were learning how to say no, and how to negotiate / manage unreasonable expectations.

I used to be very eager to please, but I quickly realised that it didn’t help anyone, especially not me, my wellbeing, or my career. The more I practiced unapologetically respecting my own time and worth, the easier saying no became over time.

Setting your own boundaries is the hard part. In the beginning of my career, I had a swinging pendulum that furiously ticked between “I’m not doing enough to excel” and “I’m on the verge of burning out” – which did happen.

After that, I realised that being chained to my desk for 80 hours a week and revolving my existence around my work wouldn’t make me great at my job. Instead, I focused on realising the richness of non-work related activities, their value, and how much they contribute to my success and happiness in the workplace.

5) What do you think are some of the best habits or routines that you’ve developed over the years to help you achieve success in your life?

  • Exercising before work.
  • Reading every day.
  • Seeing a mental health professional.
  • Practicing self-care each day.
  • Taking time to reconnect with friends and family.

6) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?

  • Nice Girls Still Don’t get the Corner Office by Lois P. Frankel, PhD
  • It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be by Paul Arden
  • Mad Women by Jane Maas
  • Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy
  • Dare to Lead by Brene Brown

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

A to-do list each morning that lists two crucial elements:

1) My meetings, specifically with information around:

a. The agenda
b. What answers I need from each one
c. Objectives my team and I need to tackle / answer

2) Deadlines / check-ins

a. What’s expected from me
b. Discussion points
c. Questions I should expect to field, with answers to each

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

Brene Brown. Her work has affected the way in which I carry myself professionally, how I treat myself and those around me, and how to lead with empathy and compassion in both professional and personal situations.

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

Do what wrinkly, old, 85 year old you would be proud of. Whether that’s running away to a hippy commune, or making the cover of Forbes, that’s up to you. Whatever it is, go chase it.

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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.