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Balancing the Grind with Natalie Rouse Ganderton, General Manager at Eliiza Sydney

Natalie Rouse Ganderton is the General Manager at Eliiza Sydney, which specialises in data science and engineering with a focus on artificial intelligence and machine learning.

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

I am an engineer, and I started out optimising crew rosters at Air New Zealand. I then moved into more general IT, then back into simulation & optimisation product development and consulting, then back into airlines before joining Eliiza, Mantel Group’s Data Science Consultancy, to build up a Sydney practice.

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

Joining a new company during a pandemic means I spend a lot of time on video calls!

I’m really focussed on both recruiting and onboarding my team and building out a pipeline of interesting work, so I could be doing interviews, 1:1’s with my team, client workshops, stand-ups with project teams, or drafting proposals.

Some of the favourite parts of my day are checking in and hearing about the amazing work the team is doing – they are all a bunch of absolute superstars, and I’m in awe of them every day!

I also really love getting to help our clients understand their current challenges and work out how we can help them build robust, responsible, operational solutions to deliver real outcomes – I find those conversations so energising.

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

Yes – most of Mantel Group is based in Melbourne, so the whole company was 100% remote during the lockdown period! I’m actually based in Auckland myself, and the Sydney team are all still remote for now.

Going forward we will have a much greater blend of remote and flexible working, with Mantel Group adopting a “Work Hub” approach to allow employees the flexibility to work from wherever suits their lifestyle.

I’m so excited about this prospect, and I really think we’re going to see just a continuation of the behaviours we saw during the pandemic, where our people are delivering their best work while living their best lives and feeling supported to do that in the way that works best for them.

One of the key considerations as you allow for true flexibility and blend distributed teams is communication, and I think this is something we’ve managed to do really well over the last year.

We have a variety of communication channels, including very active Slack communities, Google Hangouts (both work/project-focused and social/coffee/drinks-focused) and knowledge sharing tools like Confluence and Notion.

I think it’s important to acknowledge that different people are more comfortable communicating via different mediums, so having a variety of channels helps to ensure that everybody feels connected, informed and most importantly heard.

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

Work-life balance for me means getting as much achieved as possible during my work hours while still making time to enjoy my personal life and get outdoors as much as possible.

I am an avid mountain biker and trail runner, and I feel like I need time to get out and recharge my batteries in between workdays. To me, it’s all about sustainability, having enough personal space to keep coming back to work with fresh energy and drive while feeling fulfilled in all aspects of life.

I have a 2 hour time difference with most of my colleagues, and although I started out just living my life on Australian time, I’m slowly shifting that to a bit more of a compromise.

I’ll always be flexible with it though – it’s great to be able to start early if I am doing something that needs uninterrupted focus, but also adjusting my plans if I have late meetings.

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

My entire life has been turned upside down in the last 12 months, which I imagine many people can relate to! I have definitely gotten better at handling uncertainty and having patience through uncertain times.

I find helpful focused breathing exercises and working out what my “controllables” in a situation are – the things that are within my control. If I can focus on them and work on them, then the things I can’t control fade into the background and I’m better able to sit with them until they either resolve themselves or turn into something I can control.

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

I’m a big fan of the Making Sense podcast by Sam Harris – I love the way he engages in curious, good-faith experiments in conversation with people from across the social and political spectrum, all while examining multiple sides of different issues and concepts.

I also find the New Scientist Weekly and Digital Planet from the BBC World Service, and our Eliiza CEO James Wilson’s AI Australia podcasts tickle my science & technology interests.

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

All of them!! I’m a bit of a tech lover, specifically anything that gathers and lets you analyse data – Health and Fitness on my Apple Watch, Strava for biking or running, lift apps at ski slopes, even the data in apps like Uber and Google Maps! I love it all.

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

I wanted to pick a man for this one, just because it seems like men get asked this question less often!

So I thought of Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, who is obviously this incredibly driven and successful businessman but also a devoted family man, and I discovered he’s already done one!

In it he talked about reframing “work-life balance” as “work-life harmony”, which is a really interesting concept because it implies that rather than just being a straight zero sum game trade-off, finding that harmony can be relaxing and energising and end up improving both aspects of your life overall.

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

I think over the last year a lot of people have had the opportunity to reset their balance, for better or for worse.

As our society reopens there’s an opportunity to take a beat to examine that and look at what worked and what didn’t, take what we can from the good forwards with us, and resist the urge to immediately revert back to what was “normal” before. I think we owe it to ourselves individually to do this as well, in addition to at an organisational level.

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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.