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Balancing the Grind with Nina Tovey, Editor-in-Chief at Canstar

Nina Tovey is the Editor-in-Chief at Australian financial comparison site, Canstar, where she heads up a team of talented SEO experts and journalists.

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

I’ve spent the last two decades of my career working in content and communications roles, much of it in the finance sector. I’ve worked in both in-house and agency positions, supporting brands from Suncorp and Sunsuper through to Channel 9, Nova, Coca-Cola Amatil and BMW.  

An important time in my career was my four years with American Express, where I managed media relations, internal communications and community partnerships.

It was this role where I was introduced to Canstar, now Australia’s biggest financial comparison site, who ended up being one of my first clients when I started my communications consultancy years later.

We worked together for two years on the launch of Canstar Blue, our sister site known for helping consumers compare their energy, telco, whitegoods and more. Five years later I got a call when my current position became available, and the rest is history as they say.

As Canstar’s Editor-in-Chief, I’m responsible for leading the editorial strategy to drive traffic to our site through delivering informative and insightful content to Australians looking to take charge of their personal finances.

We do this through our news stories, explainer articles and guides, and we pride ourselves on being there to help with the biggest finance topics of the day. One of my favourite aspects of the role is that it also leads our SEO function, which is such a fascinating and dynamic discipline to me. 

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

My work days have a pretty frenetic pace. From the moment I hop on the train I’m scouting online for news and communicating with my team before I hit the office. One of the first things we look at each day is how our content schedule is looking and setting our SEO priorities.

After this point, my typical day varies, ranging from one of our regular team brainstorming sessions to pre-empt what topics will be important to our readers in the coming days and weeks, through to one-to-ones with managers in my team about how the teams are going and our progress on key projects. 

Whether it’s through email, slack, video call or in-person meetings, my days are non-stop and filled with creative, clever and inspiring people. To ensure I am on top of the competing requirements of my role, I always make sure I have one document that lists key to-dos across teams. Keeping key information in one place enables me to refresh my memory when moving between meetings with various stakeholders throughout the business. 

Because of the busy nature of our work, lighter moments in our Editorial team’s Slack channel and in the office, is essential and keeps our team close and cohesive despite the distance imposed by the COVID-19 response. 

Come home time, I focus on switching gears to ensure I can be present at home. This usually means talking about what is important to my children – with my five-year-old son at the moment that would be about what sports cars I’ve seen lately and the latest security cameras he’s noticed.

Once the kids are in bed, I make a habit of reading as much as I can get my hands on. This is important, as I find inspiration for story ideas in some unlikely places! 

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

Luckily it does, and this was an essential for me when joining Canstar as my kids were both under four when I started in the role. I remember saying to my boss that I’d give the job everything I had, but there would be times when I’d have to ask for flexibility.

I was already working from home one day a fortnight prior to the pandemic, and I found this really essential to stay present as a parent. It meant I could take the kids to school and pick them up and start prepping dinner early. These are simple things but make a huge difference in my life. 

I find these pockets of time rejuvenating in their own unique way, and this tends to have a nice flow-on effect back into work. 

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

For me it is essentially knitting the various aspects of my life together in a way that allows me to give my best to my team and my loved ones, as well as myself.

Practically, this could mean leaving work early to go trick or treating with my kids without second guessing myself, because I’ve shown I can be counted on to manage my own workload and deliver at work. I describe work-life balance as a feeling of vibrancy – when I’m positive about life and work and when they positively impact on each other. 

The only way to achieve that balance is to make it happen through taking an active role in managing your own career by proactively putting boundaries in place and sticking to them. I’d also add that I have a lot to learn in this area – I’m far from an expert!

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

One of the most impactful decisions I made this year was to restructure my team to set us up to grow more effectively.

Previously I had most of our senior team reporting into me, and I knew this needed to change as we grew in size. It didn’t allow the team enough support and it meant I was too involved in the day-to-day operations, which impacted the time I had to work on strategy.

So I halved the number of direct reports I had and gave my remaining three reports more responsibility. This change wasn’t as easy or simple as it sounds, and required a lot of thought and planning, but it was the right move and we’re already feeling the benefits. 

For me personally, I’m feeling less stretched and that I’m able to make a far greater impact on the business. It’s also been extremely rewarding to see my team step up and show the business what they’ve got.

Like for many of us, I think 2020 has left me generally a lot more mindful when it comes to where I direct my energy.

When we were in peak lockdown, I wrote down a list of the 10 people I’m closest to in the world, and I’ve made a conscious decision to elevate those people in my priority list. It’s about investing the most in the people who decorate your life, and I’ve found this practice pays off in every part of life.  

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

To keep on top of the publishing industry, I enjoy the Mumbrella Publish e-newsletter – I think Tim Burrowes and his team do a really good job at covering our sector’s ‘need-to-knows’. 

Our Deputy Editor Sean Callery introduced me to The Money Cafe with Kirby and Kohler, which has since become one of my favourite finance podcasts. It’s sassy, insightful and accessible, which in finance is a good combination.

I also really enjoy a podcast called Fearlessly Failing with Lola Berry, an author and entrepreneur I used to work with. She interviews people who inspire her about what they’ve learned from their failures and it is as fresh and raw as they come, which is right up my alley.  

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

Working in a growth business in a role that revolves around the news cycle means I work at a pretty ‘high rev’ pace, and knowing how and when to switch off is essential.

I dedicate a lot of energy to my work, so recouping through relaxation, comfort and sleep have always been serious business for me. I’m a big fan of a weighted blanket to wind down, whether you use it for reading, watching a show or sleeping. And then there is sleep – I have an app called ‘Rain Rain’ which helps me get to sleep and stay there (Rain Rain Original is my sound of choice). 

My role can be quite analytical at times and I’ve really jumped into Instagram this year as a way to tap into my creative side. A friend of mine was telling me recently she has an Instagram account set up purely for creative endeavours with no distractions from the feeds of her friends and family.

I loved this idea so I did the same and have an account set up exclusively to follow my favourite authors, artists and designers, and I love knowing when I log in I’ll get a big injection of soul-food.

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

I’d be looking at bestselling author, journalist and activist Sarah Wilson. I’ve always been taken by the fearless way she chases connection and meaning in life.

She’s achieved so much success and influence while also working relentlessly on herself, and she’s learned to honour what truly matters in life which is really inspiring to me.

I was listening to a podcast she was on recently where she’d come straight to the interview from a beach swim – how brilliant is that? I can relate to her frenetic style of working and thinking, and I’d love to learn about some of the gems she has up her sleeve to help her keep all those balls in the air.

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

I think knowing that you can give your best at the same time as setting boundaries for yourself, no matter what that looks like for you.

I’ll never forget a moment in my early 20s when I was at an International Women’s Day event, and one of the most senior women in the room told the audience that whenever she received a phone after 5:30pm her answer is the same.

She asks the caller whether it is an urgent request, and if it isn’t, she politely tells them she’ll call them back in the morning. It’s such a simple strategy, but it taught me a lot about self-worth and boundaries and how they can be your friend in life.

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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.