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Balancing the Grind with Roana Bilia, Content Designer at Atlassian

Roana Bilia is a Content Designer at Atlassian, managing the content side of their Design System. She has also spoken at the AtlasCamp conference in Vienna about creating inclusive content experiences.

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

I’m still early on as far as careers go. But in a short time since graduating with my Masters in Applied Linguistics, I’m definitely proud of how far I’ve come.

I grew up in small-town Auckland, New Zealand, and was pretty keen to get out of there after seven years behind a study desk at university. So I wrote up a rather hilariously standout cover letter and sent it to a bunch of ‘cool’ companies around the world, realistically assuming it would be a while since I heard back from any of them.

That’s when Canva reached out to me and asked if I was interested in becoming a freelancer for them. This seemed like a pretty fantastic opportunity that I quickly leapt on. The freelance role at Canva led to a full-time position in their Sydney offices as a Content Writer responsible for running and writing the product blog.

Being a tight-knit business of 90 people at the time, I was able to get my hands dirty and sharpening my skills in other areas across the business too—growth, marketing, SEO work, and also creating some educational content for the product.

A funny memory was definitely using my token Indian looks to put together ads for their Diwali Instagram campaign though.

But as I honed my abilities, there was an urge to move on and face new challenges. I joined the Identity space at Atlassian to work across our platform. I’ve now worked on programs across the business and was even lucky enough to have the opportunity to speak at an AtlasCamp conference in Vienna last September about creating inclusive content experiences.

Now part of the Design System team at Atlassian I manage the content side of our Design System, one we’re looking at revamping. Not only do I find this work a challenging space to be a part of, but I’m excited at the prospect of offering the new goodness to our users.

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

It’s odd to think had I been answering this question three months ago how different my ‘workday’ would have looked.

I find that it’s super important whether COVID times or not to take the time to look after yourself and your mental health. Most days I start my morning with 30 minutes of meditation using either the WakingUp or Headspace apps. I follow that with some journaling based on certain exercises or thoughts of gratitude. This is usually followed by a nice slow coffee while I check Slack messages.

While I definitely need focused silent time to be able to go dark-mode and write or think, I’m a real sucker for team communication. I find it super useful to take time to sparr my work or book in time and have pairing sessions. This time helps me run through work with them and means that we’re on the same page—just making things are easier with remote working.

I like to put these pairing sessions later in the afternoon when I know my ability to stay on tasks and focus myself might be off, whereas in the morning I tend to focus a lot better.

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

I’m so grateful in such hectic times that I work for a place like Atlassian. Not only does it mean I can remotely do my job from anywhere, but that they support me in doing whatever it is they can to make that easier. I can’t imagine what it must be like to lose a job at a time like this or be in a position where you can’t work remotely! That must be horrid.

Like I said earlier, remote working means I can take time to focus on myself outside of work hours without the pressure of commuting with 1000s of people each morning and evening, it means if I want to I can go for a run in the afternoon around my place and then take a shower and work later in the evening when its too dark and cold out for a run.

It also means that if some mornings I’m feeling lazy my work doesn’t have to suffer for it, I can roll out of bed—still be in my PJs—onto the couch at 8:30 somedays and still get shit done.

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

While I enjoy the hustle as much as the next millennial and always try to go above and beyond, I have a strong need and appreciation for taking breaks from work.

I take this time to look after my own needs, to recharge, look after friends if they need help with things, have the ability to go climbing if the weather is good one afternoon and make up the hours elsewhere. The ability to step away from my computer when I have a blinding migraine or am feeling too anxious or down to get anything worth doing done.

I think the biggest thing is the feeling of guilt we all have. That sense that we don’t deserve to do these things, that either our teams will crumble without us or that we will be judged for balancing life with work and looking after ourselves.

But how can we bring our best, hardworking, motivated selves to work if we’re just sitting like slugs behind our computers all day? It’s like with a good relationship, you need to look after yourself first.

Show up when you’re at work and give your 110%, and sometimes, if you can’t and you’re crazy lucky like me to have an employer like Atlassian, remember that its ok to walk away from the keyboard, go get yourself a hot chocolate and sit in the park for 10 minutes.

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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?

I think before considering a habit it’s important to consider consistency. We all know what ‘good habits’ look like, it’s just that from time to time—with world pandemics and what not—we allow ourselves to let these habits ebb and flow. But the best thing you can do for yourself is to stick it through the hard yards.

Meditate even when you’re lazy, go for a run in your lunch break even if it’s too hot outside, consistently communicate with your team even when you want to isolate and silo your work. The more consistently you keep up good habits, the easier they get I think.

Living in this entitled sort of world we just expect things to work out overnight and if they don’t we move on to the next thing! But only practice makes perfect.

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

Right now I’m halfway through The Rock Warrior’s Way where Arno Ilgner highlights the mental states and processes that can hinder or free us to fully experience the purity of climbing.

But I think this book is a great read for anyone who’s looking to build mental strength and improve their skillset on and off the rock. It’s well written, concise, and has some pretty great points I’ve found myself highlighting.

As cliche it might be, I also love Brene Browne’s Daring Greatly. In this book, she talks about how the courage to be vulnerable can transform the way we live.

Newsletter wise right now I’m really digging Man Repeller. And as for podcasts I really enjoy The Guardian’s Audio Long Reads podcast, Science Weekly, 99% Invisible, and most recently I listened to Hunting Warheads which I found a little disturbing.

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

Drinking lots of water. I carry my drink-bottle with me everywhere I go. I find that if I’m feeling exhausted, hungry, or distracted it’s usually just that I haven’t had enough water.

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

Jacinda Ardern!

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

Make sure you regularly check-in with yourself. It’s really easy to get swept up in life and end up spending your days and weeks doing nothing specific with your time. Or things that don’t bring you joy and value. Both at work and outside of it.

For me, to feel the value I need to make sure that I’m always learning something—whether it how to run a successful workshop or PM a project, learning how to clean an anchor on a climb efficiently, or how to use a new tool at pottery.

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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.