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Balancing the Grind with Sarah Hadj, Talent Acquisition Manager at Mr Yum

Sarah Hadj is a Talent Acquisition Manager at Mr Yum, a global web-based mobile ordering and payment platform based in Melbourne.

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

My career started in London. I was working for a leading executive search firm, and after a year of working as a researcher, I had the opportunity to build the startup tech market for the business in Europe.

It was such an exciting time for the tech market in London in 2012. We had just come out of the economic crisis, and there was a considerable emergence of product-led companies. I was trained extensively on ‘101 recruitment’ and sales, which has helped me get where I am today. After four years of doing this, I was ready for a change and headed back to Melbourne. 

In Australia, I joined a startup consulting firm called Think & Grow. I was privileged to work closely with and learn from some of the most successful entrepreneurs and founders in the Aussie market.

Here I developed my expertise in people strategies and organisational design with my role mainly focused on executing search projects globally. Some of my most exciting projects included: building growth teams for what are now ‘unicorn’ scale ups, onsite consulting, hiring CEOs, board members, and recruiting some of the best talents from San Francisco and bringing them to Australia. 

I now work at Mr Yum, a global web-based mobile ordering and payment platform in the Melbourne HQ, responsible for hiring across Australia and the UK, organisational design, onboarding, and building out our employee engagement programs. 

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

My days vary, but I would say that half my time is spent focusing on our hiring needs, including researching, screening, interviewing. The other half is spent engaging with internal stakeholders, developing our people strategies, and rolling out new people programs for Mr Yum.

A typical day for me involves: 

  • 6:30am  Wake up/morning meditation 
  • 7- 8am Yoga
  • 8:30am  Grab a coffee and start my day 
  • 9am – 1pm Push forward any ongoing tasks 
  • 1-1:30pm Walk/lunch 
  • 2 – 5pm Strategic projects and planning 
  • 5 – 7:30pm Family time
  • 7:30pm – 9:30pm Study for my Masters in HR

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

Absolutely! At Mr Yum, we are big advocates for trusting and empowering the team to manage their day as they see fit.

We operate under a hybrid model, so we typically see different people in the office on any given day. As we are a global team, we ensure a balance so teams can manage varying time zones and their respective work days accordingly. 

I’m a big believer in a “blended” work-life balance. I don’t necessarily work within the parameters of 9-5 pm but structure my day on how I will be the most effective with my time. My focus is always on working hard and smart, listening to the data, and using technology to automate processes efficiently.

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

I’ve been working a blended work-life for the past four years as we didn’t have a set office at my previous company. 

I think it’s essential to allow time for ‘thinking’, as that is where I find innovation starts. It’s something we encourage across the team. We are intentionally looking at various programs to implement, including designating a culture buddy and personalised mental healthcare for employees.

We are also introducing mental health days, so teams know that when they need a circuit breaker and time to switch off, they are fully supported by Mr Yum.

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

I’ve brought mindfulness practices back into my routine. COVID last year was a challenging time, as it was for everyone. I needed to lean into meditation and yoga to keep myself balanced and in a routine.

I now meditate first thing in the morning and just before I go to bed. This gives me some time to internalise and helps quiet my mind. I’ve also introduced walking into my routine. It’s hard to find ‘alone time’ as you get older, but it’s essential to intentionally carve out time for yourself. For me, walking is when my best thinking happens, so I make sure it’s part of my daily routine. 

I also began my studies in Masters of HR at RMIT. This is online and supports me in up-skilling myself in my role. Thanks to COVID, I found last year was a perfect time to start this as it had always been my goal to complete. 

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

So many books to recommend!! The best ones I can think of are:

  • Start With Why by Simon Sinek
  • The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
  • Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
  • The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
  • Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
  • Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink
  • Zero to One by Peter Thiel
  • Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
  • Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari

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

Spotify and Kindle.

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

Brian Chesky, the CEO and Co-Founder of Airbnb. Airbnb was one of the first organisations to implement remote working back in 2011. They developed office spaces that were not only welcoming but encouraged hot-desking and people to move through the office in a sort of ‘flow’ throughout their day.

I love how they introduced open and balanced spaces with plants and natural light, spurring a whole new level of internal connection and engagement. Today, it’s not really about the look of the office, but trying to tackle new and innovative ways to achieve the same level of connection and engagement remotely, and I believe Airbnb has always been at the forefront of that type of thinking.

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

As we move into a hybrid model, it’s so important that businesses design a culture where everyone is on a shared mission. Everyone is deeply passionate about how things are done. Culture has to be ingrained in the company.

Culture is a belief that should never change under any technological conditions. It’s about championing the mission and holding onto shared values across the team. This empowers teams to work flexibly, swapping the “where” teams work to the “how” and “why”.

Work out what culture will be necessary to your organisation by testing and documenting how to assess the best people who fit your culture. I believe hiring is the essential thing in culture because you are bringing people in, and new employees are learning about your company culture and ways of working from the outset. 

Lastly, one risk of virtual work is making it easy for an individual or teams to operate in silos regularly. Creating a solid core network and broader network across the organisation will allow employees to be more successful long-term.

To do this, you have to intentionally create a culture that encourages strong 1:1 relationships and sets clear expectations connecting the individual with broader organisational mission, values and beliefs. As a result, this will complement employees’ work-life balance while still feeling part of and connected to the organisation’s overall mission.

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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.