Our ‘Success Secrets’ Series is a collection of intimate conversations with some of Australia’s most influential and successful Australian women.
Our intent is to delve deeper than the polished exterior we’re all familiar with, to reveal the hidden doubts, challenges and hurdles these women have overcome to become strong, happy and successful businesswomen.
We’ll save the perfect pictures for Instagram, preferring to share honest, raw, warts and all stories of professional triumph, family balance and the maintainance of personal sanity.
We discuss personal journies and career paths, how they’ve managed to stay committed and dedicated to their personal and professional goals, how they’ve managed to maintain belief in themselves and particularly, how they’ve overcome any doubts, anxiety or stress that may accompany high-pressure professional lives.
In the words of our guests we hope you find solace, encouragement and a reminder that you do have the strength deep inside you to achieve your life’s goals.
Jess Blanch, Editor in Chief, RUSSH Magazine
1. What’s your name, how old are you and what’s your family status?
Jess Blanch. Editor in Chief, RUSSH Magazine. I’m married to Marty Switzer, its a relationship of nearly 18 years and we have a 3-year-old daughter called Sloane.
2. What’s your professional role and how did you get there?
I run RUSSH, an Australian-owned but global multi-platform media brand.
Describing itself as “Australian at heart, international in mindset,” RUSSH champions creative minds over celebrity and prides itself on original and authentic content produced across the world.
I grew up I a fairly isolated country town but it was an idyllic childhood filled with horses and freedom to roam anywhere with my dog in tow. I came to Sydney to boarding school and then went onto Sydney University, taking my first job in public relations and then had an amazing opportunity to learn about publishing. I worked on business titles and for corporates in web content before RUSSH. My home was always filled with magazines as a child and my mother-in-law is an Editor, among other things, so it was a natural step into the ever-evolving world of media.
3. At what point did you decide to/have a family, and how did you manage that transition? Did you take parental leave, start your own entrepreneurial venture instead of remaining in the employment of another, go back to work immediately or have a well-deserved hiatus, discover your true calling, or stay the course of your existing passion.
I’d had RUSSH for 6 years when Sloane arrived and I was quite unwell throughout the entire pregnancy, which I think it was nature’s way of telling me I needed to slow down in order to become a mother. I was travelling for fashion-month where I’d be away from home for up to 6 weeks at a time and living a very exciting and fast-paced life.
Sloane arrived over summer break so I returned to work six weeks after she was born. Only a couple of days to begin with – I was very lucky my mother-in-law Maureen was able to make time in her busy life to care for her – but I stayed online with my team always. Running a business can be wonderfully flexible at times but it is impossible to disconnect from it, especially when the RUSSH business was growing so rapidly.
4. What was the hardest part about returning to the work-place, wherever that may be, with the new-found pressures of young children. What did you alter/add in to the routine to ensure children are safe and fed, your employment secure and your sanity in check.
Although Sloane was in very loving hands, it is hard to leave a young baby and not just because you are nursing. They don’t seem to stick to schedule and there are many late nights and unexpected happenings.
For a working mother your heart is eternally divided. When I’m at work, I yearn for her and when I am home with her I feel that very cliché guilt of not being at work. There is no perfect solution.
Family support is crucial. Along with my parents-in-law I’ve had a wonderful niece studying at University who was able to help, along with my parents who live in the country but come to save the day in case of broken foots and trips away.
5. How did that affect your mind-set with regards to work pressures, professional altercations and project management? Did you become more/less patient with others, less interested in professional politics, more or less confidant in yourself? Did you notice any personal attitude changes that affected your working life?
My daughter is at all times my priority and I am so lucky to be in a business that allows for this. I like to be home early to have dinner with her most nights – dinner time is such an important time of day – and this means I’m often rather haphazardly stumbling out the door late to an event after putting her to bed. It is also means many late nights working to essentially make up the time, but this is inevitable anyhow with the international team we have at RUSSH.
What this means for my attitude is there isn’t any tension in my mind as to what is important. I feel very confident about the contribution I make to the business and generally my working life. RUSSH is a very creative commercial environment and leading it is a true privilege.
6. Post-children, how have you maintained your creativity and inspiration within the new climate of physical and mental exhaustion, multi-tasking madness and a distinct lack of personal time.
I’ve never been one to go to a spa or pilates class, I find that kind of a thing a chore so I’ve embraced family time over personal time. We see Sloane’s pony or go to dinner or the beach and these are honestly the best moments of my life now.
The creative nature of my role allows me to indulge in things I would want to do with my personal time such as writing, reading and music and while there is less opportunity, I appreciate it so much more. Long haul flights alone can be wonderful for igniting creativity.
7. Let’s talk belief in oneself. Did you always know you could do this job, or did it take a while to acknowledge to yourself that you were not only capable, but exceptional at it? Or do you still doubt your abilities and decisions sometimes, perhaps the unifying burden of professional women.
Imposter syndrome? Of course, all too familiar. But I try to remind myself that everything I’ve done has been training for what I do now. I make decisions quickly now due to sheer volume and I have learnt now to listen to my intuition rather than try to rationalise what it is telling me. Creatively, I wonder if self-doubt, melancholy and despair don’t go hand-in-hand with the creative impulse and process.
8. When you feel yourself overwhelmed, out of depth or unsupported at work or home, what are the steps you take to talk yourself off the ledge? How do you stop yourself from losing your patience and your mind?
I just lose my mind. Then pull myself back together.
9. Revelation Time. Can you reveal something about yourself that you still doubt – your Achilles heel? We all have an area (or two) of our personality or professional manner that we feel is our weakest. Or a skill set we feel could be improved, a behaviour we could change. Incidentally, these perceived flaws can go completely unnoticed by others or are not noticeable at all, but to us, they are our ‘Achilles Heel’.
Lately, thanks to the many different technology platforms over which we can communicate I’ve become quite impervious to digital connections. And despite the significant social following we have at RUSSH, I personally find social media difficult. While I am happy to share family moments with my friends I find any kind of self-promotion in a work environment frightening. Hence why I struggled with this interview!
Perhaps my biggest flaw though is not being able to communicate in spoken words the ideas in my head. As a writer, I have an idea of how I would like to arrange my words and often my voice can’t’ keep up.
10. How did you deal with a major mistake and what did you learn from it? Be it arriving so late to Mother’s Day Morning Tea you’ve missed the whole event and your daughter is the only one without a mum and a hot chocolate, or when you accidently deleted a client’s entire customer database, or missed the most important meeting of your career, how did you move forward?
I have made so many spectacular mistakes that I can’t think of one in particular. In any endeavour, you have to face the idea of being wrong. I’m wrong a lot but then I move on. I think ‘doing’ is the most important act and mistakes are the only way to grow.
RUSSH Magazine http://www.russh.com/