Work Diary: Syd Allen-Ash
Each month we publish work diaries from creative people we admire. This month, NYC-based Syd Allen-Ash gave us a look into her work day as a Human Resources Innovation Lead at VICE.
I wake up, without an alarm clock. I fell asleep journaling at 9:45pm without washing my face or changing so this isn’t that impressive. I used to wake up and scroll on my phone but I deleted Instagram from my phone because I read a post on Instagram (I know) that said looking at IG in the morning disrupts your parasympathetic nervous system and basically makes you wake up shocked (Yes, I feel superior to you.) This means that now I just kind of lie around in the morning when I wake up, eventually this will feel natural.
I lied in bed thinking about my day and my week. I’ve set some really aggressive goals for myself between now and October so it’s a constant fire under my ass to really be productive and intentional about how I spend my time. So far, I have stuck mildly aggressive Post-It notes around my apartment and made a lot of lists, ask me in five months if they were effective tactics. Or better yet, check my LinkedIn for that promotion update B*TCH. I’m not kidding, I’m a Capricorn, I was born to work.
I get out of bed and shower then get dressed. I recently got my nails done in bright neon orange so I put on a bright orange sweater to match. One of the aggressive Post-Its in my kitchen says OWN ALL YOUR DECISIONS in all-caps to remind me to be more intentional about my choices. The highlighter orange sweater feels decisive. Hello Monday, I am now ready to rumble.
I make my default breakfast smoothie which is a huge amount of spinach and two bananas. I usually skip lunch so I need to get my veggies in somewhere. Re: skipping lunch - it’s my least favorite meal and it always costs more than it’s worth, so I trained my body to not need it. I am not kidding.
I pour the smoothie into a giant jar, stuff it in my backpack and walk to the subway. I just moved to NYC in January and finally feel confident to basically never google how to get to or from work on the subway. Best believe the learning curve was s h a r p.
I get into the office an hour earlier than everyone else. Yes, this also makes me feel better than you. I like to take my time to look at problems from multiple angles in order to feel really confident in my decisions and I hate being rushed, so that extra hour in the morning or the time on the weekend helps me feel secure.
I grab a coffee and sit down to start making my lists for the day and the week. I never used to be a journal person for work stuff, but at some point, in January it all became too much and I needed a specialized location just for notes. Computers and phones were too distracting. I start by writing BY FRIDAY I WANT TO: and add in the tasks I want completed by then. Making it a statement feels more real than a bullet point list.
I work at VICE on the HR team as Innovation Lead, which means I apply marketing, branding, strategy and research to methodically improve the employee experience. I am currently working on more of a project to project basis with a couple of different teams inside and outside the company that require really different head spaces. I really love the variety but in order to stay focused I take a lot of notes.
I shoot off a couple emails to the creative team I am working with on a couple of different projects with thoughts I had this morning. I don’t actually have to email that much in this job, nor do I get a lot of emails, which I feel blessed about. I feel like a secret agent or hired gun most of the time. I have a really broad skill set so I get to be a chameleon in many different projects and roles, I love it.
I finish making my lists and start reading my favorite newsletter from NOBL, a consultancy based in London and San Francisco focused on large-scale change management and culture change in corporations. I’m obsessed. It’s the only one I actually read on a week to week basis.
My calendar was full of back to back meetings but luckily two of them just rescheduled so I have a bit more time in my day to think. I put on an NTS mix, check IG on my desktop (I’m HUMAN okay?!) and start working on an internal roll-out plan for one of my projects.
Two hours have flown by, as it does in open-concept settings. I get on a call to help onboard a new team member onto a project I’m working on, I explain the tasks I want her to work on and how we’ll share the labour this week. Our point of contact from our vendor’s team joins the call halfway to demo her on some new software we’ll be using for the project.
I have another hour to work so I dive back into my internal roll-out plan. It’s so refreshing to be thinking about how best to market things internally at the company instead of external audiences for clients. I worked at Virtue – an advertising agency created by VICE – for two years as a strategist, and I got tired of solving problems for brands. I’m much more motivated by helping my peers.
On a rare occasion, I have a lunch meeting to discuss some diversity and inclusion initiatives within the company with a co-worker. I was Co-Chair of VICE Canada’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee for two years so this is something I bring into everything I do. We walk around Williamsburg and grab salads. She’s also really passionate about D&I so we agree to collaborate on some programs.
We didn’t actually eat during our lunch meeting so I sit at my desk and read some emails while eating my salad.
I have a call with a designer I worked with in the Toronto office to discuss a project I want to staff him on in NYC. I’m excited to be in a position now where I can bring people I respect together to work with me on projects.
I check my horoscope between meetings. Co-Star is the first one I check because I have the app on my phone, then I go to Astrostyle, Broadly and occasionally Susan Miller. The way I look at astrology is that it doesn’t matter if it’s real, it only matters if it helps you. Your daily horoscope will literally always be encouraging advice, some days that’s all you need to make it through.
I have a call with our Toronto office (my old home base) about a project we are piloting, it’s nice seeing familiar faces on the video chat.
I grab a handful of peanut M&Ms, the snacks in this office are a real perk. I hate that I love it.
I head into a meeting with my closest teammate. He and I are all up in each other’s projects and I noticed we were both getting a little overwhelmed so we put our heads together for a couple hours to make a project plan.
Meeting is done and I return to some of the internal marketing plans I made this morning. I read through some of the material I’m showing to my teammate tomorrow morning to make sure it stands up. Some days I just barf my ideas onto the page and refine later. Just get-it-done-then-it’s-done type of mentality. Luckily this was not one of those days and there aren’t too many revisions to make.
I stay late at the office because I have a dance class in midtown later, it doesn’t make sense to go home to Bushwick then come back so I just hang out and review some of my lists.
Done, ready to bounce to dance class.