Cassie Roma is the head of content marketing at The Warehouse Group. Here's how she gets through the day, how she organises her time and how she handles the madness of business.
What time do you wake up?
Wake up times vary depending on the day and week ahead. I’m fastidious about exercise (if I don’t get enough of it, the people around me get a grumpy Cass). If I know I’ll be able to fit some fitness into my day, then I usually wake up at 5am to write, check e-mails, or read. If there won’t be time to work out, I sometimes will drag myself out of bed at 3am for a super-early session at the gym. The early bird may get the proverbial worm, but it also gets sleepy about 3pm in the afternoon, too.
What’s the ideal way to start your day?
The ideal way to start my day is with birdsong and some time to myself to plan ahead for the day as well as to get some time in for learning or creativity. As a mom, wife, and professional woman working for a larger corporation – time to fill my soul and mind is limited. Getting up before the rest of the household means I am able to sit in my own thoughts and aspirations for at least an hour a day. Doing this really helps me stay focused.
Do you have any morning rituals?
Depending on the gym-or-no-gym conundrum, my morning rituals always include a caffeinated vitamin drink – it’s like Berocca with a kick (it’s yummy and I’m addicted and that’s all I’ll fess up to here.) Regardless of the time I wake, I spend an hour most mornings with my wife and daughter getting ready for school & work. We listen to music, dance around when the mood hits, and mostly just enjoy the time we have together. I also binge podcasts (usually ones with strong narratives) and enjoy catching up on the American late-night TV monologues from back home. Let’s just steer well clear of US politics in this article...
How soon do you begin doing work-related things, i.e. checking phone or emails?
Almost immediately. Being a millennial and working in the digital content/brand storytelling game means that I’ve never known how to ‘turn off’ from work. That little red notification that pops up telling me I have unread messages or emails fills me with dread. My wife on the other hand can easily live her life with 23,456 unread emails staring her in the face daily. I wish I could be more like her! Haha...
In all reality, I’m lucky in the profession I’m in because I’m still fascinated by brands that just really ‘get’ it when it comes to communicating their why, what, how, and who seamlessly across channels both new and emerging. My life is all about studying photos, videos, funny memes, strong narratives, strategic distribution and humanity. The last of these, the humanity part, is that which really drives my intense passion for digital and online storytelling.
What’s your media consumption or interaction like from the morning onwards – do you listen to podcasts, radio, watch videos, read books and magazines, visit new sites?
In a word: constant. At least, it feels that way. Having grown up tip-toeing on the line of techy-geek and outdoorsy wanderer, I know the absolute value of logging off and heading outside. There’s nothing more thrilling to me than actively searching out days in which I can get lost in thought and get lost in the great outdoors. That’s all to say that, as an adult working in digital and online spaces most of the time, the world-wide trend of people taking tech-free vacations and learning to truly log-off appeals to me hugely.
In theory I shut off and make the space and time to think as needed to be my best self when working and creating, but in practice I am usually found with a screen in front of my face. I love how clever people are. I love how the internet and our new media channels have created a democratisation of creativity and influence. And I love digging into who we are as human animals in the face of all of this. Beyond the screens though, I quite often will read an actual, physical newspaper on the weekends at our local coffee shop. Magazines are a special treat that my wife brings home for me when she knows I need a bit of light reading without notifications.
And, I devour books. I’ve tried to fall in love with kindle and other online reading, but when it comes to books, I still love nothing more that to pick up a hardback or paperback copy of a world that I can get lost in and just dive deep. Right now I’m sunk into (GEEK ALERT!) George R.R. Martin’s Fire And Blood. And, I am loving it!
I think that work/life balance is a misnomer. You’ve got one life. You’re one human. Just because you choose to spend a lot of it in an office (or not) doesn’t mean that you stop the moment that you walk into a professional space.
What kind of work do you do?
I like to say that the work that I do is all based around brand storytelling, strategy, and truly imbuing each consumer touchpoint with an element of purpose and story. Doing this, my professional skills & personal passions align well. The beauty of the kind of work that I do doesn’t really feel like work at all.
When I dive deep into strategic storytelling, I have to understand brand positioning, consumer insights, narratives, and CX. Beyond that, I need to be aware of the tensions that live within our media channels so that we can work to stand out by taking each of our customers on personalized and impactful journeys alongside us. On a day to day basis, I could be meeting with our media buying team, our creative agency, our customer service team, our internal comms team, our head of copy, our PR team, and our brand designers all in the span of eight hours – all with the view of helping each team or brand do better by our consumers.
As far as I’m concerned, my job is to actively seek out rooms in which I am NOT the most knowledgeable person on a particular topic. This way, I am always learning and building my capabilities to teach others. I also spend a lot of time studying the anthropological side of marketing and social media marketing. Why do people react to one creative in one place, but not in another? What drives someone to engage with a brand versus ignore it? The work that I do is all meant to serve – whether that’s my colleagues in the room, consumers, or the greater good. We’re all in this together.
What’s unique about your line of work?
I think that the most unique thing about the work that I do and the career progression I’ve had is that almost all of my roles had never existed before me. Working in digital and social media from the early days was exciting! I always clearly saw the potential in the channels and platforms for brands. To tell impactful stories, connect with customers one-to-one, and to work with digital infrastructures meant that I well and truly cut my teeth on the cutting edge of modern marketing.
The best part? I am still chasing the tech that magnifies impact and connection. Another super unique function of the work that I do is that I am actually (literally) always in a human-first space. This means a lot of what I get to do is interaction. Whether it’s sowing the seeds of fun banter or a more important conversation for the greater good, being able to be a more hands-on professional is super satisfying.
What responsibility does that involve in a typical day? What takes up most of your time?
A typical day is anything but – so most of my responsibilities lie in helping others and in recommending ways in which to take our stories, our content, and our content marketing. Be it a video, images, social iterations for paid media placements, community management and beyond, I love all of the different responsibilities that my role entails.
When it comes to time and time management, most of my time is taken up with meetings, ideation sessions, and “doing.” I never have been, and never will be, someone who thinks that the doing should be left for other people. The more I’ve climbed professionally, the more I truly believe that leadership is standing shoulder to shoulder with everyone else and doing the mahi.
The places in which I still learn the most and grow professionally are those in which I test, learn, and then iterate time and time again until a trend is spotted or a success is notched up. Working with teams who are driven and ready to try new things is awesome – it also means we’re all passionate about the work we do day in and day out.
Who do you see/talk to?
First thing in the morning, I see my family. We delight in each other for the short amount of time that we have before the morning hustle to our respective offices or to school. From there, I spend a lot of time with my closest (literally the people who sit nearest to me) colleagues. We’re all part of the wider in-house creative team and come to work most days super stoked to see each other and to share really cool ideas, innovations, or trends with each other. Often we also just shoot the proverbial, bonding and laughing together over coffee.
From about 9am though, it’s all on as far as who I see and talk to. After 15 years in marketing in New Zealand, I know most of our agency partners and key stakeholders both internally and externally – so I split my time up where I’m needed on that day or for a particular project. I work super closely with our social media and content teams, our media buying team, our corporate communications team, and our integrated marketing team. We really are like a big family!
After work I usually rush home to spend time with my family. Our time is so very limited and precious. My daughter will be a teenager soon, and I swear yesterday she was a toddler. A growing child is the absolute best gauge of how fast time passes – so I always have and always will put time with people I love before anything else. On rare occasions you might catch me in town after a day at the office, laughing with friends over a buttery chardonnay or a negroni. Those moments are precious, and tasty, too.
Where do your best ideas come from?
I spend so much of my time taking in information, asking questions, and talking to other people that it is in moments of quiet and stillness where true ideation happens for me. When my mind wanders, it seems to take all of the different data-points and gathers them into lovely little packages of insight. These are my ‘Ah-ha! Moments.’ To ensure I have them, I actively carve out time daily (and protect it obsessively) to get outdoors and spend time in my own head.
Sometimes it’s a long-walk, sometimes it’s a short run – my meditation is always in motion. Having some time and space alone to play with different words and narratives is where my best ideas are born. I truly believe that there’s a huge glorification of being busy in business these days, and it’s killing actual agility, innovation, and creativity.
Living life in back-to-back meetings isn’t the way to move forward in any sense of the word. We all march to our own drums and work at different paces, recognizing this and respecting it makes for better work places and outcomes.
What are the most important tools or programmes you use for your work?
In all honesty, programmess and tools are secondary to an insatiable lust for learning and understanding others. I love the psychology and physiology of the human mind and body. In studying people, I am able to dive deep into testing theories and hypotheses around what will and won’t resonate with a customer or consumer mindset. Convincing traditional businesspeople or marketers to think more like anthropologists than ad folks can be a challenge – but I reckon it’s a fun one. And, one worth undertaking daily.
A lot of the tools and information I search out come from people like Brian Solis, Jim Louderback, Katie Hinson (look her up, fam), and others. People who push boundaries with a commonsense approach to tools, technology, and ideas that don’t always make sense. I love people who challenge my mindset and force me to grow.
From a practical perspective, over the course of my career I have had to learn how to use all kinds of analytical tools, tracking tools, engagement tools, and then be able to understand how these will benefit a business. I can jump into editing suites for video, photography, and audio when needed. I love a cranky CMS (and a happy one), and am a dab hand with a little bit of coding.
Talk about a Jill of Many Trades, right? The beautiful thing is that, while I might be a bit of everything, I’m never bored.
How do you juggle all your responsibilities?
Honestly, sometimes I don’t. Anyone who says they’re able to juggle everything seamlessly is either bold-faced lying to you or has a Life Admin Manager that is in charge of their day-to-day. As a mother, wife, daughter, colleague, volunteer, and a million other things to other people, I’ve learned that I don’t really do a good job at spending time on myself (and when I do, I still carry guilt about it.)
That said, with age comes wisdom, or at least a few hard knocks. Thanks to said hard knocks and having been on the planet a while now, I’m pretty good at knowing what’s important and what’s not. The wisdom in “don’t sweat the small stuff” is something I carry with me daily. By focusing on the important stuff, I’m able focus on things that will matter long-term and to go easier on myself with juggling everything.
I’ve also learned to say “No.” more often to time wasters. You’d be amazed how often people will ask for a lot from you with zero in return. A coffee for three weeks of work? Yeah, nah. Understanding my own worth, knowing the value of a minute, and also not fearing speaking my truth means that the juggle is less of a struggle. And, I love that.
What kind of breaks do you take throughout the day?
My base personality walks a fine line between wanting to be an extrovert and actually being an introvert. This means that while I crave human interaction and feed off of it, I also need downtime to clear mental cobwebs as they build over the course of a busy day. Most mornings I drive in to work and take ten to fifteen minutes on the way to listen to music. No news, no information, no distraction other than lyrics and melody.
Once I’m into the swing of a busy day, I try to make sure that I have breathing space between meetings to work on next steps and start to prime myself/change gears while heading into the next. If I ever feel overwhelmed or exhausted, I happily put on my walking shoes and take 30 minutes to walk around and refresh myself mentally and physically. To make sure I set my days up for success, I book out my mornings before 9am to be able to answer emails or work through immediate projects, and also decline any meetings that aren’t completely necessary – because if they could be undertaken in a few bullet points in an email, then we all get time back to be productive instead of simply busy.
What’s the most enjoyable part of your day?
Sunrise. I love the stillness of the world just before everyone starts yawning their first yawns of the day & waking up to birdsong. Sometimes I feel like time slows down a little bit just before the dawn. Daylight doesn’t feel heavy or oversaturated yet, sounds aren’t as loud, and the air smells new and fresh. Sunrise is a new beginning every single day. How much more magical could a time of day be?
What about the least enjoyable?
That feeling when you’re running a million miles a minute but you still don’t feel as if there’s enough time in the day. It’s as if the hours are sprinting past you and all you can muster is a relaxing stroll. When I feel like this, I try to stop, take stock of which balls I have currently in the air – and simplify. Once I simplify, the day becomes manageable, happy and enjoyable again.
Do you procrastinate? Is it good or bad?
I like to say that I invest in daydreaming and riffing on potential approaches to solutioneering. By spending time in “pre” I save a lot of time in post. Ya know? Spending time thinking through angles, ideas, strategies, or potential slip-ups instead of trying to fix things once they’re live, means my own productivity and that of the business is more streamlined and impactful.
Do you measure your accomplishments or productivity? If so, how?
I do measure my accomplishments and productivity, definitely. Not with a measuring tape or a tally of awards or anything like that. But more in terms of macro and micro life goals and whether or not I’m following the little voice inside of me that reminds me that I’m here for a finite amount of time and my only job is to make this world a better place than I found it.
Truth bomb time: awards shows aren’t my scene (even when I’m winning the awards!) There’s always a bit too much self-congratulation happening which feels a bit insincere. I’d never measure success based on accolades. As hippie as it sounds, measuring accomplishments is more around how often I am able to make others good, how often I can make my pre-teen laugh (this isn’t an easy task sometimes!), and how important my loved ones feel in this world. The rest is honey for bees.
Is there anything you think is unique about your day?
We all have unique days, don’t we? Because of that, a daily routine (or lack thereof in my case) it’s hard to pull apart the bits that might be intriguing to others. For me, the unique parts are a sum of the total. Meaning that every meeting, step forward, conversation, and story is new. That makes hopping out of bed in the morning super exciting.
I think uniqueness is beautiful, and I find a whole lot of inspiration in the thoughts, ideas, and Dad Jokes of others. The cadence of my days changes depending on the project, people, or prerogative of the business I’m working with. I absolutely love the profession I’ve chosen to chase – it’s grown me as a human immensely.
Extracting who we are from the question “What do you do?” is becoming more and more important in terms of mental wellness and personal wellbeing. So, to answer the question, I stay in touch with the people I love as needed. It’s amazing how a small text, a funny meme, a short conversation, or any contact not work related throughout the day can serve to drive someone to do more and better by their role.
What’s your interaction with friends and family throughout the day? Can you be both a successful business person/entrepreneur and a good mother/partner/friend?
I think that work/life balance is a misnomer. You’ve got one life. You’re one human. Just because you choose to spend a lot of it in an office (or not) doesn’t mean that you stop the moment that you walk into a professional space.
I remember a time in my late 20s where I was at work and my Mom called from California. She only called during the day for important life events (births, deaths) so I took the call. Within minutes of hanging up from her, my manager at the time pulled me into her office and dragged me across the coals for taking a personal call on work time.
This same manager once also had a go at me for being “too nice” to people over e-mail and in person when I asked them how they were doing and if their families were well. Too nice? What the actual. Working for such an unempathetic, and set-to-be super unsuccessful leader early on meant that I learned to walk away from shitty environments fairly quickly. I also learned the kind of leadership I would never undertake. Simon Sinek talks of heartcounts over headcounts. I fiercely believe in this.
Also, there seems to be in New Zealand a melding together of who you are as a person and where your title sits in the hierarchy of a business, and I always have and always will call bullshit on that. You are not what your PD is – you do not begin and end with words on a paper that someone else wrote for you. We’re all in this game called life together, and we’re all equal in the end. Leaders who treat others with kindness and clarity are my favorite kinds of people.
Extracting who we are from the question “What do you do?” is becoming more and more important in terms of mental wellness and personal wellbeing. So, to answer the question, I stay in touch with the people I love as needed. It’s amazing how a small text, a funny meme, a short conversation, or any contact not work related throughout the day can serve to drive someone to do more and better by their role. Yes, 110 percent anyone can “do it all.” And by that, I mean all of us are free to choose what “all” is. Once you know what’s most important to you, go all in.
Do you get stressed? If so, how do you manage it? Do you practice any mindfulness or meditation?
I am human, therefore yes! Stress can be both my best friend and my worst enemy (sometimes both all at once) depending on mindset and context. When it comes to mindfulness, it’s taken a long time and a good dose of therapy to find out what actually works for me to quell negative energy when it invades.
Last year was one of the hardest of my life. I lost people I love, I lost a lot of innocence, I lost some of the rosy shade in my rose coloured glasses... I lost myself a bit.
That said, coming out of hard times, I have trained myself to pay attention to my emotional and physical reactions to situations and triggers. I try to understand these reactions in the context of the bigger picture of my life. When you think deeply about the things that make a life, they’re in moments big and small – good and bad alike. So my road ahead is an ongoing journey of kindness to others and to myself in equal measure.
When it comes to meditation, I’d love to say that I meditate. It just sounds so cool and earthy to talk about daily meditation, but traditional meditation isn’t my groove just yet. I’ve tried mindfulness and meditation apps multiple times. More times than I can count on both hands, actually. The outcome? When I’m using apps or purposefully trying to find silence after a big day, my mind gets louder.
So, I walk.
Or jump into the waves.
Or head to the gym.
My meditation is always in motion. My physical being needs to be challenged to calm my emotional core. Meditation is always more impactful for me when undertaken outdoors, too. It’s as if a magical elixir of vitamin D, wind, and motion all add up to stillness and less stress. Everyone’s different, and that’s the beauty of living. I am always looking for more ways of finding a place where stress is something that drives a better ‘me’ for those around me.
I am a human in perpetual beta.
What do you do once you get home? Can you switch off?
Hometime is my fave time. Mostly because it’s where my people are, where my quiet little corner of the world is. Our house looks out over the ocean and there’s not a day that I don’t feel overwhelmed with thankfulness to be able to live where we do. I grew up in San Diego, California about a 25minute drive from the Pacific Ocean and have always found peace near the water. Coming home to the ocean means that it’s pretty easy to switch off.
That said, it’s taken a lot of time and introspection to realise that answering an email at midnight is all for naught. No one’s going to see it until the morning anyhow, and if they do, they probably need to hit the hay soon or are in another time zone. So why stay tethered to the interwebs at all hours when switching off allows for time spent on other aspects of life? We all need to create and stick to healthy personal boundaries. My boundaries are unshakable now.
For my family, we have time- imits around phone/screen time and often will keep each other honest about logging off. We try to be silly parents, too, and often turn music on and dance around the living room. I’d love for my daughter to remember her childhood as one filled with support, laughter, crazy dancing, and conversations.
What time do you go to sleep?
Most nights I’m asleep by 10pm if not before. Being an early bird means that we hit the hay almost at the same time as our daughter. If we’re exhausted, we sleep. If we’re inspired, we burn the midnight oil. Sleep is beyond important for maintaining mental and physical health, so we try to prioritise it!
Hummingbird keeps the world – and great individuals like Cassie – humming.
This story originally appeared on Idealog.