What do film production and fintech have in common?
On the surface, not much. Unless you count the number of times I’ve thought about getting a Zopa loan to put even more money into post production. For me, it turned out to be the key to finding my work-life balance.
Here’s the truth: I didn’t plan on staying at Zopa when I started. I had never worked at a fintech before. I didn’t even know what it really was before I started my contract with the marketing team last year. Also, I had just launched a production company with my two partners, Double Yay Productions, so wasn’t particularly looking for permanent roles.
Coming off another contract at UKTV, I always saw Zopa as a mini detour in my media career journey. So, it was a surprise to everyone (including me) when my contract ended and I asked my manager if I could stay. Because, I had to admit to myself: I like it here.
Are you hiding your passions?
Zopa is the first company I’ve worked for that didn’t make me feel bad about having an external focus. A lot of companies think that when an employee has something else they’re really passionate about outside of work, that means they’ll be distracted. I’m here to say: that’s simply not the case.
If you do it right.
If your company culture can allow employees to be open about their other interests, they’ll be happier when they are at work. And being open to flexible working means people are more likely to stick around for longer. We all talk about work-life balance, but work-life balance means different things to different people. To me, it means working more, but splitting that work between my personal projects and work projects.
I work at Zopa four days a week. This gives me an extra day to focus on Double Yay needs (in addition to our many evening meetings).
This is a major help.
Having what I call my “non-Zopa day” means that I can truly focus on Zopa work when I’m in the office, without feeling like I’m neglecting Double Yay. Because (again, I’m being honest here) that’s not 100% true at some of my previous jobs.
Work-life balance: What made the difference?
I recently had my one year anniversary from the day I thought I would leave Zopa. So, why am I still here and why am I happier than I was at previous jobs? The two main reasons are:
- I’m challenged daily
- I get to work creatively
This is a big change from previous jobs. At previous jobs, I was always busy, but I wasn’t challenged in an engaging way. It used to be that all I could think about was getting out of there.
Another difference is that I’m not just “allowed” to be open about my outside work: my managers and colleagues actually recognise how my interests and experiences can be used within Zopa.
When I became more open about my external work, I was surprised that my managers and senior leadership took notice and entrusted me with projects that were more aligned to my production strengths. I’ve been able to shift focus towards creating video and social content, as well as bring my slightly, um, unique tone to our employer brand content.
Switched on vs. switched off
I always thought that having a job where I could be one step removed was the key. Something you can just switch off from and get through with minimal exertion of brainpower. You need to save that brainpower for the personal creative work. But that is actually exhausting. Even if a job is technically easy, it will drain you if you hate it .
It’s so much easier to do something you enjoy, even if it means you’re putting more of that precious brainpower behind it. Because it can feed your personal work and you’re not going home every day braindead by spending 8 hours doing something you hate. Bonus.
So you’re not only improving your work-life existence, you can use your day job to inform your passion project.
Symbiotic knowledge sharing
I’m constantly sharing knowledge between Zopa and Double Yay. One informs the other.
I can bring in my experience of creating and producing narrative projects to my role as the Recruitment Content Manager. My experience as an Assistant Director on set makes filming our Zopa videos super-efficient. And you can always count on me to bring an outside-the-box concept to the table.
On the other side, I’m learning so much about strategy and brand project management from my colleagues at Zopa and it influences the way I’m building the Double Yay brand.
Even being exposed to the different ways that we work in Zopa, like how the tribes and chapters function, is something that my other production partners don’t have. It’s been incredibly useful as we figure out how to work as a team and how to scale projects.
Getting that ‘Double Yay’ feeling
If the ‘Single Yay’ is Zopa’s openness to my outside work, the ‘Double Yay’ is the moral support from my colleagues.
My fellow Zopians have offered up good advice on their specialities, be it data storage or PR. They’ve also been there to sit and patiently listen to the occasional lunchtime rant. More than once.
When people hear that I have a production company outside Zopa, they’re always interested and encouraging. Some Zopians have even agreed to being extras on weekend shoots! (And a special shout out to the Zopians who contributed to our crowdfunding campaign. You know who you are).
For me, this is what we’re talking about when we say work-life balance.
It’s not just a matter of flexible hours, it’s about being able to be honest about who you are at work. Because, let’s be real, we spend a lot of our life in these places. If you’re having to hide who you are and what you’re really passionate about, that means 1/3 of the entire time you have on this planet is going to suck.
So make sure you work somewhere that challenges you and feeds your outside interests. It may not be a similar industry. It might just be a place where people recognise your strengths.
Oh, and check out www.doubleyayproductions.com!
Caroline Amer is Zopa’s Recruitment Content Manager and co-founder/director of Double Yay Productions, creating female-led scripted comedy for TV and online platforms. Their flagship project, Nutritiously Nicola! is due to release in 2018.