Caroline La Rose is the Program Director at global communications agency Hotwire where she leads and manages a team across enterprise and consumer tech brands.
First published on Balance the Grind
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your background and career?
Samantha Jones from Sex and the City is what initially sparked my interest in the world of Public Relations. I was fascinated by the glam, parties, events, travel and back then, I couldn’t think of a more enticing career.
About 10 years ago, after completing my Master’s degree in Communication Management at University of Technology, Sydney, I landed my very first internship at a global PR agency in Sydney that specialises in technology. The shock was brutal as I was forced to very quickly shake off ‘The Samantha Syndrome’.
Instead of parties, celebrities, etc. I was reading and learning about datacentres, cybersecurity, virtualisation, cloud computing. A very long shot from Samantha Jones but I pushed through.
Every day I was learning more about the technology industry, getting familiar with the tech jargon, learning the ropes of media relations, building relationships with clients and media and I quickly fell in love with not just PR, but also the tech space.
Since then, I’ve been very fortunate to have worked in a number of tech PR agencies, across some well-known, global technology brands and I’ve learned so much from many incredible PR experts along the way.
2) What is your current role and what does it entail on a day to day basis?
I am currently a Program Director at Hotwire, a global communications agency delivering PR & digital marketing services to top tech and consumer brands.
As a Program Director, I lead and manage a team of PR and comms professionals, providing guidance, professional development support, and ensure communications and PR campaigns are successfully delivered.
I am the senior point of contact for clients across the agency, providing strategic counsel as and when needed. I’m also responsible for the agency’s performance through new business and growing existing accounts.
Part of my role is also to lead for the Evolving Tech department of the business, which provides a specialised set of communications services to help well-established technology brands futureproof their messages and branding against disruptors as they reinvent themselves and diversify in order to remain competitive. We help craft their communications so they get media cut-through, maintain visibility and relevance in this highly competitive market.
No two days are the same in my current role and that’s due to the nature of the industry, what’s happening on the news agenda, issues or crisis faced by clients as well as our clients’ peaks at different times.
The pace at which I have to work, the questions that come flying in from all directions, and the need to think quickly as situations arise, mean I can never 100 percent predict what my day will look like. And this is something I thrive on because it keeps me on my toes and mentally stimulated.
Typically, my days would consist of a mix of consulting, providing client counsel and/or working with the senior team at Hotwire on agency management, HR and new business.
3) What does a typical day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I wake up at 6am, quickly skim through my work emails and Slack to see if anything needs urgent actioning. Next I’ll do a news sweep and flag anything relevant to the team. I then quickly make a to-do list mentally while I’m still lying in bed, it helps me get prepared for the day ahead.
My kids usually wake up at around 6.15am and that’s when I go into uninterrupted mommy-mode for the next 45mins. I feed them breakfast, get them ready for daycare while I get ready for work.
I leave the house at around 7am. Depending on my workload, I usually use my 1-hour commute to do some emails, check my calendar for any meetings, write down my to-do list by order of priority and get some work stuff out of the way.
I’m usually in the office by 8.45am. I make myself a cup of tea and ‘eat the frog’, whatever that might be – a quarterly PR plan for a client, a thought leadership article, or a new business response to brief. I’m more productive and focused in the morning, procrastination gives me anxiety.
Between 11am and noon, I’m usually in meetings (internals as well as client meetings and/or calls) and I assist the team with various requests for help, support or advice.
By midday, I’m usually starving, so I grab lunch – trying very hard to bring my lunch every day. Eight times out of 10, you’ll find me eating at my desk only because that’s the only time I have to get menial/life-admin tasks done such as booking my son’s swimming lessons, sending the grocery list to my husband etc.
I generally use my afternoons for client work, business management related tasks and planning for my next day’s meetings.
As much as possible I try to leave the office by 5.30pm, unless I have late calls with Europe-based clients. Once home, I help my husband get the kids ready for bed, have dinner and unwind.
4) In between everything you do and all your responsibilities, how do you ensure you find some sort of balance in your life?
Work-life balance is something I’ve struggled with for years until recently. It definitely requires a lot of self-discipline and it also comes down to setting boundaries. If something is urgent, you’ll get a call, not an email!
Since I became a mother four years ago, I made the decision to put my family first, no matter what. My career has always been very important to me and I didn’t want that to change, but I decided to make the most of my time by being truly present.
If I’m at work, then I’m 100 percent in work mode and when I’m not working, then I try as much as possible to completely switch off.
At Hotwire we also promote Thoughtful Working, which is a practice that espouses work as a thing you do, not a place you go. It’s all about working in a way that works best for you, your team, and your clients.
It means I can work from home whenever I have family commitments or even come in a little later so I can make it to a gym class in the morning.
5) What are some of the things you do to take time out and recharge?
I recently started personal training, which I’m starting to enjoy whenever I want or need some me-time. I also love spending time with my family, baking with my daughter, or going to brunch with friends.
When the kids go to bed, I enjoy having a good book or binge-watching documentaries on Netflix.
6) Are there any gadgets, tools or products can’t you live without?
Definitely my smartphone. We have a family group on WhatsApp and that’s how I communicate with my family in Mauritius every day. It’s also a very important tool for my job as I can quickly and easily access Slack and emails.
My microwave broke down over the weekend and I never realised how much my life depended on it.
7) Do you have any books that you love and would like to recommend?
Absolutely loved Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. My reality as a full-time working mom is that I usually feel overwhelmed and stretched incredibly thin. One part of the book reads, “There are no solutions, only trade-offs”. That stuck with me and has helped me through many situations.
8) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?
I’m an obsessive list- maker and therefore I swear by a to-do list, both for personal as well as work stuff. It helps me structure my day, stay organised and crossing off items from my list is so therapeutic.
I also always make sure I have something exciting to look forward to – maybe it’s a booked family trip to Fiji in 6 months, or seeing my beautiful kids’ faces at the end of each day. It keeps me going.