We had the good fortune of connecting with Brian Allen and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Brian, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
My views on work-life balance have definitely shifted over the years. In my 20’s and early 30’s this was not something I even thought about too much. I loved my work, and could do a lot of it at home in the evenings, so at the time I did not have any issues working 60+ hour weeks. I even thought that it was a blessing to be able to look at it that way. I could never understand how people could just shut off their work mind at 5 PM and then turn it back on at 8 AM the next morning. Once I had kids, there was an immediate internal conflict that I had to deal with. I had put so much self-value on my ability to “go above and beyond” for work that when something else more important needed that time, I felt an immediate guilt struggle. I felt guilty for not being able to be present at all times in my thoughts with my kids, but also felt guilty for not being able to be the 60 hour per week “rockstar” that I felt I needed to be to be successful. It really forced me to prioritize things and look at work a bit differently and compromise between those two intrinsic values. I had to be okay with the fact that I would never be able to fully turn off my brain, but also realize that I can still be a successful career person without having to put in crazy hours. Once I balanced those two thoughts, I began to have more peace with the situation. For me, it is important that any company or organization that I work for, or with, shares those same values. It is possible to be a career-focused high-performer and be a good parent as well. There are days when work will take more of you and days where life will take more of you, but long-term “balance” is the key part of the equation.Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I feel like I took a very non-traditional path to get to where I am today. If you asked me in college if I thought I would be leading a marketing team of over 80 people, I would have thought that you were crazy! In fact, I never even had a marketing class in college… or even a business class for that matter. I feel that I got to where I am by never saying “no” to opportunities a long the way and just investing the time to figure it out. I graduated in 2000 with a double major in Graphic Design and Fine Arts. Within my first week, I was asked “Can you design and develop websites?”. I said, “No, but I can figure it out.” So, I bought a book on HTML and Flash and built my first website for one of Iowa’s largest employers at the time (not a bad starter proejct). In my next role, I built on that experience as the digital landscape started to evolve. Agencies at the time really didn’t have “digital marketing or web departments”, so when opportunities came along I raise my hand and said “yes, I can do that”. The next thing I knew, there was a steady stream of digital projects and I was managing a web design and development team. Later the opportunity came up to lead the digital marketing side where it was just driving leads to those websites we created. So, I said “sure, I can do that.” It was an interesting realization for me when I woke up one day and realized I was doing something that I was not formally trained in or went to school for.. but I was good at it! I never made a conscious choice to make a career change. It just happened organically. What lead me from being a young, naive designer/illustrator to a digital marketing leader VP leading 80 of the smartest marketing people in our industry was a long string of saying “yes”. I always had confidence that I could figure it out, and if it sounded like fun I was all in to do the work. I asked a lot of questions along the way and always try and leverage the skills and talents around me to help solve problems. Rarely have I been on an island with no-one to get insight or knowledge from. The biggest thing I have learned is to never back away from a challenge. There will always be unknowns. People had to just have confident that they have the ability to solve problems, work through challenges and utilize the people and resources around you to accomplish the goals in front of them. Don’t miss out on opportunities because you are afraid of the challenge!Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Des Moines and central Iowa in general have really evolved and blossomed over the last decade or so. Our downtown and East Village area are full how fun shops, restaurants. breweries and scenic walks. I think people outside Iowa may be surprised how much of a fun, hip place that Des Moines can be.The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would like to thank Marc Reifenrath, Cory Schmidt and Adam Lewis for the career opportunity at Spinutech that showed me that it was possible to be a part of an organization that value’s work life balance and holds true to it. When I joined the organization, I had to rewire my brain and they have fully supported that over the last 6 years. I am proud to have been part of a growing organization that respects and encourages family time. They don’t let me feel guilty about it. I am excited to continue this journey with them and show others that their is a home where they can be the best in the industry at their career and the best as they can be at home with their family.