24 Hours with Amelia Ward, PHD’s head of digital

In this 24 hours with, PHD's head of digital Amelia Ward talks true crime podcasts, nailing the work / life balance and why adulthood is emailing ‘sorry for the delayed response!’ back and forth until one of you dies.


Alarm goes off. I hit snooze.


Alarm goes off. I hit snooze.


Alarm goes off. I hit snoo….

Oh hello Mr three-year-old, thanks for sticking your favourite Paw Patrol toy in my face to wake me up – yes it’s amazing and looks just as good as it did yesterday at 7:00am.


After about seven minutes of extreme wiggling that is apparently a three-year-old’s version of a sweet morning cuddle, I realise that I have one hour to have a shower, wash my hair, get ready, make three lots of little kid lunches, ensure everyone has their hat/drink bottle/library bag/fundraising note/homework book etc, drop off at two different locations and start my drive from the Northern Beaches to the PHD office at Pyrmont.


Okay, so we never quite make it out the door on time most days, but at least this exit had no tears. Kids have been dropped off at the correct venue (ahhh school holidays –  vacation care adds a whole new element to the madness) and I am finally back to being adult. Not parent, not cook, not maid – adult.

Enjoying a tepid homemade latte from my re-usable coffee cup and listening to the Undisclosed podcast “The State v. Gary Mitchum Reeves” – I am a sucker for a good true crime investigation of the what-really-happened-and-here’s-the-proof variety.


The morning commute is finally complete (let’s not talk about Sydney traffic or I may have to rock in the corner ranting about the complete lack of viable infrastructure to/from the Northern Beaches to anywhere other than Wynyard) and I walk in late, always late, through the door of PHD and straight into my first meeting of the day.

A session called “Ask Digital” where Sydney and Melbourne colleagues from various disciplines ask myself and Stu Bailey, chief digital officer, all about digital “stuff”: it’s our job to digitise the teams and get them all thinking like true digital geeks. I am in my element. Teacher. Passionate. Opinionated.


Wading through the abundance of emails I get each day, I answer the ones with ‘urgent’ or ‘important’ in the title first. Then try desperately to back track to previous months and answer emails that I am extraordinarily late in responding to.

Someone once tweeted “adulthood is emailing ‘sorry for the delayed response!’ back and forth until one of you dies” – so much truth in 140 characters. [Note: For anyone reading this and who I owe an email response to… it’s coming, I promise]


Quick trip across the road to grab takeaway Thai food before I head into a digital training session. No homemade healthy lunch in our super stylish kitchen for me, I just don’t have time today.


Teaching our younger counterparts all about digital. Every slide gives me the chance to impart my veritable knowledge, culminating from 17 years of digital media, hoping desperately that I am sprinkling tiny glitters of digital passion into these impressionable minds and that at least one of them will go on and carve themselves a future out of digital/tech/data. Just putting it out there… I am a futurephile.

I embrace the potential and possibility of what machines will bring to our careers and everyday life. I just have one safety net. I am going to make sure that at least one of my three boys end up as a robotic engineer so we have someone in the family who knows where the off switch is. #keepthecontrol


Client meeting with their local and APAC division heads. Lots of talking about unified data strategies and driving maximum efficiency through the tech stack. I am happy to have a moment to get my nerd on. We decide on a nirvana approach and no WD40-style iterative process. [Creative license here, this is my interpretation of the key requirements, not actual words used in the meeting]. I’m feeling inspired.


YouTube’s head of culture and trends Kevin Allocca has come in to take us on an insightful tour of popular YouTube phenomena. He’s a very engaging presenter and I’m now a fan of calculator cover songs. Afterwards our Google agency team lets us play with their Daydream headsets – love myself a bit of afternoon VR!


It’s a standard back-to-back meeting day for me. This one is in The Paddock, one of our meeting rooms which looks like a paddock and was designed for creativity (it even has a barn door). Has grass (green carpet) and sheep (corrugated iron) and a super sized ball of wool with knitting needles stuck in it (large ball of wool/knitting needles). I am meeting up with one of our group business directors to talk about ad technology and resource requirements. This is the least fun part of my job. Not the meeting with the lovely GBD, but the admin stuff. The cost benefit analyses. The rationales.


A chat with a childcare organisation. A moment back to parenthood, trying to find alternate care for my three-year-old. It’s a bit of a juggling act. I feel a moment of guilt making a personal call, but then swipe that aside, because without care I wouldn’t be able to get into the office.

Knowing how supportive PHD are about work/life balance I decide that it is completely unfounded. Have a moment to ponder why motherhood is all about guilt. Realise it’s a no-win guilt trip and continue on my pragmatic way.


Visitor #452 to my desk today. “Sorry to bother you…” “…hoping you could just help me…” “…what do you think?” “…Oh that would be great, thanks for your help!” I am the CEO of 1800-Problem-Solvers-R-Us.


A quick check-in to my main social networks to a) make sure that life has continued all day without me, b) sneak in a quick moment to live vicariously through friends on maternity leave/holidays etc with their gorgeous beachylattekiddie photos and c) keep up to date with all the latest industry biz. A shout out to my life-curators: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Thanks for never letting me forget a friend’s birthday or someone’s work anniversary, and especially thanks for keeping me up to date on the latest Trump gifs.


A few moments spare to actually get some work done and answer a few more emails. Getting prepared for our super exciting Merge launch event (I am manning the brainware station, so am learning all I can about hyperplasticity in the brain), updating briefing templates, putting the finishing touches on a very aesthetically pleasing presentation deck and a few more bits of admin before I can leave the office. There is always something else to do. A Cup-a-soup for dinner.


Driving home, cranking up the ‘choons’ from my Spotify playlist. I have no children in the car so I go loud. De-stress. Hope that no one laughs at me while I chair-dance and karaoke my way home. The suburban SUV (I need the seven seats, don’t judge me) is slightly incongruous to the funky breaks spilling out, but ah well, that’s me in a nutshell really.


Home in time to put the two biggest monkeys to bed. Speed dating style of updates from their day. A barrage of notes, birthday invites, information. Delivery of the two cats to their room for snuggles before they go to sleep. Cuddles for me too – I almost fall asleep on my seven-year-old’s bed as he brushes my hair. A sweet moment in a day of hectivity (is that a real word?).


Prep for everyone for the next day. Healthy snack boxes for the kids’ lunches – my 10-year-old is desperately trying to convince me this is super babyish and he must have a packet of chips instead. Probably not going to happen, sorry buddy. Next day’s clothes sorted, notes signed, bags packed. Kitchen cleaned.


Time to watch something on TV while I fold five people’s worth of laundry. So rock star right now.


Shove myself towards bedtime. Sneak into bed next to my hubby who has been asleep for an hour, read a few pages of my latest Kindle book on my phone. Reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods before I watch the screen adaptation (I seem to always prefer the books). Use the black background and night shift function so there is zero blue light. Actually works and I feel my eyelids drooping.




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