A Day in the Life of Chrissie Giles

Chrissie Giles studied biochemistry at the University of Leeds in England. Concluding that clumsiness and practical science do not mix, she completed a master’s in science communication at Imperial College London in 2003 and has been working as a writer and editor ever since. Her editorial career began in a medical communications agency and, via a brief stint in the heady world of motor caravan journalism, she now writes and edits stories on biology, health, and research for U.K. foundation Wellcome and is editor of Mosaic. Follow her on Twitter @christinagiles.

 

Chrissie GilesCourtesy of Chrissie Giles

Chrissie Giles

 What I’m working on:

Working on Mosaic, I spend a lot of time commissioning and editing longform stories. I love it. It’s a total pleasure to be able to work with such talented and creative people, both in-house and freelance. As well as telling great stories about science and how it can improve human health, I am really passionate about helping under-represented voices and untold stories come to the fore. Doing something to help tackle the huge amount of inequality in the world is a big motivation.

Away from the actual content, I’m thinking a lot about our processes and production. We’re updating the Mosaic website, which is incredibly exciting. I’m also working with our lawyers to come up with editorial guidelines to improve how we work and make sure we do things in a consistent way. We’re thinking about all sorts of things—from consent for photography to defamation to duty of care for vulnerable contributors and subjects.

Chrissie Giles

The Bleigiessen sculpture by Thomas Heatherwick, in the Wellcome headquarters.

Where I work:

Mosaic is produced by a charitable trust called Wellcome. I work in Wellcome’s HQ in London, near Euston Station. It’s a great space. At the end of the atrium there’s an incredible statue by Thomas Heatherwick that’s 30 meters high and is made of 145,000 glass beads. The general public can book to come and see it.

The Mosaic team is on the 8th floor, so we have great views of the city when the weather permits. My desk itself is never especially tidy, but I like to think there’s a system.

Daily routine:

I work in the office Monday to Friday. I spend around three hours a day commuting, so I get lots of time to watch things on my iPad, mainly documentaries through BBC iPlayer. I’m more lark than owl, so I tend to get to the office early. I eat breakfast before I leave home, so lunchtime is 12:00 noon on the dot. Unless you bring me cake, then we can negotiate.

Most productive part of my day:

The first hour in the office tends to be the golden hour for getting through a lot of work without interruption. Most days are broken up by at least a couple of meetings, so if I have a big piece of work that I need a solid chunk of time to work on, I’ll work from home.

Most essential ritual or habit:

A cup of tea when I get in and at—probably too many—intervals throughout the day.

 

Chrissie Giles

The view from Wellcome.

 

Mobile device:

Samsung phone, iPad, Fitbit Charge 2.

Computer:

A Mac with a large monitor. This is really useful for editing, especially when I want to see documents side by side. My desk is really exposed, so another great piece of kit is a plastic privacy film, which sits over my monitor. It means you can read the monitor only if you face it dead on (and it leaves people perplexed about whether I am actually just facing a blank screen all day long).

 

Chrissie Giles

Giles at her desk.

 

 

Essential software/apps/productivity tools:

Slack—Cuts down on long-winded email chains and is a great way of keeping track of discussions. We also use it for coordinating cross-team projects.

Trello—The one place where everyone on the team knows to go for info. Each piece of content we make for Mosaic has its own card, and we update these as we go to make sure we capture everything and stay on track.

YouTube—Almost all the time I’m working I’m listening to music, usually metal, rock, or indie, depending on my mood. I am also indecently addicted to the music of my late teens (I estimate I have contributed to 50 percent of the listens to this playlist. Don’t judge). As such, a day I forget my earphones is a sad, sad day.

Google Drive—I love the way that you can work collaboratively with this and am always dipping in and out of various Docs, Slides, and Sheets during the day.

WhatsApp—I love using this outside of work, but it’s also been useful for messaging people at conferences etc. when I haven’t been able to make calls or text on my mobile. The call function is great, especially if Skype is being glitchy.

Also, it’s low-tech, but I love a paper to-do list. Trying to hold too much in my head never works, so a simple to-do list is something I rely on. I also love my monthly and daily paper calendars. My husband buys me a new “cat-a-day” calendar every year. It started as a joke, but if one year a shiny new calendar isn’t among my Christmas gifts then it will clearly be grounds for divorce. (Typical cat calendar caption: “Caught midstretch, a fluffy beauty gives an upside-down glare.”)

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Favorite time waster/procrastination habit:

The day’s not started until I’ve caught up on The Archers (a radio soap opera based on a farming community in England, made by the BBC). It is a bit of a cliché to be an Archers fan but I don’t care. I’ve even found some other listeners within Wellcome, and we made our own Archers bingo cards to play over the Christmas break.

I spend too much time on my phone, especially on the Guardian app, Twitter (a great way of finding new things to read and new writers, artists, and publications to work with, as well as being the obvious doom pit) and Instagram (cakes, pets, and people’s beautiful homes—the perfect escape from real life).

My reading habits:

I tend to read longform nonfiction and follow recommendations from colleagues, newsletters, aggregators like Longform.org, and people I follow on Twitter. The only hard-copy reading I do regularly is the Guardian newspaper on Saturdays. At the moment I’m not reading as many books or as much fiction as I’d like.

Sleep schedule:

My Fitbit has made me more obsessive about whether I’m getting enough/the right type of sleep. I try to be in bed by 10:00 p.m. as I get up around 6:00 a.m. #greatfunatparties.

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