Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Allard van Helbergen, Co-Founder of Medoo

Allard van Helbergen is the Co-Founder of Medoo, the smart coaching software that powers prized aha! moments, helping you increase your coachee retention, engagement and throughput.

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To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I find the intersection of technology and design super interesting. So I have swapped between visual and technical roles through my education and career. I started studying computer science and swapped to human computer interaction (the academic term for user experience design).

My first ‘real’ role was as a web spam analyst at Google in Ireland. This had little to do with UX design, but I thought it would be valuable to learn how the search giant read the web, in my first entry into the software world.

At Google, I became interested in designing  internal tools, which led me to work as a designer. Then I took on UX designer roles at startups in Berlin, notably at Brandwatch. Ultimately, I ended up at Atlassian in Sydney where I moved from Product Design into Design Systems.

End of 2021 my partner Paulwyn came up with the idea for Medoo, a collaborative tool for coaching and personal growth. We love this problem space because we have both benefitted immensely from various forms of coaching and therapy, and we believe that technology and design can be better leveraged to support practitioners.

After several user interviews with coaches; researching to validate the market and problem space; and prototyping to validate the solution space, we made the jump, went all-in, and I quit my job in early 2022 to officially become entrepreneur and co-founder.

What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

As a co-founder you have to wear many hats. This can range from talking to coaches (onboarding or user research), talking to investors, marketing and social media, working on product features, or guiding the engineering team.

A more regular workday would consist of reviewing our engineers’ work, and sharing feedback, as well as fleshing out new features that are in the pipeline. At the end of our day we have a daily standup, then in the evening, I usually tackle any odds and ends and assist the engineers with any questions.

What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

I believe that work-life balance is living in a way where you improve in all the aspects of your life that are important to you. Whether you are ‘achieving goals’ or not is a separate question, because it depends on how steep those goals are, your context, and effort.

To me, work-life balance means prioritising those things that will give me long-term gains, and having the structures in place to achieve that. In the end I need to be doing more things that energise me than drain me, so that I create a flywheel of energy and any improvements I make are compounding.

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In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

I have chronic back pain that I’ve been dealing with since I was a teenager thanks to repeated battering through snowboarding and skateboarding. Over the past two years I’ve become much better at managing it and this past year in particular I’ve taken up some habits to help with that.

I’ve started meditating everyday. Ok, I do miss a day here and there. But I make an effort to do it every morning first thing when I get up and it really sets me up for a more mindful day. It has helped build more awareness around my body, feelings, and emotions which has made a big difference over time. 

With this awareness I’ve been able to be far more precise stretching my back and relieving the pain in ways I was never able to with physio alone. Following that, I have been able to get back into running and exercising, which of course has a huge impact on my state of mind.

Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

Eckhart Tolle’s Stillness speaks. It talks about how to live in the moment, and where we can find our wisdom and power. Someone that makes that a bit more practical is Toby Jenkins, a performance coach and ex-Olympian, who talks about how he applies mindfulness on his blog together with many observations on how to get the most out of yourself.

If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

I would like to know how big CEOs, who seem to be physically active, and have a family life as well, manage everything. Someone like Mike Cannon-Brooks or Scott Farquhar. I would be especially interested in how their time management changed as their company grew and they started their families.

Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Where the balance ultimately sits, is a choice you make for yourself. My version of balance is not yours, or another person’s. In the end it’s about optimising your activity so that you spend your time where you will be most effective in achieving what you want. It’s a skill to be constantly practised, and I feel like I still have a lot to learn. To keep it simple, in moments when I feel overwhelmed I ask myself, “What can you do today that will make your life easier tomorrow?”

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.