Anja Bump is the founder and CEO at Twofold, helping companies optimize limited space by converting idle areas into productive, flexible workspaces.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
My background is actually in operations, and manufacturing. I was born and raised in Germany, and have a Masters in chemistry from a German school. During that time, I did an internship at a German company in Portland, Oregon.
I fell in love, and moved to Portland with two bags, and did yet another chemistry degree at Portland State University. What’s really funny is that after I finished that, PSU gave students career advice and among other things, did a Meyer Briggs test on me. The results were: no match for chemistry, but high affinity for mechanical engineering and architecture and design.
Pretty funny to hear that after I finished my masters in Chemistry from PSU! The test was right though, and I enjoyed engineering way more, so started my career as an engineer in the semi conductor industry, and then quickly switched to supply chain management and operations.
So I learned a lot about manufacturing, scaling products, costs, multi-level negotiations, and just people in general. It was a great and fun career. After I got my green card and citizenship I got started a one woman consulting firm, and ended up working with a lot of startups.
Once I did that, I was hooked – the energy, speed, and creativity is fascinating, and a very rewarding environment. If I do something, I almost immediately see the impact of my idea – that is addictive and empowering.
So when the idea for Twofold was born, in a Portland coffee shop no less – I knew this was ‘it’. I am the founder and CEO of Twofold and that means I am in charge of everything here: strategy, product development, sales, manufacturing – everything.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
Pre or Post COVID? In the current COVID world, I start my day with a cup of coffee and lemon water. That wakes me up and gets me going.
Then it is off to the races at Twofold. I am working from home these days, like most of us. Because my husband has to leave the house for his job, I often have to make sure that our son does his online school work.
Not an easy balancing act, as you can imagine. It is also important to make time for my son when he is concerned or worried about our current world. On those days, I end up making up my work at night, when everyone is asleep.
On the days when my husband can manage our son, I get a lot of work done during the day and get my evenings off. Like most parents, I have perfected the art of diving into ‘the zone’ within seconds, and am extremely efficient with my time.
I often have meetings, mostly on Zoom these days – a great motivator to wear something else but workout clothes. Every day, before dinner usually, I go for a run to transition from work to my private time.
I love my runs. I run in any weather – I just love being outside. I have a lot of energy, and that needs to go somewhere. I am lucky in that I can run in my neighborhood, so I don’t lose any time driving to a workout.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Yes, as the founder and CEO I get to call the shots, so I get to decide where and when I work. I find this so liberating.
I am a night owl, and often the best ideas come to me in the blue hour, and I often work late into the night.
I am glad I can decide to sleep a little longer in the morning to make up for that. Working when our minds are at their best is important, and I find it important that humans are managed based on results, not on when and where they work.
Consequently, I allow my employees to work where they want, and when they want, as long as they are available for in person meetings (or Zoom meetings) when needed.
Being flexible on when and where to work is also very important as a working parent. It should always be okay to work from home when a child is sick, or when I want to be able to pick my son up from school (may it be safe to open them up again soon!).
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
Hm, work-life balance to me means flexibility and liberty to decide when, where and how I work to achieve the results I am responsible for. It means that if my son has an important event in his life, I can attend it without getting penalized.
It means that if I am not a morning person, I am not being forced to show up for work at 7 am, when there is no reason for it (I do get up early if needed:).
In my mind, it is all about having the choice, and having the trust from whoever one answers to.
It also means I need to manage my time wisely, efficiently, and that I need to perform to or ideally, above expectations.
5) What do you think are some of the best habits or routines that you’ve developed over the years to help you achieve success in your life?
I am an efficiency fiend. I am one of those people that minimize wasting my time. That goes so far as thinking about going to a different room of the house.
If I can take an item with me, and save myself a second trip later, I will. I try to touch things only once. I constantly think about how I can be more efficient with how I work, how I produce my deliverables, all with the high quality I expect of my work.
I treat my body well, so it can perform.
For me, that means I need to work out once a day because it feels good to me to do that. I drink a ton of water. I eat a lot of fruit and vegetables, and meat when I crave it (usually not often). I just try to listen to my body, because I need to be healthy for me.
I also work on mindfulness – meaning, when I am at work, am 100% focused. When I am with my family, I focus on them. And I do spend time with friends (when not under stay at home orders!) because it is good for my soul to laugh with my friends. I also avoid procrastination.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
I love podcasts! I listen to something every time I have a mindless task, or while running or driving. Here are my favorite podcasts:
- How I Built This with Guy Raz (as a founder, I want to learn from the best!)
- Masters of Scale (how did the successful founders create growth? Listen here)
- Startup (an incredible series that taught me more about being a founder than any other. I got teary-eyed when it ended. Incredible learning for any new founder)
- The Daily (NY times daily podcast)
- The Journal (WSJ daily podcast)
- Science Versus (fresh new approach that puts science against claims. Very funny, too).
Books: I read when I can. Often I choose audiobooks these days, because it is easier to make time for that. Being a working mom is busy!
- Where the Crawdads Sing (wonderful book that makes the swamp come to life in my imagination)
- The Giver of Stars (I could NOT put this one down – loved that I learned about history while following these incredible women)
- Becoming (need I say more?)
7) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?
Time with my family. It recharges me.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Andrew Cuomo. The man is my current hero.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
I lost my mom to cancer when I was 30. My parents had saved most of their lives so they could travel when they were retired. My mom died right before then. What I would like the readers to internalize is: we don’t know how much time we have. It could be a lot less than we think.
Don’t put off living. Don’t hold grudges. Make time to live, today.
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