CEOs / Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Anna Podolsky, Founder & CEO at Lyka Pet Food

Anna Podolsky is the founder & CEO at Lyka Pet Food, Australia’s healthiest dog food subscription putting nutrition for pets first.

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

I studied a Bachelor of Science majoring in Mathematics, as well as a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in Finance, at the University of Queensland.

After University, I worked as a Management Consultant for Bain & Company, working extensively across Consumer Products & Retail, as well as Operations & Performance Improvement.

This role saw me flying across the country, and then around the world. I was lucky enough to spend time working and living in Chicago, San Francisco and Arkansas, as well as Chile in South America, it was incredible.

Throughout my international career, my dog Lyka, travelled with me across five countries – she has a very impressive photo album, I must say! It was during these years, combined with Lyka’s deteriorating health, that led me to establish Lyka Pet Food, having discovered how little we really know about what we feed our dogs when buying food from a supermarket or pet retailer.

I left my consulting role in 2018 and made the move back to Australia to pursue my passion of dog nutrition.

Fast forward to 2021 and I am the CEO of Lyka Pet Food, a direct-to-consumer pet food subscription service that delivers fresh food to dogs around Australia, helping them to live their best lives through whole food nutrition. I currently oversee a team of 50+ staff and am proud to say that we’ve served over 1.5 million meals and counting!

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

I’m a morning person, so I start my workday early, as I find that my mind is at its sharpest earlier in the day.

I have 7-9am blocked out for deep thinking, where I focus on the most important activities that require my full concentration and brainpower. I make sure to have these focus areas mapped out at the start of each week, so that I know exactly what tasks need attention. I never check my emails or Slack before this time to ensure that I can fully concentrate on the problem at hand.

After 9am, my focus shifts towards my team, helping them to prioritise tasks, address key problems and work through any challenges. We are in a really exciting time of growth, so I feel very fortunate to say that recruiting also takes up a good portion of my week.

With so much time spent at my desk, I always try to squeeze in a midday walk with Lyka and do some exercise after work.

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

With the lockdowns in Sydney, our team had no choice to adapt to working remotely. As a company, we value flexibility for our employees, and most of our team work from home once or twice a week during “normal” pre-COVID times.

Personally, I prefer working from the office, so I come in every day, except during lockdowns. It does help, though, that the office is only a 10-minute walk from my home!

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

My approach to a work-life balance is to lay out my weekly “must-haves”, which include 3 workouts per week, 7 hours sleep a night and a daily walk with Lyka.

These are the things that I have to put in place, and everything else that I get to do from a balance perspective, is a nice-to-have. I feel very happy and grateful when I achieve these extras, but I don’t stress when I don’t or I’m unable to.

Being a founder of a high growth start-up is demanding, and there have been (and will continue to be, I’m sure!) some periods of intense work where even the “must-haves” have had to be thrown out the window. I stay grounded during times like these, by reminding myself that these are not permanent situations, and that balance will be restored in the near future.

I also find rest and recovery on the weekend to be really important. In particular, I’m a huge fan of active recovery – I feel most refreshed when I do something engaging in my spare time. For example, I feel much more refreshed after an afternoon hiking in the Royal National Park versus an afternoon on the couch binge-watching the latest series on Netflix.

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

Notifications – I find them very distracting. I deleted my email app off my phone over 3 years ago, and haven’t looked back. I felt such a profound change and it helped me to switch off, but also focus more on my priorities when I was at work.

I took it to the next level this year by turning off notifications on my computer, for both Slack and email. Currently, I’m working towards having set times to check through my inboxes, rather than consistently living in my inbox. I highly recommend it!

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

I enjoy reading various business-related biographies, some of my favourites include, Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike, The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company, and The Story of Lululemon.

I’ve also found some of the classic productivity and business books extremely insightful, including 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, No Rules Rules and Good to Great.

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

I cannot live without my sleep ring, Oura. It’s really helped me to pay more attention to my sleep habits, and definitely had an impact on me deciding to turn off notifications and delete the email app from my phone. I also love listening to audiobooks and podcasts when I’m walking Lyka.

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

I would read an interview by a successful female consumer start-up CEO. For example, Katrina Lake from Stitch Fix, Jennifer Hyman from Rent the Runway, Payal Kadakia from ClassPass, or Emily Weiss from Glossier. Each of these women are incredibly inspiring and through their passions, have created globally-renowned businesses.

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

You always hear people say it, but it’s true – the journey is far more important than the end goal, so enjoy every step!

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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.