Interviews / Software Engineers & Developers

Balancing the Grind with Arinze Ibekwe, Software Engineer at Deliveroo

Arinze Ibekwe is a software engineer passionate about building products to simplify our lives. He currently works at Deliveroo, a British online food delivery company.

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Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to?

I studied computer science at university which included a year out in industry and then landed my first engineering job at a big 4 accounting firm right after graduating. I spent close to 5 years there and I was able to explore various domains and work on different projects which helped me grow as an engineer. At the start of 2022, I joined Deliveroo, which is an online food delivery company operating in over 10 countries. I currently work on the backend to help scale and grow the advertising side of things.

We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday?

I typically get up at 5:45am and spend the first part of my day reading my self affirmations and reviewing my key priorities for the day.

Between 6am and 8am, I work on my personal initiatives and self drivers. This could be learning something new, working on passion projects like Daily Schema or just experimenting to find out new things I could be interested in. I try to reassess my priorities every now and then but these initiatives contribute greatly to my energy and motivation for the rest of the day.

I’ll then squeeze in a workout at around 8am, clean up and have breakfast afterwards. I currently use the Nike training club app which is free and has some really good workouts.

At 9:30am, I start my work day. My day varies but most times I would be working on a project covering a key initiative for my team so this could involve planning, collaborating with other teams, coming up with a technical design, technical assessment or implementation.

I also tend to have the bulk of my meetings earlier on in the day so I delay my more focused work until later on while I use the earlier part of the day to support my team via code reviews, documentation reviews or just pairing up. I work from home most days so I ensure my lunch break involves taking time away from the desk and leaving my apartment.

At 6pm, I’ll round up with work, have dinner, then catch up with friends or family before I gradually wind down to be in bed for 10pm.

Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach in maintaining it?

Work life balance for me is all about ensuring I am able to dedicate time to the things I consider important to me, mainly around my physical, mental, social and intellectual well being. I find that once I’m able to put time towards these areas, I generally have a much better day. The key for me is being consistent with when I sleep and being intentional with what I do when I wake up.

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Change is constant, and it’s essential for growth. Have you made any lifestyle changes in the past year to improve your work-life balance?

Absolutely! I’ve experimented with different things but one main change has been around when I wake up and when I sleep. In previous years, I would defer my workouts and personal learning time to later in the day after my workday but I came to realise that if my workday leaves me feeling exhausted or unaccomplished I would end up skipping these which would make me feel even worse about the day.

By waking up earlier and moving all these to the start of my day, I definitely feel much better about my work life balance and I go into my workday with most of my key priorities already ticked off which gives me a great platform to deal with the rest of the day.

We’re always on the lookout for new resources! Can you recommend any books, podcasts, or newsletters that have helped you in your journey towards balance?

I enjoyed reading Atomic Habits by James Clear which explores building good habits and breaking bad ones by taking small steps. I’ve applied this in my life and I find it easier to make a small change and then iterate over time rather than drastically switching things up.

Another book I would recommend is Deep Work by Cal Newport. This made me rethink how I actually spend my productive hours. Much earlier on in my career, I would find myself working late but I’ve actually come to realise a lack of focused work actually had a big role to play in this area. By dedicating time to focus, I find that I can get the best out of my available working hours during most days.

Before we wrap up, do you have any final words of wisdom or insights on work, life, or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

I find that experimenting is a good way to figure out what works for me and I think it’s okay to make changes from time to time. I’ve also realised sticking to a routine can be difficult so I would say try not to be too hard on yourself if you find that you may be falling out of your routine from time to time.

We all have off days where things don’t go according to plan or where we don’t dedicate as much time as we would like to important things in our lives. The most important thing is that whatever system you have in place works for you and is something you actually look forward to.

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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.