Interviews / Operations

Balancing the Grind with Ashan Sanjeeva, Head of Operations, Australia at Beam

Ashan Sanjeeva is the Head of Operations, Australia at Beam, the largest shared micromobility company in the Asia-Pacific.

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

I started off my career in Investment Banking in Sydney. I had a good time and learnt a lot, but also figured out quite quickly that it wasn’t something that I wanted to do long term.

At the end of my first year in banking, a recruiter for Uber reached out to see if I was interested in making a change. At the time, I said no — it felt far too early. However, as these things go, I started to think about it more and more over the next few months. I eventually got back in touch with the recruiter and, after a very long interview process, joined Uber.

I spent almost four years working at Uber, split between the Strategic Projects team in Australia and the Courier Operations team in the Netherlands. It was really interesting to see and experience Uber’s transition from a scrappy start-up culture to a big-company culture.

Joining Beam a little over a year ago helped me recapture the excitement of working for a start-up. On my first day at Beam, we opened up the warehouse in Sydney and we started work to launch our second city in Australia. We now operate in 12 cities in Australia. It’s been a great ride!

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

As Head of Operations, I spend a fair bit of my time travelling between our operating cities to work with our teams on the ground. Recently, I was in Adelaide to help the team with operations during the Adelaide Fringe festival.

When I was in Adelaide, I would get up around 6am and head to the gym for an hour or so. After grabbing breakfast and working on some emails, I would arrive at the warehouse / office around 10am.

Most of the day would be spent working with the local team to optimise the business. Being a hardware company, something that’s important to us is ensuring the quality and quantity of e-scooters and e-bikes made available to our riders in our cities. Improving our warehouse and mechanic operations in Adelaide was therefore a key focus in the lead-up to Adelaide Fringe.

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

Beam is big on flexible and remote working. In Australia, the team is scattered across all the different cities in which we operate — so we don’t have a big “office” as such. Instead, we have warehouses or similar set-ups in all our cities and work out of there as needed.

This is actually really valuable as it makes sure that we stay very close to the key drivers of our business. Most of us split our time between working out of the warehouse in our city and working from home however we find it to be most productive.

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

Working flexibly and remotely means that I have needed to put a lot more effort in to achieve work-life balance. Unlike when I worked at JP Morgan and Uber, I can no longer have work stop by simply leaving the office.

I have done two things to achieve a balance that I’m happy with. The first has been establishing a general daily routine, involving waking up early to go to the gym instead of rolling out of bed whenever I need to hop on my first Zoom call for the day.

The second is integrating work into my life in a more unstructured way — like finishing up early when I’m lacking motivation and getting work done on the weekend when I find that I have time on my hands.

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

One thing that I used to do when I worked at JP Morgan is that I would have my phone on aeroplane mode in the morning until I got out of the house and started my commute. After taking a break of several years, I’m back on it — and I’m enjoying being less distracted and more relaxed in the morning until I decide to start work.

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

I’m not big on this sort of thing. If I’m not working, I prefer to be doing something quite unrelated — like going to the gym, or watching boxing! That said, I’m a fan of the new Letter of Intent daily email. I think they have done a really impressive job of making Australian finance news fun.

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

I’ve recently discovered Focus Mode on my phone, which pauses distracting apps and hides notifications. This has been a game changer for my workday.

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

Any start-up founder who built a successful business while having a healthy work-life balance.

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

Nope — thanks for having me!

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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.