Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Ayumi Uyeda, Founder of Proppie

Ayumi Uyeda is the founder of Proppie, a mortgage-sharing matchmaker platform that’s helping millennials get into property sooner by mortgage sharing.

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

I’ve spent almost all of my career in healthcare and I really got my start as a pharmacist in the hospitals in Brisbane. I always fancied myself as a bit of a gypsy in that I wanted to go and travel all over the world and I was quite addicted to the discovery of new cultures.

In my early 20s I ended up living and working in advertising on the agency side in Mexico and then in New York, and I got my first taste of corporate career life, and you can imagine the two countries have completely different corporate cultures.

I got to New York in the boom time of the dot-com era and was there to see the downturn as well, so I feel like I had about 3 years of experience crammed into one, which was amazing.  For the next 20 years, I have spent my career in pharmaceuticals and consumer health working for multinationals like Bayer and most recently I was the Managing Director for Blackmores.

I’ve had some amazing opportunities and had the chance to work in General Management roles in a bunch of countries like NZ, across South-East Asia, Japan and in the USA, and each time the discovery and learning begins.

It’s so thrilling and rewarding to be able to work in these environments, and over my career I learned that I really love small; I love environments where you can try things that are new, work with small teams and build something out of nothing and watch something you’ve created come to life. 

And so, I have had this urge to start a company, and just this year, it felt like the right time to take the leap from a corporate career into the start-up world and go for it. Property has always been a huge interest for me, and there was an idea I had been sitting on for a good 25 years, and so Proppie was born (we launched in August).

Proppie is a mortgage sharing matchmaker platform that aims to tackle the housing affordability crisis by helping millennials to get into property sooner by mortgage sharing. We’ve set it all up with all the steps from start to finish (matching to post-settlement), so millennials can buy property and co-own with the full legal protection they need, all on a digital platform.

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

The hardest part of my day, I have to say, is getting out of bed, because I love to sleep so much! So, I don’t spring out of bed, but I do get up sometime between 5:30am and 6am, greeted by my dog and the first thing I do is feed him and take him on his walk, and we do, do little mini-adventures around the neighbourhood and greet all the other local dogs (and owners).

Then I will either go for a run or do a strength workout (I’ll be getting back to the gym for this soon), then it’s in the kitchen for breakfast and I get ready for work.

I start my work day with a cup of coffee (very important and something I really look forward to), and get into it (usually I have a list to get through) but the first thing I do is check the news for the latest on the property market to see where the movements are and then I have time every morning set for analysing the data and all our metrics – I love looking at this as this is where I can learn what our business drivers are and what’s working and what’s not.

I work through, stopping for a quick bite at lunch and then dinner, and then I get back to it as I find at night, is when I go into hyper-productive mode where I can execute on ideas I’ve had during my runs. My morning runs give me enormous focus and clarity of things I need to pursue and this is when I find I make a lot of connections between thought and ideas. So, it’s usually at night and on weekends that I get to indulge in working on the more fun ideas.

As far as prioritization goes, the customer is first, so I will drop everything for a customer, and then I have general blocks dedicated to improving the customer experience, improving our tech and operational set up and content development.

I am naturally tempted and drawn to do the more creative things that involve some sort of design work, but I limit this to Fridays so it serves as a bit of a reward where I can throw myself into content creation.

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

Yes, as I’ve just launched a start-up, it is completely flexible, which is great, and I do feel a real sense of liberation in that I’m not held hostage to 8-9 hours of back-to-back meetings.

It’s really great when you start the day and look at what you have on and feel excited about what’s in the calendar. In fact, the current environment with remote working has been quite good in that I have found people to be very accessible and it’s quite amazing how we have been able to build relationships and new partnerships remotely!

Having said that, I am a huge fan of an at-work culture that is fun and open where there are casual chats and interactions as this is where many great ideas are advanced.

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

I think whether it is work or other personal elements of life, it is about how you find the right mix to love the journey you’re on.

Every day is so precious that I don’t want to waste a moment and I really believe in spending every moment on what you love. And well I might be a bit of an odd-ball but I love working.

I’ve loved every job I’ve had, and I find I get so immersed in whatever I am working on, so for me the right balance has been about having the freedom to do as much as I want without any boundaries in scope or how it gets done. 

I love tackling things and problems that others haven’t had a go at or have been unsolvable, and there’s nothing better knowing what you’re working on makes a difference to someone.

Balance for me is all about recognizing how we support our teams to do what they love and what is important to them.

People have said to me in the past, “you need more balance”, but for me, balance doesn’t look like a standard workday that ends at 6pm; what is important is that I have space to explore ideas and freedom to experiment, and these thoughts never leave my mind.

If you love something, it doesn’t feel like work, it’s like getting paid to have a lifetime of fun and this can look very different for others.I really want our teams to strike that right mix so they are happy and also love their day, whatever that looks like. I mean we all like working with happy people right?

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

Yes, my life has changed quite dramatically! I quit the corporate world to found a start-up, and this was terrifying, liberating, and exciting all at once. I feel like I have been running on adrenaline, and it feels so good to run freely towards my goal without limits.

There is also another thing, it’s not a routine change, but now that I’m not constantly tied up in meetings, one thing I do now is I have a list of people to phone and chat to, just to see how they are, and I love being able to catch up like this. I think our time can very quickly be hijacked where time to call and chat is squeezed out, so I love that I can do this and answer my phone when it rings.

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

Yes, I love the NPR podcasts and my favourite is Hidden Brain. What I love about this is it delves into the “why” of human behaviour around topical issues, which may be political, cultural or just interesting.

It’s based on a lot of experiments and so it appeals to my inner-science nerd. I always learn something super interesting from these and it seems to over-index on uncovering those “aha” moments, which I love!

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

Oooh yes! I’m half Japanese and I recently spent close to 5 years living in Japan, and one of my favourite products is the Rohto eye drops! They come in a range with this scale from 1 to 8 of intensity and they have this intense cooling effect in your eyes.

I love these as they are so “refreshing” in an extreme way, and so I have little bottles everywhere in handy places, usually in my desk, in my handbag and in my living room as they feel so good, especially if you feel a bit tired.

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

I would love to know what my dog is thinking and his whole take on the daily routine. He seems to have it totally sorted and is always soooo happy!

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

I think that balance spans across a lifetime and isn’t something to consider just in the present moment, but is something that can be a bit planned over the years.

There are times when it makes sense to go hard when you can, so you can reap the rewards of hitting your career goals, and the balance needs to take into account those around you, particularly when you have double careers, so there may be times when one “goes hard” and the other doesn’t in their careers, and then this may change at a different life stage.

So, I think reaching an understanding of the choices to be made at different times is really important so that we can achieve that sense of fulfillment and happiness together.

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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.