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Balancing the Grind with Baidy Laffan, Head of Customer & Growth at Yellow Canary

Baidy Laffan is the Head of Customer & Growth at Yellow Canary, Australia’s fastest growing payroll regtech company.

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

I’m the Head of Customer & Growth at Yellow Canary, Australia’s fastest growing payroll regtech. I oversee marketing, partnerships, customer experience, customer success and growth.

In my former life I was a Partner at professional services firm, PKF where I became the youngest person to become Partner at any of the global professional services firms at the ripe old age of 26.

Professional services wasn’t the right fit for me and I yearned to join an early stage high growth company, before being tapped by Yellow Canary’s Co-Founder and Managing Director to join in 2021.

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

I’m that person who gets up at 5am every weekday, not by choice (on weekends I give myself a 6am sleep in, how generous).

By no means do I spring out of bed when my alarm goes off, for me it’s about habit and discipline, it’s non-negotiable for me to get up and exercise for an hour before I grab breakfast (the same one everyday, again habit) and start work.

My days are typical of anyone working at an early stage high growth company. I’ll start work early to get in a few hours of deep work before I’m pulled into a day of meetings.

This Thursday I’d started early, joined a kick off meeting for a new product we’re developing, held an interview for a Customer Success Lead role, squeezed in calls with customers, had 1:1s with my team, checked in on the status of some projects, helped workshop our value proposition and messaging with my team, and then jumped on the mic to record an interview for the Face of Tech podcast that I co-host with Anna Zam, where we interview women doing extraordinary things in tech and startups.

I’ll wrap the day with a check in with each of the team to make sure they’ve got what they need and do a quick scan of Slack and emails to see if there is anything I need to jump on before logging off.

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

It absolutely does and that was one of the things that attracted me to Yellow Canary. We’re a technology company, there is no physical need for us to cohabitate in an office (aside from coffee runs).

We had a lightbulb moment during lockdown where we realised we were still trying to emulate an office environment from home and it wasn’t working for us. At that point we decided to permanently move to a remote first structure that optimises for asynchronous communication and flexible working hours.

We’re still working out what level of in person interaction looks like, as it’s important to us to cater for all the different preferences for social interaction across the team.

For me, that meant I could move to a beachside suburb in Newcastle and only face the tidy 1 hour 40 min drive to Sydney once a fortnight. Locals know Newcastle is a hidden gem. I can be at the beach in the time it takes to listen to a song, traffic is non-existent by Sydney standards, people wave as you pass and everything is so easy.

I can have a hectic day of back to back zoom meetings and in 30 minutes I can be on Newcastle Harbour on a blue sky day rowing with my best mates, and the stress melts away. You can’t beat it. Novocastrians will hate me for saying this (sorry!).

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

I reject the concept of work-life balance and I know that’s often a crutch for workaholics to justify how much they work in favour of ‘the grind’. For me, it frames them as opposing forces to be balanced and that’s such a binary way of viewing it. It frames it as a no-win situation. It’s elusive. It sets you up to fail.

After not one but two quarter life crises, I came to the conclusion that I needed to live in alignment with my values. I now measure my ‘balance’ by checking in to see if I’m getting fulfillment across the areas of my life that are important to me.

Am I sleeping well? Am I exercising everyday? Am I eating well? Am I spending quality time with family and friends? Am I feeling challenged and fulfilled at work? Am I having stimulating conversations with smart people? It’s a constant work in progress.

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

The three biggest things are:

  1. Working to my energy: I’m a morning person and I’m not good at focusing after interruptions, so I’ve become really disciplined about scheduling uninterrupted deep work time from 7am to 10am each morning.
  2. Sleep hygiene: good sleep hygiene has always been really important to me though I had let it slip a little. This year I doubled down on good sleep hygiene: eating dinner early-ish, reading before bed, getting a weighted blanket, and lights out by 9:30pm (the only way I can get up at 5am).
  3. Launching a podcast: I was craving conversations with people doing extraordinary things to nourish my curiosity and finding it too easy to say ‘I was too busy’. The fortnightly cadence keeps us accountable on this front.

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

  • Shameless plug for the Face of Tech podcast I co-host with Anna Zam. Swing by to listen to women revolutionising the world of tech and startups
  • Classic books: High Growth Handbook, The Hard Thing about Hard Things, Blitzscaling
  • First Round Review newsletter: it is fantastic, high quality content, and actionable insights
  • HBR subscription: I’m a big nerd and you can’t beat the quality of the research, breadth of content and level of insight

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

I’m prone to distraction and focus is hard, so I rely on:

  • iPhone reminders & calendar: there is no way I could keep track of everything without my calendar or reminders
  • Spotify: music helps me focus and block out distractions
  • Audible: the monthly credits keep me accountable and the audio format means I can listen while exercising or driving

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

I’m obsessed with C-suite & exec profiles, particularly high growth companies – how do they do it? How do they fit it in? What structures do they use? I want to hear more no BS stories about how parents juggle businesses and family.

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

Don’t get caught up with anyone else’s projection of how work, life or balance should look for you. At the end of the day, it’s your life that you’re living day in, day out and you need to be happy with it. Ultimately, your optimal work-life structure is as unique as your fingerprint, so stay in your own lane and find fulfilment. 

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About Author

Balance the Grind is a work-life balance publication on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.