CEOs / Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind With Aaron McDonald, CEO & Founder at Centrality

Aaron McDonald is the CEO & Founder at Centrality, a decentralised eco-system that connects different applications together using Blockchain powered technology.

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

I got my start in tech and my first 15 years were mostly in telecommunications and IT. I started at the bottom, literally, running cables under houses. The advent of broadband helped, the nation needed people who understood the basics of computing and that’s when my career really got started.

As it turned out, I was good at solving complex problems and that launched me into more senior technical, product development and management roles. My niche was packaging complex ideas into easy to digest formats and building things with the customer in mind.

I got to a point where I realised having a job wasn’t going to cut it, I wanted to build something for myself. So I stepped out and founded 2 start-ups, neither were a huge success but I learned allot. Then I started Centrality, a company which I hope solves allot of the problems I have seen in my life.

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

Like anyone in management, my days are varied. But a typical day starts with reading and research, checking the markets and the news, etc. I use Twitter and news aggregators to keep a finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the tech industry and around the world.

Then I’m off to the gym, I use exercise to give myself some space in my own head, it helps with creativity and getting my mind straight for the day. It’s hard for me to keep this routine when I travel – and I admit I often fail. No one’s perfect!

When I head into the office and catch up with my exec team, it’s casual. I keep time open for people in case there is anything urgent or critical they need. Then it’s meetings with our ventures, potential investors, partners or clients. I also have weekly one on ones with personnel to talk through priorities, development goals, and issues.

Evenings are often spent with founders and overseas team members, but I do like to break that up by cooking dinner with my wife and watching some Netflix or playing games with my son.

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

I travel overseas so often, about 40 percent of each month, it is impossible for me to do my job without remote working. If I’m travelling I’m usually preparing for a speech, presentation or organising events. Business travel isn’t a vacation for me.

We make sure there is flexibility for the team – when you spend days, nights and weekends working there needs to be flexibility to help avoid burnout.

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

To me ‘balance’ means finding enjoyment in what you do at work and taking time to disconnect from it. It can’t just be that work is the bad side of the equation and then I go have fun to balance it out. Sometimes you might work a 90 hour week so you have to love what you are doing at work.

But you do need to have a life outside of work, regular time to reflect and activate the other parts of your brain, life and interests. It helps to give your brain time to think outside the box a bit, often you get a lot of clarity in these ‘disconnection’ times.

I think it’s equally important as a business owner to create a workplace culture which values humanity. Centrality is creating technology to make the world a better place and that starts with how we value our own people.

They have lives that are more important than the company mission. They have bad days, they have family issues, they have relationship problems. These things are all more important than work. If you create space for them in and out of the workplace it’s given back to you as well.

5. What do you think are some of the best habits or routines that you’ve developed over the years to help you achieve success in your life?

I have a few simple rules which I consider most important.

One, eat healthy, but not all the time. Two, exercise regularly. And three, spend quality time with friends and family. Family and close friends are the ones who support you the most when times are tough.

Rule four is more about business, read, read and read more. I always want to know (almost) as much as the smartest person in the room.

6. Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?

I’m not a huge book reader, I read and research a lot but mostly on the internet. However, there have been a few, Rich Dad Poor Dad stands out as one that impacted me. I have also read the Bible, Koran and Buddhist teachings – they helped me understand what motivates people at their core.

I’m reading about Bonsai at the moment, fascinating stuff! I’m trying to learn it as a hobby but there are so many life lessons to take away from it as well.

7. What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

Remember that things are almost never as urgent as they seem, taking time saves time.

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

Gosh that would be interesting, I think our (New Zealand) Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern would be a great one. She’s juggling running a country, creating policies that govern lives, guiding parliament, and having a new born baby. She even took the baby to a United Nations summit. That’s got to be tough!

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

I came from a very large and very poor rural family. I always had a fascination with technology even if we didn’t have much. But what electronic toys I did have I used to pull apart, any I could get my hands on.

Then I’d make them into something else. It was a seed I nurtured. When I got older I made extra cash with my brother by picking up discarded washing machines and dryers. We’d fix them up and sell them in the classifieds, I guess you could call that my first tech start-up.

But these are the greatest lessons I learned, nurture your creativity and passions and have good people around you, and don’t be afraid to make the jump to do what you love.

When you love what you do and who you do it with, finding balance is easy.

If you’d like to have a conversation with us about how you balance the grind, get in touch with us!

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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.