Ben Meneses-Sosa is the VP of Engineering at Lendi, Australia’s only home loan platform designed with a built-in ‘best interest’ duty to borrowers.
Can you share your career journey and what you’re currently up to?
I studied Computing Systems Engineering at university and then worked as a software engineer for around 13 years. During that time, I completed a Master’s Degree in Information Technology.
In 2014, I joined Ansarada, a SaaS company specialising at the time in M&A, as a Senior Software Engineer. After two years, I got the opportunity to become a Team Leader and I uncovered my passion for leading, managing, and developing people. Later, I became Development Manager, leading team leaders, and lastly, Regional VP of Engineering for the Australian office.
In 2021, I joined Lendi, a SaaS fintech company that had recently completed a merger agreement with Aussie, as VP of Engineering. This is where I currently work and am responsible for seventy-odd engineers.
I also dedicate some of my time to some career-adjacent activities which are mentoring, doing the odd public speaking in meetups (I’ll apply for some conferences this year!), and co-organising a meetup called Men Championing Change where we raise awareness, discuss, and address – via our attendees – the gender imbalance in technology companies.
What does a typical day look like for you? Can you describe a recent workday?
I wake up before six am and go for a run, or do HIIT at home using an app. If I have enough time, I’ll do both. I am fortunate that my partner takes care of my kids in the mornings so I can do exercise.
Then, around 8 or 8:30, I set up a to-do list with things I want to accomplish during the day. The first thing I do is read work-related books or newsletters for 30 or 45 min.
Then I do async work before lunch. This async work is varied but includes strategic planning, contributing to decision documents, analysing metrics or OKR progress, or preparing for decision meetings or 1:1s. I strive to keep my mornings free of meetings because that’s where I’m most productive with deep work.
After lunch, I normally have meetings and 1:1s until around 5:30 when I put everything down and I finish work for the day.
Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach to maintaining it?
Work-life balance for me is to have clear boundaries between work and other parts of my life such as health, relationships, community, or fun; and even if sometimes I tilt the balance, I am mindful to not overdo it. I acknowledge that I speak from a position of privilege and I am aware that other people are not as fortunate and it’s harder for them to choose balance due to having to work more than one job for example.
My approach to maintaining the balance is split into two things, the tangible and the intangible.
The tangible parts are to prioritise things like exercising or eating well during the day even in the busiest of times. If I see a packed day on my calendar, I wake up earlier to have time to exercise or have food prepared and handy. I also always have things around like protein bars or cold coffee as a backup! (I spend a lot of time thinking about eating in case this is not clear). As well, I always plan to finish on time so I can focus on my family activities like making my kids’ dinner.
As well, I practise device and notification hygiene such as snoozing notifications and avoiding looking at anything work-related in the evening because I could start thinking about work and making it hard to sleep. I am also lucky that at Lendi, most of our platform users’ and customers’ schedules overlap with the Australian business days so it’s very rare to get urgent alerts or messages after hours.
The intangible parts are related to not thinking about work whenever I am in a space where I want to focus on something else like being with my family.
I work on this by practising mindfulness and identifying whenever my thoughts drift towards work. If that’s the case, I stop and focus back on the conversation I am having, the board game I’m playing, or the book I’m reading. If the thought is incessant, I take pause and make a note or a reminder to come back to it. This helps to stop thinking about that specific idea or worry because it’s in a place where I can follow it up later.
For me, having these mindful practices are as important as having physical boundaries between work and life because if my mind is still at work, then it doesn’t matter if I’m on holiday, I won’t be resting.
Change is constant and is essential for growth. Have you made any lifestyle changes in the past year to improve your work-life balance?
This is not something that I did in the last year but more as a result of COVID and moving to work from home in a semi-permanent way. I go to the office around 1 day a week or less.
One small thing that I did was to respect my lunch hour as much as possible and also stopped having lunch at my desk, which is something I used to do at the office regularly. This change has helped me have a proper break in the middle of the day and come back refreshed.
One bigger change from being at home most of the time is that I am more involved in household work and use my small breaks to do quick chores. I also have taken on more family responsibilities like cooking dinner for my children which is a hard stop to finish work on time.
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 haven’t found a text or podcast that is completely dedicated to the topic. I normally listen to some work-related podcasts such as “WorkLife”, “Eat Sleep Work Repeat”, “Work Appropriate” which sometimes have episodes dedicated to work-life balance.
One book that has provided me with a way to be more balanced is called The Extended Mind by science journalist Annie Marie Paul.
The premise of the book is that there are more ways to think than just sitting down at a desk with our head down and that our mind is not just encased in our head but that we use it with other elements of our body or environment.
In one of the chapters, she writes about how being in nature, or at least in some greenery, has benefits like replenishing your attention. After learning this, I have sometimes gone for a walk and focused on the trees and green parts of my neighbourhood whenever I’ve felt overloaded. I’m lucky I live on a very leafy Sydney street!
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 your readers?
As an individual, I think that the first thing you should do is be very aware and intentional about your overworking.
Sometimes, things are out of your control like hard deadlines but sometimes we do it because work never finishes. If your case is the latter, my personal experience is that doing this negatively impacts how effective you are because after-hours work becomes a crutch. You end up not finishing things because you know that you can do them at night or at the weekend. So, in the end, the gains from your extra time are quite marginal.
If you’re a leader or have influence in your workplace, I recommend leading by example and not sending messages after hours. Even if you tell your team that no one needs to reply to you, you might have already interrupted someone’s personal time and also, implicitly, you can be setting expectations.
As well, if your team needs to work overtime due to an external deadline or extra work that is out of their control, they should be properly compensated. This becomes a deterrent to ask the team to work during their personal time, especially if the causes are due to injections of work at the last minute or bad planning or commitments coming from the top down.
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