Biliana Rajevic is the Engagement Manager, Industry & Entrepreneurship at Sydney Quantum Academy, a unique partnership between four world-leading universities – Macquarie University, UNSW Sydney, the University of Sydney and University of Technology Sydney
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I lead the development and execution of Sydney Quantum Academy’s (SQA) engagement strategy. I seek to connect our quantum scientists with technology partners, corporates, start-ups, government, and investors who are working in or with quantum technology, and explore collaboration pathways.
I started my career in the mid-90s with what is essentially today considered product management, with a global provider of data analytics software for financial firms.
After business school, I transitioned into investment banking in New York, working in both equity capital markets and leveraged finance for about 10 years, before going back briefly to B2B SaaS product management.
Since moving to Australia, I’ve worked in investor relations, business development, leading a tech start-up, and even having a go at being a founder. I certainly don’t have a “traditional” background. But I have now acquired a great set of skills and knowledge that, in my spare time, I seek to pass on to those just starting out in their careers.
2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
Since the SQA was only established two years ago, in many ways we operate as a start-up in that we’re a lean team and there’s so much we’re doing for the first time, which I find both fun and challenging.
My “office” nowadays is a designated area in the house. I start my work day around 8am after having popped over to a nearby café for coffee. The previous day, I would have reviewed what I’d like to get done before 10am, and I spent the morning focused on that.
Typically, it would be high-concentration tasks which can include writing meeting notes from prior days’ meetings, spending time thinking about how we can expand the presence of the SQA through strategic partnerships, or reviewing longer-term projects to ensure they are moving along.
Then several hours of meetings begin, both internal and external, that last until mid-afternoon. Internal are around strategy and operations, external could be with government or corporates around education, engagement, or entrepreneurship as it relates to quantum tech.
There are so many initiatives that we are exploring. I love having conversations around how Sydney’s quantum tech community can help Australian corporations understand and explore business use cases using this emerging technology.
By 6pm I switch gears. I switch over from my work laptop to my personal one and start working on some of my side projects. Lately that has involved building two websites on Wix and planning a podcast. After dinner I try to switch off.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Yes, it does, which is great. I am fortunate to have a great remote working set-up at home. However, as my job is about relationship building and connecting with people, I have greatly missed meeting with clients and co-workers in person.
That said, from a productivity perspective, not wasting time on the commute or travel time for client meetings has given me more time for work, sleep, and other personal time.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
To me work-life balance is more about being in a happy state of mind than looking at how much time I am on versus off work.
Working on Wall Street, from a very early stage in my career I got used to a “workaholic” lifestyle. I have, to a certain degree, continued that work style in Australia.
However, with one exception, I have always really enjoyed my jobs. I have sought out challenging roles where I could both leverage my skill set and have to learn something new. And that learning piece has often required me to spend a lot of time getting up to speed on new skills and concepts.
For example, when I began my current job, I knew absolutely nothing about quantum technology. But I was very curious and motivated to learn more. So, when my “day job” is over, I spend time reading about quantum, watching videos on the topic, and slowly raising my knowledge. Because this is something I enjoy spending time learning, in many ways I don’t see it as work.
However, I make sure I find time to completely disconnect from work. I was recently a coach for the Startmate Student Fellowship. I am also working on some fun side projects with a few quantum PhD students. I also decompress by watching (crime) documentaries. Doing these things helps me recharge my battery.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
Leading up to the latest lockdown in Sydney, I had spent the prior six months doing CrossFit very regularly and had gotten to a point where I was very happy with my fitness level.
I don’t have self-discipline to exercise at home and so while we were in lockdown I had to let go of that habit. Mentally, it took a toll on me on so many levels, but I’ve just started getting back into it.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
I read so much for my job that, in my spare time, I rarely spend time reading. However, I am currently reading The Man Who Solved the Market, by Gregory Zuckerman, depicting how Jim Simons and his team of mathematicians founded and built Renaissance Technologies.
I also quite enjoyed reading Blindness. I like Jose Saramago’s writing style, it draws me in and it’s hard to put the book down.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
I use my iPhone a lot. Perhaps too much. There are times I think back to the simple life when my Motorola Razr’s only function was to make phone calls and send texts…
I love my AirPods and listen to music when I take breaks during the day to get coffee or just pop out for short walks. I also love Slack and communicate that way as much as I can.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
If anyone has truly found that balance, I’d be curious to understand how they do it!
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
If work or life is demanding, and if it wears you out, keep looking for ways to feel inspired and energised. For some it might be spending time with people, for others being alone. Doing activities, or doing nothing at all. But make sure you set aside time for whatever it is that helps bring that balance into your life.
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