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Balancing the Grind with Craig Cowdrey, CEO & Co-Founder at Sonder

Craig Cowdrey is the CEO & Co-Founder of Sonder, a world-first personal safety monitoring and response company launched in 2017.

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

I started my career as a corporate lawyer with Clayton Utz, before joining the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, working on Australia’s campaign for a non-Permanent seat on the UN Security Council prior to a long-term posting in Hong Kong.

I also served 10 years in the Army Reserve, including a peacekeeping deployment to the Solomon Islands.

My current role as co-founder and CEO of Sonder sees me leading the business along with my two co-founders, with a particular focus on strategy and product.

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

My day usually sees me in a wide range of meetings, from talking to the Executive team, Board members, current and potential investors and of course dealing with various urgent issues that come up unexpectedly!

I also spend time looking at customer and user research and our product roadmap in particular, as well as working on the broader long-term company strategy.

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

Prior to COVID-19, I took quite a strong view that remote working was not sustainable for long periods.

However, I’ve grown through the pandemic to see that it is possible to be productive and maintain culture through a more hybrid approach.

I’ve personally enjoyed the opportunity to adjust my routine to more easily include exercise during daylight hours as well as save time on the commute.

As such, I plan to continue working from home post-COVID more so than previously, though I still consider in-person meetings as vital to building culture as well as dealing with more complex work matters.

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

To me, it means having regular time with my partner and friends, and also enjoying things that take my mind off work – and this doesn’t automatically mean sitting on the couch doing nothing.

I think the best relaxation is when your mind is busy with something other than work, so I make sure I focus on things that keep me thinking – reading and creative writing are my favourites.

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 think that many people fall into a life path that they have not selected for themselves. Since university I pause every three years, for one week, and reflect on the previous period, consider the future and actively choose and commit to what I am going to do next with my time.

This has allowed me to avoid falling into a rut, and gives me peace of mind that I have decided what I am doing – this makes me more dedicated and motivated to achieve success in my chosen goals.

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

A Soldier’s Way is a fantastic autobiography by General Colin Powell.

It taught me that anything could be achieved and done so with your values intact – so long as you worked hard, stayed true to your values, always chose the right path (not necessarily the easiest one), and always took responsibility for your actions.

A more recent one is The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz, which has given me so much professionally as I have sought to help build a technology company from the ground-up.

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

The previous night I go through my list of tasks and appointments, and prioritse them against each other to make sure that I accomplish what I need to that day.

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

Malcom Gladwell – he has great insights on everything else!

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

Sometimes it’s necessary to put in a really long week at work, that’s a reality.

However, maintaining a good balance overall is not just about your own sanity and health, it’s about making sure you can be your best in and out of work for all those that rely on you – and to do so in a way that is sustainable for the long-term.

I think this is important to keep in mind to avoid falling into a trap of working all the time out of the best of intentions.


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This conversation is brought to you by Think Bespoke, providing LinkedIn training for individuals and organisations in Melbourne and Sydney.

About Author

Balance The Grind gives me a platform to talk to these people about how they're achieving their ideal lifestyle. I'm inspired by the passion, the work ethic, the hustle; and these conversations motivate me to live life the way I want to live it.