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Interviews / Founders

Balancing the Grind with Derya Sousa, Co-Founder & Chief Operating Officer at Kianda Technologies

Derya Sousa is the co-founder & Chief Operating Officer at Kianda Technologies, a no-code application development platform empowering business users.

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

I am the co-founder and COO of Kianda, a no-code application development platform enabling organisations to accelerate their digital transformation by allowing users to create ambitious business web applications without the need for coding skills.

I grew up admiring my dad who was an electrical engineer with passion for technology, secretly wondering what a life in tech would be like for me.

Upon completion of my initial degree, I moved from my home country of Turkey to Portugal where I had earned a scholarship to complete my master’s degree where I subsequently entered the workplace in tech. From there I spent over 18 years as a web developer and an IT Consultant, specialising in UX and UI working across multiple disciplines and sectors.

I met my husband, Osvaldo Sousa, in Portugal while we both were studying. Then, in 2007, we moved to Ireland looking for advanced career opportunities. Long before our move to Ireland, Osvaldo and I always had this idea of starting our tech business. It wasn’t until 2016 that we decided that we had sufficient life and industry experience to start our own business – Kianda Technologies. 

As an IT consultant I have seen how organisations struggle when it comes to delivering digital solutions, how hard it is to find IT skilled resources. The idea of Kianda was born in mid-2016 when we realised that there was a dire need for an easier and more inclusive way of building digital solutions.

The skills I gained throughout my career before co-founding Kianda, prepared me well to realise Kianda’s vision to provide an intuitive platform that puts user experience at the focus and adapts to modern enterprise requirements.

As a co-founder of a tech start-up I get to be deeply involved in creating the technology and strategies to bring solutions that solve real life problems for our customers. As you might imagine this involves burning the midnight oil quite often.

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

I am a true morning person who starts the day with positive thoughts. I believe that a positive mindset is key to overcoming most of the obstacles. 

Typically I wake-up at 5:50am to get a 45 mins at-home work-out while everyone in the house is still sleeping. This is the part of my morning routine that I have the greatest control. It is my ‘me time’ that keeps me motivated for the rest of the day. We usually have breakfast together before dropping kids to school. I see breakfast as an important family time. 

I usually start to work at around 8am. Morning time is when I am in my most productive mode. I keep a list of prioritized tasks at all times. For anything that needs to get done, I add to this list and prioritize. 

After this quick planning of my tasks for the day I usually keep an uninterrupted hour or two for me to focus on tasks that require me to be in the flow and be more productive or creative. I turn off notifications to stay focused. It is important to find what works and stick to it. After that I typically delve into meetings, emails or phone calls that I need to do. 

My day can vary in terms of work hours . We are based in Ireland supporting customers in Europe, US, Australia, Middle East and Africa. Organising online meetings and connecting with them are important to make sure they know they’re valued.

Late in the afternoon I pick the kids from school and get out for a half hour walk with them. I really enjoy this time to hear their stories from school and mentally recharge. 

After we’ve dinner and the kids’ bedtime routine is complete I usually pick up a couple of easy-to-do tasks before my husband and I wind down for the day which usually involves a chat about our business or an episode of one of our favourite sci-fi shows. After a bit of reading time, I’m in bed by 11pm. 

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

At Kianda, we have been working remotely with flexible hours since the pandemic. We don’t work with clock in and clock out monitoring type of setting.

One thing I value is that we need to be flexible and listen to everyone individually – there is no such thing as one size fits all approach, everyone has their own personal lives and concerns. For me what is crucial is owning what I do and seeing results. 

Remote working gave me more time and fewer distractions, which led to increased productivity which is a huge benefit for us and our team. I think we have all seen that when done right, remote working can allow us to focus on what really matters, which is performance.

Having said that, I still personally prefer to go into the office once a while because change is good and being in the office can add a bit more structure to my day.

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

To me work-life balance means fulfilment, whether it is in personal life or in professional life. There’s a great sense of fulfilment in being able to self-manage your time in work and life in the best way suits you as well as being realistic and flexible with yourself.

Sometimes I hear people talk about work-life balance as a rigid barrier. For me that is not realistic, after all there is no way to know in which part of the day one of my kids might need my attention due to a stomach ache.

I don’t necessarily think we must put a hard line between work and life. Instead we can balance them and make them work together in some kind of harmony. So for me it is more about work-life harmony than balance.

There is no magic formula to achieve this but in a way this harmony lets you deliver the things that you need to do your work, while also feeling a sense of fulfilment of doing things in personal life that matters you the most. 

This is how I approach work-life balance and it is working for me to establish a stable and sustainable way to maintain a healthy relationship between my personal and professional life.

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

In the last while I started to celebrate small wins. This was not something I used to do before. But now I am pushing myself more to challenges or the things that I am not usually good at.

Every often, I force myself to do something that is out of my comfort zone. When I see good results, I allow myself to celebrate these wins.

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

I really enjoy TED talks. I can watch them over and over again, there are so many things one can learn from these talks.

One of the recent books I read was Crossing the Chasm. It is a great book, for anyone starting their high-tech business and want to learn about marketing techniques in technology adoption life cycle.

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

My yoga mat, dumbbells and my runners.

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

Jacinda Ardern, she is such a successful leader and a genuine human with an authentic leadership approach.

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

My last two thoughts: 

Hard work is great, but we need to realise when it becomes too much. Burnout is real and we need to try to avoid it. One thing I’ve learned by running a business is that being busy doesn’t necessarily equal productivity or results. We may easily think because we are working more, we’re being more productive. But often that’s simply not the case.

Positivity is a choice. It is about approaching challenges in life with a positive outlook. So I say, choose to be positive, be mindful of your attitude and how it affects others around you.

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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.