Diego Rojas is co-founder & CEO at Finantier, the leading Open Finance platform in Southeast Asia with headquarters in Jakarta, Indonesia.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I’m the co-founder and CEO at Finantier, we are an Open Finance platform for Southeast Asia. We are building the infrastructure for the next generation of financial services across the region, basically the rails and connections to help people be better off by leveraging their data.
I was born in a little town in the north region of Argentina. As a software engineer and computer science educated, I got the chance to jump into Fintech more than a decade ago, working for LendingClub in the US with some of the pioneers in the P2P lending space.
Then I became a tech lead in the founding team of another huge Fintech but this time in China, where I lived for five years. After that, I came to Southeast Asia and became CTO of several companies, always in Fintech and all that experience in a way led to founding Finantier.
2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I’m awake by 6 am every day and if I feel like taking a stroll, I go for it, a 30 mins walk with some accelerated paces from time to time.
By 8 am I get to the office and have a traditional Singaporean breakfast: soft boiled eggs, kaya toast with kopi siew dai (less sweet coffee), but if I feel like having pratas, I hop on to an Indian food stall or sometimes I go for a western option.
During my morning there are zoom calls, eventual IRL meetings these days and in the afternoon, I may have lunch at any given time while continuing work and I don’t mind it as I’m pretty much multitasking (disclaimer: I don’t recommend this at all, but what works for me).
I timebox and mark my calendar with specific activities for the whole week to make sure I don’t forget to work on stuff that needs to get done or to follow up by a certain day. I also timebox time for reading or impromptu catch ups with our colleagues.
By the evening I head home. It could be at any given time, when getting home if I feel like dining I do, if I feel like walking, I do. If I feel like winding down, I do. If I do have calls or meetings at night/midnight, sometimes with people in Silicon Valley or other parts of the world, I’d stay up, reading or doing more work until then.
There are certain routines and activities that I subscribe to on a daily basis or are common on a weekly basis but overall I don’t impose to myself any hard schedule. I go with the flow always led by our mission and work on the most important things at any given moment.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Of course it does and not only for me, but also for everyone at Finantier. I think everyone appreciates the flexibility of remote working but from time to time it is good to get together for work or bonding activities (following all the covid related rules), so we don’t lose those interactions that make the team stronger.
Regardless, our approach is extremely flexible and each team member has the opportunity to set up their own schedule accordingly. We focus on the quality of the outcomes and goals, rather than speed and madness for only the sake of it.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
In my personal opinion, it means a life where one can perform to the fullest in any front but without compromising mental health, getting burnt out or stressed.
Doesn’t mean working less or working more, it’s a balance that only ourselves can find by assessing our strengths and weaknesses, as well as trusting our people and delegating tasks responsibly, knowing that our colleagues are going to do a great job.
Personally as a founder, I can’t stop thinking and working even when I go for a hike or on weekends. In a way, all my responsibilities are embodied in me but at the same I know when and how to pause so it doesn’t physically or mentally affect me.
I believe when you are working on something you love and you are passionate about it, it does not feel like work. I personally cannot do anything else and I enjoy every single day no matter how difficult or how glorious our days might be.
You know, early stage startup life tends to be chaotic and a rollercoaster of emotions but the more you surround yourself with extraordinary people it is an amazing shared journey where everyone keeps growing.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
I know that this may sound extremely boring given the theme of this interview but I haven’t.
I’m a very simple man and I operate instinctively by optimising for better outcomes in an altruistic manner. This actually means that I don’t impose myself on any sort of practices or rituals but rather I think long term and walk backwards.
However, I would not leave you empty handed for this question. I started to write more as a way to organise my work better but also to do brain dump on a daily basis. I know, it’s not a life changing practice but I picked up some pace in the past year. It’s not like journaling is actually writing about anything (mostly about work and Fintech, sure) but sometimes is about the future, technology and even sci-fi.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
Well, I’m a big fan of sci-fi and Aldous Huxley. I like dystopian movies and books because there are many things that we can learn and improve, or mistakes we can prevent by extrapolating concepts and messages that are present in this genre and looking at how we are doing today towards the future.
I enjoy podcasts in fintech, startups and businesses in general because I get to learn from fellow founders and how they overcame challenges to make their businesses successful and in some cases become powerhouses.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
Surprisingly enough, apart from the usual messaging apps on mobile, I can live without anything else. I’m a tech person but I’m not strongly attached to gadgets or devices.
Personally, my take is those elements are means not ends. I do get amazed by new technologies but at the same time I think about the social implication of their use, environmental costs and also how it can be used to improve people’s lives.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
I’m very curious about the work-life balance of the Collison brothers from Stripe. I believe they built an amazing company and they started their journey so early in their life with an unique entrepreneurial DNA.
On this side of the world in a similar space I also appreciate our dear friend Moses Lo from Xendit. I think he is quite particular about work-life balance, I wish he could share more about it.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
I think work-life balance is crucial for a healthy living, however it shouldn’t be something we force ourselves into.
I believe it should come naturally as an extension of all things we do. Jumping suddenly into a particular diet, using a gadget or imposing some physical work, often leads to the other extreme where we feel disappointed for not achieving certain results or we find ourselves constrained by new routines which impede us from enjoying life.
Work-life balance should come from the outcome we desire in life at a future point, walking backwards and making sure we do optimise every minute of our life by doing the most rewarding activities leading to that particular expected outcome.
As a summary, I believe that the more we think (overthink) about how to achieve a work-life balance, the less likely we are going to achieve good results because it requires a high self discipline and adaptability to self imposed constraints and at some point all these new activities and practices end up being noise in our quest for happiness and we begin to lose sight of the things that really matter.
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