CEOs / Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Emma Jones, Founder & CEO of Project F

Emma Jones is the Founder & CEO of Project F, an organisation helping companies achieve gender-diverse tech teams and supporting tech women to achieve their career goals.

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

I’m currently founder and CEO of Project F, a purpose driven company which I’ve been building for the last 18 months. Project F’s mission is to create a global movement to help as companies all over the world to achieve gender-balanced technology teams and leadership.

My background is around 26 years working in people and culture disciplines. I started out in recruitment in the early 90’s in the UK, moved into executive search and, later, internal talent acquisition, all in the technology sector.

I started working with the Australian tech startup ecosystem around 2014 and became Global Head of Talent for a software company for a few years before starting my entrepreneurial journey.

I’d come to recognise how poor the representation of women in technology was and how far off the mark the efforts to improve it were. So I decided to do something about it.

I formed a not-for-profit tech community group called Men Championing Change which is awesome and it was that which lead me to create Project F.

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

Before COVID, I was in and out of the Sydney CBD most days, at meetings and working out of the Sydney Startup Hub, but in recent months I’ve barely visited the CBD at all.

Now I do the same work but from home. Most days are a series of video conference calls and a lot of collaboration with various teams via Slack and Google docs. Building a business as a sole founder means a hell of a lot of multi-tasking and I am always having to learn new things.

This week it’s marketing, a couple of weeks ago it was PR. There’s a lot of juggling between Project F’s work and the community groups I run.

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

I’m quite happy working remotely and it’s pretty easy to do. Everything’s set up so that I can work from anywhere.

I’m not an early bird, so I usually do the school run and walk the dogs before I start work, but then I’ll work a bit later into early evening. And if I need to attend to non-work stuff I just factor that in and manage my time around it. It’s pretty simple stuff.

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

I’ve always planned to make Project F a 4-day week company. Of course, launching and building a company means a lot of long hours and not much downtime at the outset, but as we grow we’ll set the foundations for outcome-based working so that everyone can work a 4 day week.

I worked 4 days a week for around 8 years before I left the UK and my outcomes were the same as the full-timers in my company. I chose to work part-time because I was a single parent without any family support so my deadlines were built around childcare facilities which are notoriously inflexible.

I learned that you can be extremely focused and productive when you have hard stops in place.

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

I’ve started walking our two dogs each morning before work. My husband used to do that as he’s an earlier-bird than I am but when I began accompanying my son to school for driving practice on his L plates, I also began taking the dogs and stopping on the way home for a beachside walk.

It gives me a great start to the day, not only for exercise, but I also find it great for clearing my mind and planning the priorities for my day ahead. I deliberately leave my phone in the car too, so there are no distractions.

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

I’m really enjoying the podcast “Don’t Stop Us Now” at the moment. It’s a series of inspiring stories and advice from awesome, pioneering women leaders around the world.

My favourite book of the last year has to be Caroline Criado Perez’s Invisible Women – Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed For Men. I honestly believe everyone should read it.

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

I’ve come to rely on Waze for any travel I do. I love the real-time alerts and how it gives you the fastest route based on real-time traffic. I’d be lost without my Google Suite and Slack.

Pre-COVID I’d have also said TripView as I was on public transport constantly, whether ferrying from home or buses, trains and light rail around the CITY.

Canva is also a huge favourite, I’ve got the pro-version and use it constantly for just about everything, I absolutely love how simple it is to design anything and everything with it. I use it for social media, blog banners, event banners, sales collateral, t-shirts, literally everything.

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

Catriona Wallace. She spoke about this at one of Project F’s women in tech meetup groups (The F Factor) late last year and it was awesome. She is incredibly pragmatic and gave a wonderfully ‘real’ version of what work/life means to her. Pretty sure I’d read her book if she wrote one!

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

I truly believe in the 4 day working week. The 5 day work week came about in the early 1900’s and our world is very different today.

In addition to the obvious benefits for people having more free time, there’s also a huge body of evidence that reducing the workweek will reduce climate change.

In business, research shows productivity and profitability improve so there really is every reason to do it. Entrenched inequalities, family care and overworking would all be addressed with a 21 hour workweek. Bring it on!

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.