CEOs / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Felix Laumann, CEO at NeuralSpace

Felix Laumann is the CEO at NeuralSpace, a platform to build Natural Language Processing (NLP) solutions in a no-code web interface and through simple APIs.

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

I am a computer scientist and mathematician by education, having an MSc and currently in my last few months of a PhD at Imperial College London.

Describing and understanding my environment with numbers has always been the most interesting thing in my life, and I still love working with a lot of data and trying to understand the information they contain.

Although now, as a CEO, I do not work on complicated mathematical problems every day, many problems I am facing, from how to acquire more customers to how to establish a healthy working culture at NeuralSpace, can be seen from a mathematical perspective.

The advantage of this perspective is that I tend to assess problems in an objective manner and my subjective opinion is suppressed.

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

I usually start my days at around 8am by checking my emails because we serve customers globally and have many conversations with companies based in Asia and North America.

Afterwards, I spend as much time with customers as I can and try to understand their challenges more deeply. We are a very early-stage startup and are still trying to find our unique position and the pain points most customers face that are related to the utilisation and implementation of language technology.

I am not the greatest salesperson, but I really care about people’s problems and freeing them up from mundane tasks that can be automated with language technology. In the afternoon, I usually have check-ins with our sales, marketing and product teams.

Especially with the product team, which is led by my superb co-founder, Ayushman Dash, I try to explain to them how customers see and interact with our product as clearly as I can. Evenings, while cycling back from the office, are usually for self-reflection.

Generally, I am very ambitious and never really happy with my own performance. There is always more that can be done, and always higher results possible.

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

To be totally honest with you, my work-life balance is not that great when you observe it from the outside. I am deeply grateful to my wife and family who let me work for as many hours as I ever wanted, but I could definitely do more in terms of meeting friends.

I think I speak for many other startup founders here too, but there is not much of a differentiation between work and life for me. My work is my life. I understand my work as my “duty” in life, a reason why I am on this planet. 

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

I spend almost no time on social media anymore, and it has been one of the greatest things I have ever committed myself to. What Instagram, Facebook and TikTok do with many people is make them unconsciously compare themselves to others.

However, it is a game that nobody can win. There is always someone more successful, more pretty and richer than you. I have heard so many people saying “I don’t care what others think about me”, but the comparison to others is something so deeply programmed in ourselves that only very few actually manage to really not care about what others think.

I am no exception: I deeply care about how others perceive me, from the person who I came across in the supermarket to my colleagues and friends.

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

There are too many great people in this world who write too many great books to have one single favourite book, but I really enjoyed reading Amp It Up by Frank Slootman that came out earlier this year.

Besides that, everyone should read about fundamental philosophical principles, even in the most simplified literature. At the moment I am reading Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche, but anything that goes into philosophical basics together with the willingness of the reader to carefully think about the text makes one’s life more worth living than most of the current self-help literature that only scratches the surface, in my opinion.

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

Hard to say. I do not have any work-life guru I follow, but I am deeply inspired by one of my mentors, Andrew Bredenkamp.

At the peak of his career – perhaps over 10 to 15 years – he used to travel for up to 50 out of 52 weeks a year but managed to come home to his family every Friday, wherever he was in the world.

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

It is extremely important to choose a profession that one enjoys and feels a deeper purpose for. Work becomes more than a job, and our life is too precious to do a job that one does not fully want to do.

It is tough that this decision needs to be made very early in their life for most people, but it is worth taking some time to really think about it. I took, for example, two gap years before I even started to study for my undergraduate.

Then, however, I was so motivated to become an engineer that I actually finished in five instead of six semesters as one of the five best students. 

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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.