Fiona Boyd is the co-founder and CEO at EdSmart, an online platform digitising school administrations worldwide.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
My current role is CEO and Co-founder at EdSmart – a platform digitising school administrations worldwide.
My career spans EdSmart and several other startups including Arts Hub and Screen Hub, and before that I was a broadcaster with ABC Radio, a high school teacher and partner of arts management company, The Dramatic Group.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
My days are so various and I quite like the variability that there isn’t a typical day.
What I can say is that I try to keep my hours within 9am to 5pm as much as possible and with the coronavirus social distancing for work, I’ve really enjoyed being able to work from home and do things like get up every hour and do some exercise – HIIT, yoga, pilates for 10 minutes or so.
Things I do across the week are consult with the senior leadership team on planning for the business. Coaching of junior team members, working closely with our Commercial Director on sales and deals, the same with our marketing team.
Working closely with investors on opportunities they identify. Working with my co-founder on business next steps. Reach outs to schools to find out how they’re going and to collect stories of success for the community.
Plus at the moment, work with the investors leading a fundraise on documentation and strategy for accelerating EdSmart’s growth.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
I wasn’t previously working flexibly or remotely but the coronavirus has shown that this is a good way to go and that the CEO role does allow for it.
I think I’m more productive working this way, and we’ve moved most staff towards individual work plans that mean we all have quite enough to do, and it’s all work designed to move the business forward.
Everyone does work that’s meaningful to the business and its success and they can work in their own way and check in with more senior team members as benefits what they’re working on.
I personally love remote working, we have great tools these days that make it successful and easy to catch up for impromptu problem-solving and meetings are so easy. I think the whole EdSmart team is more productive and our weekly Zoom Team Meeting is now a powerhouse of quality information exchange.
Also, since there’s no office and not much non-work related activity, I’ve noticed the quality of team project work is enhanced, we seem to be doing more and doing it better.
People are free to take breaks as they need and to do what they need to refresh. No-one’s minding their business about this.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
Work, life balance doesn’t really make sense for startup founders. I think the line blurs because work and life become one in the early days of your startup, and they need to. You need to build momentum and it’s all in for quite a long time.
But as you progress and if your startup is still around, it’s valuable to work out what your mind and body needs to refresh and to do those things and do them whole-heartedly and not with part of your mind stuck in your business.
So for me, that means waking early to meditate as much as I need. When things are frenetic, that’s for two hours, when the pace is more normal, it’s an hour, then exercise, generally a 2 hour run or yoga and then start the day. In the evening I like to read for an hour or so before going to sleep.
I wake early so I go to bed early and inevitably these days get 7 to 8 hours sleep. Two of my children are grown up, there’s no longer the stress juggle dealing with school and keeping them organised.
Though when I look back there were years and years of long, crazy hours moving between work, survival, children and just generally trying to keep going. My son was even brought to work in the home office in 2000 (at the time the lounge room) in his bassinet from only a few days old and would listen to the radio and the small team working in that office.
It was really nice. And the three household cats would visit everyone working, sometimes draping themselves over those old style, computer monitors. Crazy days and very different to now.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started/stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
I’ve started running again. For a long time I’ve felt I couldn’t take the time to run in the mornings. EdSmart in startup phase was all consuming. But I now know I do my best work and am my best self if I take care of me.
Most mornings I run for a couple of hours, not fast I admit as I’m 54 and never been a sprinter, but I do the 2 hours. On weekends I often get a long run in – last weekend it was for 6 hours, pure bliss for me. It’s time to let the body and mind find their own rhythm.
I find, without intending, that I solve important problems in my mind, when I’m running. I recently read Perfect Motion by Jonno Leneen and he writes beautifully about how the human being is designed for walking and running and how it’s connected to our creativity. I definitely like to run to access my best creative thinking.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
- Perfect Motion by Jonno Leneen
- Earth’s Children series by Jean M Auel, including Clan of the Cave Bear, The Mammoth Hunters, The Valley of Horses, The Plains of Passage and The Shelters of Stone
- The Value of Everything – Mariana Mazzucato
- Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century– Yuval Noah Harari
- The New Silk Roads: A New History of the World – Peter Frankopan
- In Xanadu, The Last Mughal, City of Djinns and The Anarchy – all by William Dalrymple
- The Undercover Economist – Tim Harford
- A Podcast of One’s Own – Julia Gillard
- Superfeast – Mason J Taylor
- Eat, Drink, Asia (from South China Morning Post)
- Coronacast – ABC’s Norman Swan
- The Mindvalley Podcast – Vishen Lakhiani
- Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations – Oprah Winfrey
- Startup Therapy – Wil Schroter & Ryan Rutan
- Revisionist History – Malcolm Gladwell
- Cautionary Tales – Tim Harford
- The School of Greatness – Lewis Howes
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
Synctuition Meditation Program.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Jacinda Ardern – New Zealand’s Prime Minister.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
It’s possible to become too rigid in defining what life is, what work is. To me, they’re all one thing, they are life and how you use your time on this planet. So, use it wisely, do what interests you, keeps you engaged and makes you quest for more.
You might get a little obsessive along the way as you follow a more inspired path, so temper that with a meditative practice, a form of spiritual renewal that you have affinity for, and a form of exercise you enjoy and will do consistently. And eat to nourish your body and mind and to feed the microbiome.
Also, don’t try to go faster than you can go. Others will pressure you, but if you’ve calibrated your practices optimally for you, then you will know the pace that you do your best work at and that you are a good person at.
Everyone matters, everyone has insight. It’s good to have the humility to listen to others who explain or share their journey. Sometimes they can offer up unique lessons in both what to and what not to do.
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