Francoise Gelbard is the co-founder and director of HumanableCX and Smart Video Australia, a data-driven, interactive personalised video platform.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
After completing a degree in data/stats, I ended up being a headhunter for 15 years, specialising in finding CEOs, CFOs and CTOs for the financial services and tech sectors. In retrospect, it was a great vehicle for acquiring numerous skills via osmosis for becoming a Founder!
Our CX SaaS platform is a data-driven, interactive based technology that organisations can leverage across the customer lifecycle – from acquisition, through to onboarding and retention. We offer campaign performance analytics as well, so I suppose I’ve come full circle, back to my data/stats roots from uni!
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
Yesterday was Friday, so I went for a walk on the beach and then took my son to school, and was back in the office at 8am for our weekly catch up call with our London team. We are expanding and launching in the UK this year, and we are planning to launch in the US later in 2021.
Being a completely virtual, cloud based business means our global growth plans are not impacted by border closures too much, and we are forging ahead.
We have been selected to be part of the 2021 cohort in NSW Treasury’s Going Global UK Digital Acceleration Program, introducing us to customers, investors and strategic partners, and culminating in presenting at London tech week later this year. Fingers crossed we will be able to get there!
Later in the morning we had 2 new business pitches – one to a large financial services organisation’s Digital and CX team, the other to the Customer acquisition team of a large general insurer. These were both on Zoom, and this still seems to be the case 70-80% of the time for now.
At lunchtime I caught up with another Founder who we are looking to align with who lives a few streets away in North Bondi, and is also working from home.
After lunch it was onto writing a proposal for more new business, followed by a weekly WIP call with an insurance client who we onboard customers for 24/7 via our platform, with their CX team, project managers and tech team.
Then I took my son (who is on his learners permit) for a driving practice. Followed promptly by a wine!
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Absolutely. We are based at Stone & Chalk at the Sydney StartUp hub, and we are in open plan.
I tend to work from my home office on Fridays if I have no meetings scheduled so I can finish early and go to the beach for a swim or play tennis or, if the weather is inclement, work on my new ideas without interruption.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
When I made the decision to leave the executive search world in 2013, and went out on my own, it was in large part due to a lack of understanding and resistance to allow working offsite.
I wanted to be present for my son during his primary school years. The parents of young children (and anyone really who wants flexible hours really) are very fortunate that due to these shifts, they may not be forced to choose.
As a founder I am committed to offering all our team this flexibility. It’s all about trust and making it work for people at their stage of life.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
Like many of us, due to COVID my workout routine went a little AWOL in 2020. I have found myself orienting more towards walking outdoors and less gym.
We have found that with 80% of meetings now being virtual, and as we have launched in the UK (and are soon to launch in the US), the hours are beginning earlier/ending later.
I have had to adapt to fit in a walk or a workout sometimes during the day, around this. I feel that to stay focussed, and mentally resilient it is imperative to move most days.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
The Startup Community Way by Techstars co-founder, Brad Field.
For startup founders I can highly recommend The Lean Startup by Eric Ries and The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz (founder of Andreessen Horowitz).
On a non-tech note I’m slightly obsessed with Dezeen, a architecture and design magazine, for an aesthetic fix, and subscribe to their weekly newsletter.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
My Bose sleep buds are indispensable, especially when travelling, or whilst working from home last year and having building work next door. It completely blocks out any noise!
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon, aka DJ D-Sol. The ultimate “slashy” he globally heads up one of the world’s preeminent investment banks, but come the weekend he dons the headphones.
I think in addition to finding a balance between family/social and work, it’s also important if you have a passion or gift to keep that flame alive also.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Probably the one terrific silver lining of COVID. It has been the impetus/catalyst to finally see a move toward genuine work life balance, that many have been advocating for over the years.
On the flip side, the lines have blurred between work office and home time, and an expectation of being always contactable is the new normal. Hence the need to establish some balance has become ever more pertinent. If you do what you love, or better yet, can start a business you are passionate about it helps too!
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