CEOs / Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Fraser Edwards, Co-Founder & CEO at cheqd

Fraser Edwards is the co-founder & CEO at cheqd, the network for creating digital credential businesses.

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

Hi, I’m Fraser, CEO & co-founder at cheqd. We’re building payment rails and commercial models for self-sovereign identity, aka the idea that people should hold and control their data rather than companies exploiting it, i.e. surveillance capitalism.

Before founding cheqd, I worked on the Known Traveller Digital Identity (KTDI) pilot with the World Economic Forum and the Dutch and Canadian governments, digitising the entire international air travel journey.

This was where I first came across self-sovereign identity as a paradigm. Prior to that, I was working on central bank digital currencies (CDBCs) through the Jasper-Ubin project with the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Central Bank of Canada.

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

The first thing when I open my laptop around 8-8:30 is reading through messages across Slack, email, Telegram and Twitter whilst getting through the first coffee of the day. Once I’ve addressed everything I can immediately respond to, everything left is more substantial and goes into the backlog of work myself and the team need to work through. 

Normally that takes me to the sync with the team at 9:30 by which point I have a rough idea of where I’ll focus my time for the day, with a mix of calls and focused work on the task at hand. However, there are usually tasks that need a hand with or input on which I need to carve out time for so I’ll replan my day over the call.

From that point onwards, I’ll be in a mix of calls (both external and internal) or focused work, e.g. drafting and refining company strategy.

I have a regular slot in my calendar blocked for making sure I pay attention to socials like Twitter, Telegram or Discord whilst having Huel for lunch. After that, it’s more of the same until the evening, when I’ll check over Slack, email and Telegram and Twitter again to make sure there is nothing urgent before logging off.

Then two nights a week, head off bouldering wherever the nearest climbing gym to the office is! On other nights, either relaxing at home reading, meeting friends or things like the theatre.

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

It does, which I massively value. We have a coworking subscription so wherever there is an office available, I tend to use it. Whilst some people like working from coffee shops or hotel rooms, I have too many phone calls for coffee shops and need a change of scenery instead of being locked in a single room regardless of how nice the hotel is.

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

The easiest test I use is not working over the weekend with the caveat that I don’t consider generally mulling over ideas to be  working (which I realise is a bit of a cop-out). 

More generally, though, it’s not being stressed by it, even if I’m thinking about work outside of work hours. That means:

  • Being able to fall asleep easily
  • Not waking up early feeling anxious

In terms of how I aim for that, it’s a mix of working hard and intensely during the day so work doesn’t bleed into being 24/7 with making sure I’m exercising two-three times a week. I find bouldering incredible for clearing my mind – it’s very hard to think about anything else when it could mean you are falling off a (potentially very high) wall.

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

I’ve started a couple:

  • Getting back to reading a book a week. I’m not always successful but the goal keeps me somewhat disciplined!
  • Bouldering climbing two-three times a week. I used to always manage one or two, but shifting to two-three has had a big impact on the level I’m climbing at and my general fitness.

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

For books, tonnes, I’m not sure when they happened but I’ve found myself reading a lot about business problems, macro-economics and behavioural economics:

  • The Cold Start Problem: The perfect book for starting and scaling a network like we have at cheqd
  • Blitzscaling: Fantastic for examples on how to build and build quickly
  • The Culture Map: Essential reading for anyone working with multicultural teams, especially as so many teams start working remote and distributed across the world!

For podcasts, I’m a long-time listener to Equity by TechCrunch, either whilst on bike rides or climbing. It keeps me up to date with the non-crypto start-up world which is always good for context.

Instead of newsletters, I use Feedly to aggregate news across topics I’m following so it’s all in one place.

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

Five, four tied to travelling and working remotely:

  • Noise cancelling headphones: I have Bose QC35s and the Sony WF-1000XM4s. Whether it’s on a flight, working or bouldering, I couldn’t do without them.
  • Portable/foldable laptop stand: Possibly sad but this has rescued my posture and I couldn’t do without it. One of the potential curses of remote working is hunching over a laptop.
  • Split duffel bag: I use a duffel for travelling since I can use the same bag either full or not without always having a large suitcase. I use a Fjallraven Splitpack as it opens up like a suitcase so it’s really easy to find everything.
  • eBook reader: reading physical books whilst travelling doesn’t work particularly well so my kindle makes life a lot easier. However, I’m weaning myself off Amazon entirely so I’ll likely swap soon to a kobo or equivalent.

And the odd-one-out, Huel:

  • I’ve used Huel for around three years now and find I have less energy slumps in the afternoon, am generally healthier and have a much lighter credit card bill at the end of the month than if I was cooking/grabbing food every lunchtime.

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

Any new parents who are also running a rapidly scaling start-up. Our CFO and Head of Marketing both have young children since that’s the true test of work-life-balance. And the balance I am aiming for is dwarfed by their targets and how they’re achieving it!

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

Start early in aiming to achieve balance. Over my career so far, I’ve always been most effective when I’ve had balance, whether for cheqd now or previously.

A perfect example was my promotions in my previous job were always when I was working the least hours. I was always clocking at least eight hours a day but whenever this stretched upwards massively I found I wasn’t performing where I wanted or needed to be.

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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.