Balancing the Grind with Gabrielle Powell, COO & Co-Founder at thymia

Gabrielle Powell is the COO & Co-Founder at thymia, a startup building AI-powered video game-inspired technology to make mental health assessments more accurate and objective.

Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to?

I began my career in finance, joining the Standard Chartered Bank graduate programme and then moving into their corporate finance team – initially living and working in London and then taking an opportunity to join the team in Mumbai. I left banking to do a masters degree in Economic Development at SOAS and, looking for more exposure to emerging markets, moved to Brazil.

After spending a short time working in financial advisory in Sao Paulo my career took an exciting turn into the world of health tech when I joined Dr. Consulta – one of the fastest growing healthtech start-ups in Latin America – as Director of Finance in 2015. I’ve been working in healthcare innovation ever since. 

I’m passionate about supporting ventures that are working to deliver considerable improvements to our health and have been involved with dozens of startups through my work – as employee, consultant, advisor or investor. 

Most recently I joined the team at mental health tech start-up thymia as Co-Founder and COO. We’re building AI-powered video game-inspired technology to make mental health assessments more accurate and objective. Currently, our platform can identify symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as monitoring non-clinical indicators of mental wellness such as stress, exhaustion and self-esteem. 

We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday?

We’ve recently been working to close our latest funding round at thymia, so it’s been an exciting – but extremely busy – time! A typical day has involved working to collaborate with and coordinate different stakeholders, attending meetings with investors, and delivering pitches. It’s been a lot of hard work with some very tight deadlines to meet. 

Having successfully landed our funding, my day remains busy as we embark on an exciting new stage of growth. You’ll likely find me either developing our marketing and sales strategies and incorporating this into our product roadmap, or poring over documentation as we work towards achieving UKCA regulatory approval. 

Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach in maintaining it?

Having four kids is my work-life balance! Whenever I’m not working, I’m with them – and I try hard to be 100% focused on them and their world so that whenever I’m physically with them they have my full attention, too.

Spending time with them is a great way to switch off the work part of my brain. That means leaving my phone at my desk and letting myself put aside work completely for the day.  If I have a work-related brain wave I’ll jot it down somewhere else (on the back of my hand, if necessary) so that it doesn’t distract me until I next have my ‘work hat’ on. 

I also find that switching off from work and focusing on time with my kids gives a chance for work problems to settle in my mind. Being a mum is no easy feat, but it forces me to focus whole-heartedly on something other than work every day, and this helps me to find a sense of balance amid all the chaos. 

Change is constant, and it’s essential for growth. Have you made any lifestyle changes in the past year to improve your work-life balance?

For the last few months I’ve been actively incorporating ‘reflection time’ into my day. It’s something that I learnt from a former colleague and mentor and involves religiously taking 30 minutes out of the day to walk.

I physically shut my computer screen and go outside to walk for half an hour. I consciously block out the last meeting or call I had and try to focus solely on breathing and walking. It’s amazing how this time gives me space to reflect on personal and professional challenges and somehow I always see things differently afterwards.

Priorities emerge and things seem to slot into context. It’s definitely something I’d recommend, but it does take some effort to take that first step away from the computer!

We’re always on the lookout for new resources! Can you recommend any books, podcasts, or newsletters that have helped you in your journey towards balance?

The books that have helped me most on my journey towards balance are any good books that get me into a flow state – I get really energised after being fully immersed in a thought-provoking fiction and always emerge with a new perspective.

Most recently, for me, this was a classic novel – The Quiet American by Graham Greene – but for someone else it might be a romance or a thriller! I don’t think it matters what the content is as long as it pulls you into another world whilst you’re reading it. This in itself is one of the best resources I’ve found for helping me move towards balance. 

Before we wrap up, do you have any final words of wisdom or insights on work, life, or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Work-life balance is incredibly important but one of the biggest mistakes we can make is striving for ‘perfection’. There’s no single right way to achieve balance – it’s different for every one of us. And it’s not always going to be easy.

The most important thing is to keep checking in with yourself, find the things that help you find a sense of balance and try to prioritise them whenever you can. Some weeks it will be easier than others, but don’t despair. Keep returning to those small actions that you know work for you – whether that’s a ‘reflection walk’, time spent with family or something entirely different – and celebrate the little wins along the way. 

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.