Grace Gimson is the Co-Founder & CEO at Holly Health, a digital, yet compassionate, health behaviour change service which helps individuals to keep on top of mental and physical health through small achievable habits.
To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I come from a family of engineers, my dad worked on early supercomputers and when I was little he would bring home the first versions of tablets or smartphones. I decided, when I was a teenager, that I wanted to engineer her own solution to support humans, combining her two major interest areas: psychology and consumer technology.
Since I was young I was always working a couple of jobs to earn money and build up experience. I studied business management, and set out to find great learning opportunities ahead of creating my own company. I have led business operations, teams and growth projects at global corporations including Microsoft and Aldi, and scaling startups, like Deliveroo, which later IPO’d for $7 billion.
Before founding Holly Health, I was at Scape Technologies (a computer vision startup), leading operations and then taking on the chief of staff role (which is great if you plan to take a CEO role after). Scape was acquired by Facebook in 2020, which allowed me to invest the headspace and resources to create my own service, supporting human psychology with technology.
I’m now CEO and cofounder at Holly Health. We bring accessible, compassionate and personalised health behaviour change coaching to the public.
What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
Every day is different, which keeps things exciting! Today started with 2x coffee meetings in London (1 with a fellow NHS health tech founder, 1 with a potential new team member). Then I got back to my home office, had a quick standup with the team and worked on a healthcare return on investment analysis (i.e. how much can Holly Health save the NHS in healthcare costs). Next I had an investor pitch call, reviewed a new product feature in the dev version of our app, and discussed commercial growth strategy with our CCO. Now I’m wrapping up the day by catching up on my inbox and replying to immediate queries!
What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
To achieve work life balance I consider a few main things (which overlap a lot with the habits we support in Holly Health): my mental wellbeing, sleep, nutrition, exercise, overall motivation and energy. I try to make sure that I’m looking after these each day, especially sleep as that lifts everything else up!
I’ve always prioritised work quite heavily, which isn’t always healthy, but I’ve got much better at finding the right balance over time. Being an ‘extroverted introvert’, i.e. I naturally spend a lot of my time with people and enjoy the company of others, but I need time on my own to properly re-fuel my brain.
This usually means busy, sociable workdays, with some time blocks in the morning or evening away from people, usually doing some exercise, plus weekends which have a good amount of time for rest and recuperation as well as catch ups and exploring.
In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
Being quite competitive with myself, I usually like to push my physical limits through training. I was really enjoying getting into triathlons just before and during the pandemic, by pushing my running and swimming fitness and hopping on my bike for long cycles. A foot injury forced me to pull back a lot, and take things more easily. I actually think I’ve benefited from this – now exercise is more about enjoyment and de-stressing than it is consistently pushing harder (which can put added stress and strain on your body).
Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
A couple of my favourites:
- The Twenty Minute VC (20VC)
- Feel Better Live More
- The Health Tech Podcast
- The Business of Healthcare
On the theme of Holly Health, for building small achievable habits that compound, I would suggest Tiny Habits or Atomic Habits.
If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
A Tibetan monk – there’s a lot I think I can learn from buddhist culture, especially to be reminded that the standard pace of life in the Western world is not normal, and not that healthy
Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Ultimately, if you’re a founder, or have any high pressure job or responsibilities, your personal limit lies in your health limit. Getting close to burnout means getting close to a debilitating health condition. If you don’t prioritise yourself and keep your battery filled up, it’s likely that whatever you’re doing will be forced to stop at some point.
This is something I remind myself of, and for this reason I don’t feel bad taking a holiday or having a weekend without opening my laptop – it helps me to bring more energy back into everything I’m doing and maintaining a level of sustainability over the longer term.
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