Helen Hey is the Managing Director of Cheddar, the shopping deal discovery platform developed by CommBank’s venture-scaler, x15ventures. She has extensive experience in the MarTech and RetailTech space, runs her own e-commerce small business, and mentors startup founders.
To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I started my career in Marketing and Advertising, working on bluechip brands such as IBM, Discovery Network, Audi Australia and Westfield. While at Westfield, I evolved from Marketing to Tech, when I became the Founder of their first greenfield tech venture – a loyalty and rewards app.
During the first COVID lockdown, I founded an e-commerce children’s toy store and have continued to run the business as a side hustle.
Mid-2021 with a 4 month old baby, I joined x15 Ventures, Commbank’s venture scaler, as the Managing Director of Cheddar.
We launched in Nov 2021 as a shopping platform giving back to Young Australians. We’ve partnered with more than 1,000 brands such as Nike, Net-a-porter, Menulog, Cotton On, and using AI (think of it as the TikTok of Shopping) we help customers discover brands and deals with cashback. We just celebrated our first birthday and have given back more than a million dollars to young Australians already.
What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
A day in my life begins with my husband and I organising our two kids. Mornings are a bit of a whirlwind, which I’m sure most parents can relate to. I do my best to balance family and work, which isn’t always easy, but I really appreciate making the time to be present for wherever I’m needed.
As an example, a couple of weeks ago, I had a big day on both sides of the fence and I was really grateful to have been able to make the most of my work/life balance.
With Cheddar in a high-growth stage at the moment, I usually spend my day in back to back meetings, to support my team through rapid decision making, which entails everything from product roadmaps, marketing decisions, meetings with our merchant partners, and strategic planning.
But on this day, I started my morning attending my daughter’s kindy graduation which was really special given we hadn’t been able to visit her class the whole year due to COVID restrictions.
After getting to the office and a day of meetings, I spent the afternoon interviewing Luke Anear, CEO and Founder of Safety Culture, one of Australia’s unicorn tech companies. It was such an enlightening and inspirational fireside chat, to learn more about Safety Culture’s purpose and what drove Luke to build the business into what it is today.
To close out my day, I was able to get home for bedtime with the kids and once they’re all tucked in, I’ll wrap up my last bits and pieces of work before logging off for the evening, and doing it all over again the next day!
What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
When I started at Cheddar I was simultaneously raising a four year old, a four month old, launching a new corporate venture backed by Australia’s biggest bank, and running my side business.
So when it comes to work-life balance, I still have a lot to learn. It’s in my personality to throw myself into everything, but for me, what’s important is being as present as possible in any situation.
The lockdown reset and ability to work flexibly has been very helpful, and I mostly split my time 50/50 between the office and working from home. To best balance my days I try to book all my meetings during the work day, before switching off at 5pm to do the school run, dinner, bath, and bedtime routine with my family.
I’m a night owl so I find I get a lot of my best, focused work done in the evenings. So at around 8pm I will switch back on and spend the uninterrupted time when needed.
In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
I have found the Pomodoro technique really helpful when it comes to breaking things into workable chunks. It breaks a 30 minute period, into 25 minutes of focus, with a 5 minute break. I found a free Pomodoro app that has a visual countdown, and the timer resets if I pick up my phone, so it’s really effective at keeping me on track.
One thing I want to prioritise in 2023 is blocking out an hour every fortnight for that really creative, big picture thinking that gets deprioritised when you get really busy. I like to keep an eye on scaling opportunities whilst still being across the day to day.
Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
There’s a few podcasts and newsletters that I subscribe to. I’m a speed reader and one of my favourite life hacks is listening to podcasts on 1.5x as I feel like I can cram more in.
The What The Flux podcast and newsletter is one I really enjoy. The podcast is a daily five minute wrap of the top three business stories of the day and the newsletter has a great Gen Z, tongue in cheek tone of voice which just helps to start the day on a funny note.
I know lots of people talk about Brene Brown, but I really enjoyed Dare to Lead and the concept of leading with vulnerability, and how as leaders, it’s our job to recognise and nurture potential in others.
If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Kris Jenner. That woman hustles.
Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Think of yourself as an asset. Often, it can be tempting as leaders or business owners, to keep pushing ourselves beyond what’s reasonable and burning ourselves out. But if I was a physical business asset, like a data warehouse, I would never consistently mismanage and overload it, especially when the warning signs are there.
So why would you treat yourself like that? Being more in tune with yourself and recognising your early warning signs is important. As a leader, you hitting burn out is not good for your business, your team, your family or yourself.
Reframing myself as an asset to the business, stopped me from feeling guilty about taking a break or managing my own time, and made me realise it’s actually a big part of my responsibility to everyone around me.
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