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Balancing the Grind with Iain Stewart, Co-Founder & CEO of Exergenics

Iain Stewart is the co-founder & CEO of Exergenics, a company that creates software to improve the efficiency and sustainability of commercial air conditioning and refrigeration systems.

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

I have always worked in energy modelling, starting at a building level looking for opportunities to improve efficiency in building systems.

Then I went to work at a climate change think tank, ClimateWorks Australia, doing techno-economic decarbonisation pathways modelling, which opened my eyes to the huge effort required to get Australia to net-zero, but also the massive economic opportunity it affords us as a potential clean energy superpower.

Now I am the co-founder and CEO of Exergenics, which uses historical data to simulate and optimise the performance of commercial building chilled water plants, which is an energy intensive system that supplies chilled water throughout the building for cooling.

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

Every morning starts with taking Rambo for a walk, our (Office Dog in Chief). I’m most productive in the morning, so I usually like to start early and get as much as I can done before 9am. From there, most of the day is spent in external client meetings or internal engineering and operations meetings. 

Where possible I like to grab a whiteboard and work with the engineering team on solutions for tricky problems. Every engineer we have on the team is a far better coder than me, that helps me  focus on working through technical problems at a high level so I can still feel useful in the engineering team.

We try to have a relaxed atmosphere in the office, so if the day allows, I’ll try to squeeze in a nap on one of our beanbags. I usually leave the office not too long after 5pm so I can go for another walk with the dog while the sun is still up.

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

Being based in Melbourne the whole team has been working remotely on and off since the company’s inception in late 2019.

The team has adjusted well but everyone is really looking forward to being back in the office, missing those chance conversations and not being able to problem solve in the same room does make the work we do more challenging.

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

For me it’s about creating a routine that I can see myself maintaining happily for the next 30 years. If you’re feeling burnt out at 30, in the prime of your life, it’s not a good sign for things to come.

I love my job and the team, but there’s lots of things I enjoy outside of work too so making sure one aspect of life doesn’t become all-encompassing is important to me.

Some people can consistently work 70-hour weeks, but I’m not one of them. I’ve figured out the magic number for me is around 50 hours a week, and if I can’t get everything I wanted to do in that time, well there’s always next week.

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

Aiming for ‘inbox zero’ daily has changed the way I organise my day and significantly improved my productivity.

The other major change for me recently has been adopting a dog. Previously I didn’t spend much time walking but am finding it fast becoming my favourite part of the day, stress levels are trending down.

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

Book: Nineteen Eighty-Four

Podcast: The Eleventh

Newsletter: Nexus (for smart buildings nerds)

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

Nothing jumps to mind in particular. Slack and AirPods both get a good run most days.  

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

Winston Churchill – I have no idea how someone could write, paint & drink so much while leading a country during a world war.

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

The best advice I got at the very beginning of my start-up journey is that it’s a marathon not a sprint. This stuck with me and I think about it regularly, good advice for a career in any industry really, start-up or not.

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About Author

Balance the Grind is a work-life balance publication on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.