Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Jade Cohen, Co-Founder & CPO at Qualis Flow

Jade Cohen, Co-Founder & CPO at Qualis Flow, a digital platform enabling construction teams to collect real-time materials and waste data at source.

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

In my past professional life, I was working in construction environmental management, and whilst it gave me a fantastic insight and drive into sustainability practices on-site, the inefficiencies with this industrial sector were driving me mad.

Having spent a bit of time dabbling in NGOs and social enterprise, I figured the best way to have an impact on this sector, and to drive towards more sustainable construction, was to build a scalable business.

Having an ambition to leave the world in a better place than we found it, and struggling to scale up the impact associated with an NGO, myself and my co-founder decided to look towards our own sector of construction, to understand what more we could do to have an impact in this very wasteful, and carbon intensive space.

This is when we decided to create Qflow. Given the challenges we had experienced first-hand within design and construction, we wanted to create a product which could take that data burden away and focus on driving real action towards Net Zero goals.

Currently, I oversee the long term roadmap and strategy for building the AI product that we have today, and shaping it for what it will be tomorrow. It involves a lot of discovery, blue skies thinking, and understanding the key trends that our industry will be tackling next, all with the ambition to make construction more sustainable.

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

It always looks a little bit different, that’s for sure! It’s what keeps it interesting. That being said, typically I will wake up quite early and try to get a head-start on the day when the rest of the world is still in the morning lull. It means there is some free headspace and time to catch up before the hectiness of the day begins, and I try to keep this headspace for more blue skies thinking if I can.

If I’m travelling for the morning, I’ll try to catch a podcast on topics that will keep me motivated, or I’ll listen to my music to ‘silently’ practise some of my Portuguese (which, despite best efforts, is still in its beginner phase!). I’ll try to work through any urgent emails as a task before our daily team stand ups at 9, having my other critical goals for the day already planned out the day before.

Trello becomes my ultimate planning tool for this. I focus specifically on what I need to get done as a priority, being ruthless with tasks which need action right away, and which can wait. I’ll keep track of any actions I am waiting on from others, and address these at the end of the day alongside clearing out my inbox back to 0 again before the following day.

The zero inbox rule is very important for me in order to stay on top of things. This is all very admin-y, but this process means I can focus my energy on what matters most throughout the day, without getting distracted by other noise. 

In the bulk of each day, I’ll likely be in a combination of coordinating with our sales, customer success, Business Intelligence and core engineering teams. On the other side of the fence, I’ll be speaking directly with our customers and understanding the key feedback and trends which we need to consider as part of our product planning.

Finally, I’ll take time to have exploratory conversations with other companies, organisations, and technologies, to uncover synergies in what we’re doing and how we can better move our industry forwards to our Net Zero goals.

This might mean collaborating with low carbon material providers, circular economy marketplaces, or carbon optimisation design tools – speaking with like minded individuals all with the passion to revolutionise the way we currently build our infrastructure and housing around us.

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

I am starting to think of this more as work-life integration. It’s difficult to completely separate “work” and “life” and what that even means. For me, both should be complementary to what you want to achieve as an individual.

To ensure I’m my best self at my “work” times, I try to ensure I am enriching my time away from my laptop, by engaging with my friends and family and doing the things I also enjoy outside of Qualis Flow. The combination of this, with our common mission at Qualis Flow of making construction more sustainable, keeps me motivated during my “work” time and the ability to remain focused on this end goal.

Whatever I am doing during the day, whether that’s spent on a meeting, meeting a friend for coffee, or travelling somewhere new, I try to make sure I am 100% committed in that moment, whatever that moment is.

Aside from this, I try to keep my weekends free of “work” related activity. Allowing your mind to occupy itself with other experiences will actually enrich your “work” time far more effectively, as you allow yourself the mental space to think in a different kind of context.

When I do find myself working over these periods, it’ll always be in my local coffee shop, in a relaxed environment, where I can find myself enjoying the workload a little more, and without distraction. Having a loyalty card in these places goes a long way if you often find yourself similar to me, and addicted to that caffeine hit!

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

I have started to take a coaching-first approach in my communication with others in my team. This means I can focus on asking the right questions of others around me, rather than providing the right answers.

It’s a difficult skill to hone, especially when you’re like me and eager to get to the next steps and help provide some solutions, but sometimes you have to take a different path to coming to this solution, and support those around us to think more critically. 

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

Visible Women by Caroline Criado Perez. It really changed my outlook and caused me to reflect on what more we can do with Qualis Flow to overcome these biases, both gender bases but also more generally, especially as we are dealing with significant quantities of data used to generate insights for the industry.

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

It would probably be my co-founder, Brittany Harris. She’s insanely good at managing her work-life balance/integration, and I think we could all take something from her experiences!

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

I think it’s important to define what balance means to you, and what your boundaries are. Practising mindfulness and meditation I have found quite useful in the past, and knowing how to ground myself when things might feel out of control.

I rely heavily on my friends and family for this sometimes, and at others it will be a solo walk in a quiet park or outside space, feeling my brain being able to breathe. Once you define your boundaries, stick to them. 

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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.