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Balancing the Grind with Jenny-Ann Axson Johnson, Co-Founder & CEO at Tilly

Jenny-Ann Axson Johnson is the co-founder & CEO at Tilly, a one-stop-shop for personalised fertility support.

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

I’m an engineer by education and spent almost 10 years in ed-tech developing tools for  a personalised learning experience for students.

At the same time my husband and I had a long and challenging journey to children, and I was shocked by the lack of personalised guidance when it came to fertility support – and decided to do something about it.

Around the same time I met my co-founder Anna and together we founded Tilly, where we, via an app, help users reduce fertility stress and better understand their fertility.

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

The day usually starts in the same way, getting the kids ready for school and dropping them off at pre-school/school before heading to the office (or sometimes back to the “home office”).

As a CEO and co-founder of a startup the content of my work days tend to differ a lot.

Some days I spend most of my time working with our developers to define and work through new features for the app, the next I might be in a workshop to define our strategy for our UK launch, and the next I might spend most of my time on administrative things or on talking about Tilly with potential investors.

Most days I try to be home for dinner with the family and then spend some time with the kids before they go to bed. After the kids are asleep I usually try to get a few hours of work in, or occasionally some exercise or just spend some time relaxing with my husband watching some tv-show.

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

Today I have 3 small kids (1, 3 and 6 years old). Some people warned me for starting a business during this time of my life and yes, it’s hard work, but being my own boss also allows me to plan my day to fit around my family’s schedule as I have a lot of flexibility around when and where I work. I can take my kids and go ice skating when they finish school, but yes it also sometimes means sitting up late to get things done when they are all in bed.

I try to take some nights and weekends off each month to make sure I destress and focus 100% on things outside of work. Spending time with family and friends is something that gives me a lot of energy. That, and to get out into nature for a walk is something that really helps to recharge my batteries.

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

I love working with Tilly, and I love my family, but to get it all together I have realised that I cannot strive for perfection. Having gone through fertility struggles and also being a mom has taught me to prioritise and focus my efforts on what matters.

My home is not always the neatest with three kids roaming around, but that’s ok. At work I’ve learnt to accept the fact that I can’t do it all and to focus my time on the things that I am good at and delegate to the great team around me that compliments me and my skills.

My co-founder and I are also constantly reminding each other that “it’s a marathon not a 100 m sprint” something that helps put things into perspective.

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

The pandemic has definitely affected my life in many ways. I do miss going to the gym (it’s so much easier to take shortcuts when you try working out at home) and hope to take that up soon again.

Previously, my husband and I have also always tried to set off time for a few date nights each month, something that has been paused during the pandemic, this is definitely a habit I look forward to picking up again.

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

I read almost every night before going to bed. For me it’s a way to destress and focus my thoughts on something else – ideally about something quite far from my own everyday life.

Time travel is a special fascination of mine, trying to grasp all the possible implications of future and past actions. Two favourite books on this theme that I can really recommend are: This Is How You Lose the Time War by Max Gladstone and The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August  by Claire North.

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

The Tilly app of course. I love going through the app and to toy with ideas on how we can improve it further for our users. Apart from that I’m not very much into gadgets but my husband and I have just bought a fitness mirror to try to kickstart our fitness routines, let’s see how it goes. 

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

I try my best to balance work-life but can’t say that I always succeed so for me it’s very inspiring to hear about other entrepreneurs with kids and to hear how they juggle family life with building a business.

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

Do not strive for perfection, find what gives you energy and focus your efforts there – and make sure to set aside time for non-work related things to recharge your batteries.

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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.