John Brady is the CEO & co-founder of Bowsy, remote working platform for university students connecting Irish students with businesses all over Ireland.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I am originally from Ireland and have been lucky enough to enjoy an international career working as a Marketing Director for a FTSE100 company which brought me to many amazing places.
In the past 15 years, I have lived and worked in over 8 different countries including Indonesia, Iran, Poland, the United States and most recently Croatia.
Innovation has always been a key part of my job and two years ago I decided to jump ship and start up my own business in Ireland.
The start-up is called Bowsy.com and I began to work on it in 2019 when my daughter was preparing to apply for university and I realised that despite the changes in technology, not a lot has changed for students in the 20 years since I graduated.
Not all students have equal access to career opportunities, sometimes because they could not afford an unpaid internship, other times because part time work negatively impacted their study or even simply because where they live meant that they did not have the same access to work experience as other students.
Bowsy was created to change this by building a new marketplace that connects university students with businesses through remote and study related project work. That makes my new role as CEO of Bowsy very exciting as we have a strong social mission that wants to drive a positive change for the younger generation of third level students.
2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
What I have learned so far working in a start-up is that no day actually turns out as you planned! My work day typically does not start until 9am but may not finish until midnight because of time differences between Ireland and the US where some of our team are based.
Because of the unpredictability of my day I try to get most of my personal agenda out of the way before I start work and also get some exercise which helps to clear my head before I think about turning on my laptop.
Yesterday was a typical day and I had 6 meetings, mainly with new customers and universities that are joining the Bowsy platform. I try hard to ensure that most of my role is focused on customers as it is very easy in a start-up to get internally focused, especially when you have limited resources.
Having said that, the one part of the day which is predictable is our daily team catch up which everyone joins at midday.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Everything about Bowsy is based on remote working. In our small team, we have seven different nationalities working remotely from across four different countries and we do not have a permanent office. In fact some of us only met in person for the first time last month after working together remotely for nearly two years.
This was not our original plan but during the COVID lockdown we realised that this worked very well for us. We also looked at different tools to compensate for some of the shortfalls of not working in a traditional office environment and we started using platforms such as Gather as a virtual office workspace.
The Bowsy team logs onto the virtual office workspace for most of the day so we can interact with each other when we are not in meetings.
We have virtual office space, desks and meeting rooms which means that you can walk up to a team member and then automatically interact through video conferencing, similar to what normally happens in an office when you walk the corridor or pop into someone’s office.
After things started to open up after COVID we also agreed that we would all meet at least once a month at our shared office space in the Guinness Enterprise Centre in Dublin, mainly as an excuse to socialise and to go out for a dinner and some drinks! Our way of working however will not change and we plan to build on the advantages of remote working.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
Work life balance is key to creating a sustainable business and family life. For me that means that the early morning is for me and my family, getting the kids ready for school and getting some exercise.
I also try to get another hour each day for a walk and I try to manage my calendar flexibly around this. The weekends are also very important and this is family time for me, no emails, calls or work for two days.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
I have started to disconnect myself from my mobile phone at certain times during the day. I stopped taking my phone with me when I go for a walk or when I exercise and I found that this really helps make the most of any down time.
I also recently began to colour code the appointments in my calendar based on whether they were external or internal meetings. It has proved to be a simple way of visually checking if the week ahead has the right balance for my time as it is very easy to keep busy for the wrong reasons.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
I really enjoy listening to the David McWilliams podcasts , an Irish economist who very simply relates the basic theories of economics to explain what is happening to the world around us as we all move closer to a technological and political tipping point.
I think that it is important to be able to step outside of the focus of our own agendas and take some time to consider the external changes that are shaping our futures.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
After more than two years of remote working, I don’t think my day would work without the Gather platform. It has become our virtual office space and is the main way that I interact with my team.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
It would be great to hear from Chuck Feeney, who is an Irish American entrepreneur and philanthropic billionaire who came from a very humble background and built the global duty-free empire before giving away most of his $6.5Bn fortune to charities across the world.
As a successful business man who remained relatively unknown compared to his modern day contemporaries of Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos, I would be very interested to understand how he quietly balanced his focus on his family and charities against a background of building a global business.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
I think that one of the main ingredients of having a good work life balance is simply to enjoy and feel passionate about what you do. That is the main reason, if not the only reason, that I left my corporate job to start my own business.
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