CEOs / Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Laura Bell Main, Founder & CEO at SafeStack

Laura Bell Main is the founder & CEO at SafeStack, a community-centric online training platform that takes a flexible, people-focused approach to ongoing cyber security education at a time when it’s never been more needed.

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

Like most children of the mid-80’s I grew up wanting to be a lawyer or Scully from the X-Files. I found myself in software development. However, a family illness required me to leave school early and find a job. A local software firm offered an apprenticeship in software development, and I decided to give it a shot.

Since then, I have had an exciting career, including everything from particle physics for the LHC at CERN, counter-terrorism for the UK government, and helping some of the world’s fastest-growing companies build security without getting in the way of innovation.

In 2020, I launched SafeStack with my co-founder Erica Anderson. We are now working hard to share the cyber security skills we each practised as engineers and consultants to software engineers worldwide through our online training platform.

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

I have two young kids so I’d love to say I started with a calming meditation and a soothing tea in nature, but there is almost always chaos somewhere.

I get up at about 6am and, most days, head out to the gym near my house for 40 minutes of exercise before everyone else wakes up. Then it’s into family breakfast, getting the girls ready for their day, and heading to work at 08.30am.

I work from a small office close to my home and spend most of the day on calls, planning or writing – normally finishing up around 16:30 and heading home for a couple of hours with my family before bedtime.

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

There is no natural balance between work and life, so I build rules and structures to carve out that time and that relationship. I work no more than 40 hours per week, and I try to make sure I get at least 150 mins of exercise a week. 

I don’t have my work accounts on my phone, and my laptop stays closed in the evenings and weekends. 

For me, these behaviours allow me to rest but also set the expectations for my team. They need to see me model the behaviours and values of the company – one of which is “Success is a marathon, don’t burn out in the sprint.”

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

Getting more intentional with exercise has been a big thing for me this year. I’m not naturally sporty, and gyms are a fairly confronting space, but I have been reframing it to help form a habit.

Changing my view from exercise being optional to being essential and seeing it as crucial to my personal and business success has helped me prioritise and build up confidence.

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

Peak Performance by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness was a great primer for me on the importance of rest and recovery. The Practice of Groundedness, also by Brad Stulberg, built on this with very practical advice about avoiding burnout.

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

Portia Woodman from the Black Ferns (New Zealand women’s rugby team).

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

Work for me is play and passion. I am very lucky to be building a company that feeds into my love of technology and my hope that technology can have a positive impact on the world we live in. If my work helps even a few of these amazing technologies stay safer, I will be happy.

For me, life isn’t about fame or money, it’s about being the pencil note on a recipe that someone else uses long after you have gone. These notes improve things, make them better and more enjoyable but without distracting from the dish itself.

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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.