Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Liyana Sulaiman, Co-Founder & CPTO at Pollen

Liyana Sulaiman is the co-founder & CPTO at Pollen, Asia’s first cross-border B2B liquidation marketplace designed for sustainability.

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

 I am a two-time technology startup entrepreneur, a zero to one product leader and mentor to startup communities in Southeast Asia.

Currently I am the co-founder and Chief Product & Technology (CPTO) Officer of Pollen, a B2B liquidation platform designed for sustainability. We work with brands to help them clear their slow-moving, obsolete inventory (SLOB), which otherwise end up in landfills. 

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

 My typical day starts at 6:30 am, where I reach for a glass of water in the kitchen. Do some stretches for 5-10 minutes after. 

Then I change into my exercise attire, grab my mobile phone, and listen to music on either Spotify /Tidal with my Bose headphones. I exercise for about 30-45 minutes. Either HIIT or cardio indoors. 

7:30am I take a shower and get dressed for work. 

8:00am Make BREAKFAST!  A rotation of either toast, oatmeal or cereal with milk plus coffee/ tea/ juice on the menu. 

9:00am Quick scan of news, emails, and calendar. Squeeze in a podcast episode e.g. The Product Podcast or read that new business /interior design /food magazine. 

10:00am Read teams’ company standup report on slack,  the relevant slack #s  for the latest messages. Check in with team leads.  Any blockers, concerns that I may be of help for the day. Tackle priority or big ticket item first. 

12:30pm – 1:30pm LUNCH!

2:00-5:00pm MAKER POWER MODE! Or team meetings two-three days a week. PLS DO NOT DISTURB. 

6:00-7:00pm Get ready to wrap up the day. Check emails, next day calendar.  Write notes for tomorrow’s action items. 

7:30-830pm: DINNER!

9:00PM: washed up, brushed teeth

Relax = watch an episode of Netflix series (45mins) on alternate evenings. Sometimes I phone a friend or loved one. Journal (5-10 minutes) 

11:00 PM Go to bed. 

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

 Yes – in fact I have been working remotely during the pandemic. Other than setting up a proper workstation, my life and routine remains more or less the same.

I do make an effort to observe proper mealtimes. I set an alarm to wake up early and exercise. I try not to work 1-2hour before or past bedtime.

Working remotely does have its perks for me such as being able to prepare lunch and/or dinner on certain days and getting laundry done ahead of the weekend. Plus taking quiet evening walks before the sun is down, whenever.

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

Being in touch with my emotions. Knowing what’s best for me, making decisions with my emotions and gut feelings from a place of where I innately desire. 

Balance is an ever moving scale between bad and good, white and black.. . Balance can be achieved by having both sides of the spectrum of emotions in balance. 

We are so conditioned generationally to shut down our emotions. We rely on our mind to make decisions. As a result, we ignore and never listen to our emotions. Being in touch with our emotions puts us at a better place of regulating our emotions so we can be at our best selves, no matter what the situation. 

Making a habit to check in daily with my feelings: 

  • “Do I feel sad?”
  •  “Do I feel happy?”
  • “Do I feel anxious?”
  • “Do I feel stressed?”

I plan to carry out this simple mindfulness skill coupled with breath work, positive affirmations,  regular self -care routine and support from my close knit tribe to achieve this goal. 

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

I wasn’t able to go to the gym or pool. Previously I did enjoy a variety of sports, as part of my exercise routine. 

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

My current favourite book is ‘Bread Therapy: The Mindful Art of Baking Bread’ by Pauline Beaumont

When COVID-19 hit the world, I embraced the downtime to recharge. Nothing like a timeless tradition like baking bread to provide the type of simple creative distraction during these challenging times. 

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

My instinct says it’s my mobile phone. But when I look deeper, it’s the apps that have been a source of nourishment for me. Spotify and recently Tidal for music. I listen to music to start and end my day. 

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

 Jessica Alba, for seemingly having that work-life balance as a mother, entrepreneur and a creative person.

Curious to know what she had to learn by trial, that isn’t widely known or classified as intergenerational knowledge for folks who didn’t come from entrepreneurial backgrounds. Perhaps something any modern day woman can relate to, aside from her celebrity status.  If you happen to know of any, please share!  

Other than Jessica Alba, happy to also read about other female entrepreneurial figures from interesting backgrounds. 

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

To live fully – may look different from one person to another. We shouldn’t compare ourselves with others.  I’d like to think that for most people, to live fully means having balance. I subscribe to this.

A full life to me means I am making time for people and experiences that matter to me, and I do that by incorporating habits, rituals, tools etc. to ensure I do not fall into a routine of prioritizing only work and neglecting all other aspects of life. 

Bryan Dyson, ex CEO of Coca Cola once spoke about the 5 balls of life. Out of the five balls, one is made of rubber,  work and the rest like family, friends, health and spirit/integrity are glass. You juggle five balls throughout your life. But only one will bounce back when you drop it. Heard about it? Surely one good way to think about balance.

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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.