Matt Keon is the co-founder and CEO of GenieUs, an Australian startup on a mission to tackle the world’s fastest-growing long-term health risk: neurodegenerative diseases.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I’m currently CEO and co-founder of GenieUs, an Australian science and technology company that is transforming the way we diagnose and treat neurodegenerative diseases. Such diseases include the likes of motor neurone disease (ALS), Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
We do this by building a complete genomic map of the body by combining genomic analysis with RNA from multiple human tissues to help categorise these diseases in quicker time spans.
I’ve spent a lot of my career in the health sector, specifically on the likes of telehealth, patient engagement, and healthtech platforms, but before this, I worked in the advertising and creative industries.
Generally, my work tends to be focused on solving hard problems and putting humans at the forefront of everything I do.
2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
Much of my job involves problem-solving and looking at things from a different angle. As I don’t come from a scientific background, it’s important that I at least know the basics.
Most mornings are spent reading the latest peer-reviewed papers on MND/ALS. As the field is growing, there is never a shortage of these papers and it’s important to know what’s going on from a research perspective.
It’s then a case of reviewing data and making decisions on whether to go forward with milestones. Science can be complicated and confusing at times, so we often have very detailed meetings on what the data may or may not mean, what we can do to validate or look at it further, and then importantly, how it might become translational (get into the clinic or not).
As we have a vast number of collaborators both in Australia and overseas, most of my days are spent discussing with them.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Absolutely. The whole team is currently working remotely and we’re incredibly flexible in how we run the day-to-day.
As most of what we deal with is data and code, most of this can be done using a computer anywhere. The rest is what we call “wet lab” work and validation which we do with our collaborators and often, this is pre-planned so there is flexibility in this aspect as well.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
There is no straight line to success and dedicated work is critical if you really want to achieve an impactful outcome. I haven’t witnessed or observed anyone achieving anything on a four-hour workweek for instance. This means application and dedication is a must.
Having said that, of course stepping away is critical. I find the most effective way of working is in hyper-focused bursts of intensity. As an example, having two to three weeks focused on one project then having a cool-down period afterwards. You need space to let ideas circulate and to gain new perspectives.
This means time away from the day-to-day. Everyone needs and should be able to have this. I encourage this for our team – they can work autonomously at their own pace but all work is done in bursts and then we have periods of rest.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
I tried to quit coffee. Bad idea.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr Seuss is a great business book.
Built to Last by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras has some enduring principles that are useful.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
Believe it or not, I actually find LinkedIn very useful (if you can sieve through the noise that is).
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Viktor Frankl or Yvon Chouinard.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
In terms of work, I’d suggest readers find their own personal sweet spot and something that truly motivates them. In my case, I took my love of creativity into an area I’m truly motivated by, which is the use of creativity and ‘bisociative thinking’ to solve scientific problems.
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