Matthew Egan is the Head of Engineering at DiviPay, an all-in-one virtual business card and expense management platform.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
As someone who learnt to write code young I always knew I wanted to make my passion my work and so I pursued a career in software development.
During my studies in computer science this materialised into a number of small roles developing software for various clients including an app for a DJ to take song requests as well as a system to track statistics for a hockey league.
From here, I found myself wanting to work on larger products and so I joined the team at CrowdComms where we built an event management system for events large and small all around the world.
This role eventually led to joining the GalaBid team where the event management experience became more specific to auction events and the systems that support them. At GalaBid I found an interest in performance monitoring and building systems that can scale rapidly which has been a huge asset in my more recent roles.
Having worked with both established companies and systems I found myself looking to understand the earlier stages of growth which ultimately was the catalyst to joining DiviPay where I started as the first engineer focussing on building a financial control stack for businesses.
Over the last 4 years the business, team and systems has grown rapidly and I’m now focussing on the continued advancement of our products and engineering team as the Head of Engineering.
2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
At a scale up, a workday is never the same, one day you might find yourself running one-on-one with the team or presenting some new training and another day you could be deep in the code, debugging a complex issue or use case.
My day will often start with checking our core metrics and understanding whether there’s been any expected changes or any concerns that aren’t already being considered. From here, I will check my calendar to understand any meetings I have coming up in the day and check any preparation I did earlier to ensure the meeting is both valuable to myself and whoever I’m meeting with.
Generally I will try to schedule any meetings in the afternoon so I can get a few hours of focussed work done in the morning which may involve working on some code or working on an initiative the team has committed to.
After lunch, I’ll jump into any meetings that were scheduled to plan upcoming projects, contribute to engineering discussions or architecture, or interview new candidates for our engineering team. My day will usually wrap up between 5 to 6pm where I’ll check my agenda for the next day and make sure I know what my goals are going to be for tomorrow.
3) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
Working in such a fast-paced business, team and role I find that work-life balance is something I need to work on continuously and put tools in place to achieve. It’s not always possible to draw a strict line in the sand when you have complex problems to think about or on-call alerts to deal with so I’ve come up with a few strategies that work for me.
Perhaps the simplest tool I use is a todo list that I make sure I keep prioritised, this way as new tasks are added from meeting actions or requests from colleagues I can ensure that I can shuffle around my other tasks to make sure I’m always working on the highest priority work whether that be by impact or simply because someone needs something sooner rather than later.
The important thing here is that the list is digital and you can shuffle around tasks easily. I use Notion for this reason rather than a notepad where you can often end up with multiple lists rather than a single prioritised list.
It’s very important in my role that I can be adaptable and so this helps me achieve that. I find that by ensuring a list is prioritised I’m able to easily see what tasks need to be done before I wrap up for a day which allows me to switch off when I need to and start transitioning to my non-work life.
4) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
With the move to hybrid working I’ve found that drawing a physical line between my work-life and home-life has been very beneficial as a way to both focus on work and relax outside of work. On days that I’m in the office this is simply the commute home which makes time to switch off.
However, when I’m working from home or on-call this is a simple practice of closing the door to my office and not taking my laptop into other rooms of the home. By doing this, it reinforces that I’m either doing work or I’m not.
Similarly, if I need to do some work during non-traditional hours such as on-call work or just needing to write down some thoughts on a problem, I make sure to go to my office rather than taking the laptop elsewhere in the home even if it’s for a few minutes. I’ve been amazed at how quickly this tactic has helped me to switch between my work and home life.
5) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
Recently I’ve been reading The Manager’s Path by Camille Fournier. While I’ve known some of the ideas and techniques for awhile, it’s been a great way to revisit basic management practices and evaluate my own tactics and opinions. I’d recommend it to anyone who is a technical people leader or looking to take on a role in the future.
As for podcasts, I’ve been enjoying Dev Interrupted which is a podcast that interviews engineering leaders to discuss new ideas as well as solutions to problems they’ve encountered in their own careers.
I’ve also recently been reading Luca Rossi’s Refactoring newsletter which talks about specific engineering and management practices that can help teams scale.
6) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Not a specific person but more of a demographic, I’d be really interested to understand how other engineering leaders in the industry deal with work-life balance during the scale-up stage. I think there’s plenty of books out there about the really early stages of founding a startup as well as running huge businesses but there’s a particular moment in time where there may be more relevant advice than either of those groups.
7) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
I think it’s really important to keep yourself healthy mentally and physically, it’s very easy to fall into a routine of work, work, work so you need to make time for yourself regularly whether it’s time every morning to have your coffee and listen to some music or going for a hike on the weekend away from the work you do. By doing this you give your mind time to regain some energy before you need to focus entirely on work again.
Another way that I’ve done this is to find a hobby that is completely unrelated to my work. Previously I’ve found it easy to pick up a hobby that I would tend to think about monetising which would soon become more work than relaxation and for this reason I’ve consciously chosen to pick something totally different in birdwatching. A few other examples I’ve seen recently are bushwalking, painting, surfing and knitting but it all depends on what interests you.
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