CEOs / Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Melanie Leahy, Co-Founder at Ziinkle

Melanie Leahy is the co-founder at Ziinkle, an Australian dating app that is designed so singles can match and meet in real-life, in real-time.

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

In high school I studied psychology and maths because I enjoyed the scientific and research lead theories. I also studied drama and media because equally I liked the freedom and creativity in communication.

When it came time to apply for university it was an obvious choice to study Marketing, which is my natural passion and strength. The combination of strategy and using insights whilst also having a creative outlet suits me perfectly.

The first job I had was at a boutique marketing and print communications company. This was a great experience because I got to work across a range of clients in different portfolios, like automotive, biomedical science, manufacturing, non-for-profits and finance.

The finance industry struck something within me, and I was fascinated with people’s relationship with money and how it determined so many of the life decisions they make. The behavioural science part of me knew I needed to pursue this further.

I then went and worked for one of the largest and most successful advertising agencies in Australia, specifically working on the NAB account. Being able to get an inside look into the banking industry and a large corporate organisation sparked my desire to go client-side.

I joined CommBank in 2015 and was working in the marketing team of one of the biggest portfolios, which gave me the resources and support to fully explore my passions. I got my first taste of the digital and technology world when I worked on redeveloping and relaunching one of CommBank’s apps.

It was a done deal, and I knew immediately this is what I wanted to do, my purpose was to use technology to help people live their most fulfilling lives.

For the next six years I worked across a range of digital and technology innovation projects and joint venture start-ups. I had the opportunity to work alongside some of the world’s most valuable brands like Google, Microsoft, Samsung, Mastercard and KPMG.

The shift from a large corporation to start-up co-founder and co-CEO is a journey that started when I came out of a long-term relationship. I didn’t know how to get back into dating or where to go out to meet people, so I downloaded a few dating apps but the more I used them, the more frustrated I became.

There was such a lack of connection and my matches rarely led anywhere. It’s really difficult to make a meaningful connection with a digital profile and all I wanted was to meet someone in real-life. Ziinkle was born out of pure frustration with the experiences I was having and the belief that there had to be a better way.

Ziinkle is designed so that singles can match and meet in real-life, in real-time and we’re on a mission to help people find and nurture meaningful and organic romantic connections.

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

Any typical day I wake up at 6:30am, check my phone for any notifications that came in overnight, so I have line of sight of anything that I need to add or remove from my to do list for the day.

At 7am I do an hour at-home workout and then I’m in the home office by 8:30am. Each day can vary, I could be going from a directors meeting into a UX review session with our development team, to catching up with our legal counsel and finance partner for operational meetings.

We currently have a capital raise campaign live with Birchal, so I also have meetings with our media and agency partners, as well as the Birchal team, about the progress and performance of the capital raise.

Late in the afternoon I like to get out for a half hour walk to get some clear headspace, and I often find I do my best thinking when I’m not thinking. I really enjoy this time to mentally recharge.

Then I aim to wrap up the day by 6:30pm so I can prepare dinner and get some couch time in. Lastly, before bed I do 10 mins of meditation and mindfulness with my Calm app to relax and take a moment to be grateful.

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

We do work flexibly and remotely at Ziinkle. Coming from large organisations what frustrated me the most was the commute time and having to be ‘visible’ in the office. We’re conditioned to be busy, but busy doesn’t equal productivity.

Everyone is different and there isn’t a one size fits all approach, which I think the last year and a half has really highlighted for a lot of people. For me, working how and when I need means that I can use my time more efficiently and incorporate the things that matter to me into my daily routine without feeling like I have to rush or tick a box for someone else.

I think there’s a real empowerment in being able to be accountable and manage your time in a way that lets you deliver the things you need to, while also feeling a sense of achievement in your personal life by doing the things that fulfil you.

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

To me work-life balance means at the end of the day I also need to feel like I’ve done something for myself personally. It can be hard, especially in the lockdown environment, some days I feel like I’m working from home, other days it feels like I’m sleeping in the office.

Having a routine helps keep me grounded and fulfilled because I know that, on any given day, I’ll get a bit of all the things that matter to me. I do this by scheduling time for exercise, reading, mindfulness and catching up with the people I care about most, and I follow this a large majority of the time.

I try to be realistic and allow myself flexibility to not do something if I don’t feel like it. I might wake up and not feel like working out in my living room, so I go for a walk instead and that is totally fine. A quote I love which always gives me perspective and keeps me present in the moment is ‘you can do anything but not everything’ from Greg McKeown’s book Essentialism.

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

I’ve always been a routine person. I like taking the energy out of making decisions on the basic things I know I need to do every day and channelling that energy into the things that are going to really move the dial for me.

Exercise and my health have been a priority for most of my life, so I’ll always have those habits in my routine. One thing I’m doing more consciously now is increasing the time I dedicate to reading and picking education over entertainment.

I love learning and now as a co-founder and co-CEO I’m genuinely able to live my purpose and help people live more fulfilling lives, and I want to do that as best as I possibly can.

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

On the topic of work-life balance, and specifically if you feel like you’re stretched too thin, I’d recommend Essentialism by Greg McKeown’s. Some of my favourite recent books are Blink and Outliers by Malcom Gladwell, Explosive Growth by Cliff Lerner and The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz.

I enjoy listening to Guy Raz’s podcast How I Built This and Ted Talks Daily because they feature such a variety of different subjects and I generally love learning; you never know where inspiration may come from.

One of the newsletters that I look forward to each week is The Weekly Wrap from The Remarkable Woman where they highlight the latest news on women from around the world, worth checking out if you’re also a woman in business.

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

I couldn’t live without my nutribullet, my google hub which I play music on all day, the Calm app and Lindt chocolate.

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

Melinda Gates, I’m so inspired by the philanthropy work she does for women world-wide and one day would love to work with her.

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

Live your life authentically and with passion in your purpose. At the end of it all you’re the one who has to look back and be comfortable with the decisions you’ve made.

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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.