CEOs / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Michael Donoghue, CEO of IPSI

Michael Donoghue is the CEO of IPSI, a highly flexible and secure digital payment technology business that he co-founded in 2006.

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

I am the CEO of IPSI , which is a highly flexible and secure digital payment technology business. 

I’m from Dublin originally and I have degrees in philosophy and economics with a postgrad in financial services. After college I was a business analyst at the Korean Exchange Bank in Ireland. 

I love to travel, so I was on a round-the-world ticket when I fell in love with Australia and decided to stay. I had a role as an analyst at an Australian bank before I moved into digital payment companies as an analyst, then sales, account management and channel management.

I co-founded IPSI in 2006 because I noticed that most banks and a lot of companies struggled to keep up with their customers’ evolving needs and meet the related  security compliance requirements.

As CEO, I manage the overall corporate strategy, channel strategy and the leadership team.

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

6am: Wake up

Most mornings, I try to meditate for 20 minutes. I did a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) course just before COVID-19 hit as I’ve always been interested in meditation. My sister, based in Ireland, is an MBSR coach and suggested I do it. It was very beneficial and I’ve encouraged team members to do it  (paid for by the company).

7.15am: Plan the day at home

After this I walk to the office, which takes 15 minutes (I bring the dog to the office most days). While there is still a heavy slant towards video conferencing, I like to work from the office most days to benefit from team interaction and physical meetings. We are also just finalising our office expansion, so it’s useful to be onsite. 

On Monday this week I had six meetings. Topics ranged from new major clients rolling out our secure payment technology for their call centres and their online channels, onboarding our new CFO, board recruitment and investor media planning for 2022.

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

Yes, our team has the flexibility to combine in-office and remote working. We have all the necessary tech to work from home easily, including video conferencing and cloud-based services.

Our office is in Pyrmont, Jones Bay Wharf, which overlooks Sydney Harbour and it’s a very pleasant place to work so we love having meetings on the balcony, which helps with face-to-face connection and a pleasant atmosphere. 

Walking to and from the office gives me some exercise and time to mentally prepare for the day or reflect once I finish up for the day.

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

Being able to make time for things that are important is what I consider to be work-life balance, whether that’s 20 minutes a day for a practice like meditation or carving out time to spend with the team, friends or my son.

I find that getting up a bit earlier provides the space to achieve balance as my working day can be quite consuming. As the saying goes, the days are long but the years are short, so getting up earlier provides the time for planning, prioritisation and non-work activities.

I also do a training session with a personal trainer every Wednesday morning to break up the work week, which I find very helpful in terms of psychological balance. 

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

The mindfulness skills I’ve developed and my ongoing interest in philosophy, psychology and stoicism have helped greatly during the last two years of COVID-19, which have been challenging for us all. It’s why I’ve recommended MBSR and am happy for the business to fund it.

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

This year I read a number of books by Ryan Holiday on the topic of stoicism. He also has a podcast, The Daily Stoic, and a newsletter.

The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch was good in terms of reaffirming the need to prioritise my and the team’s time to focus on the right areas. This not only maximises results, it also protects time to ensure work-life balance.

I find Andrew Laurie’s management books to be excellent and highly practical for work, particularly managing a team. 

For meditation, in addition to doing an MBSR course, I like the Waking Up with Sam Harris app. For something a bit heavier, check out Alan Watts on YouTube and Marcus Aurelius’s book, ‘Meditations’. 

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

My new tablet, my smartphone, Microsoft Teams, Microsoft To Do, CrewMojo for people management, and Blinkist, which I find very useful for quick educational insights, particularly within the area of business and management.

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

Sam Harris, or Alan Watts if he were alive.

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

Plan, prioritise and stay the course, the results will follow. Focus on what you can control and influence, as opposed to that which you can’t, and prioritise accordingly.

In terms of fostering a positive and calm workplace, it’s important to have a great team around you that can work together to achieve goals, with the confidence that they also have the ability to solve problems should they arise.

Work smart and hard, and don’t forget the ‘life’ part. It’s often difficult to maintain the optimum balance given the competing demands on our time.

So it’s important to not only quantify balance in purely numerical terms (percentage of time working versus not working) but also where our attention is directed. When we spend time alone or with friends or family, our minds can often be elsewhere, thinking about work. It’s important to truly disconnect.

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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.