Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Michelle Dear, Co-Founder of Tandem

Michelle Dear leads user acquisition and is the co-founder of Tandem, a consumer fintech platform for couples.

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

I started my career in finance as a private equity investor and loved it, but knew I wanted to do something on my own at some point. The concept for Tandem came to us when we realised how big of a pain it was to share expenses when we moved in with our respective partners.

My fiance and I had actually physically sat down at Chase bank to open a joint account and apply for new credit cards to attach to it.

As the years went on and more of our friends started to move in together, we noticed it was consistent that couples needed a better way to share expenses – a way that eliminated the back-and-forth of Venmo without the need to get a joint account.

There was nothing like that in the market, so Tandem was born to solve a problem we were living with daily. Tandem is an app that allows couples to import expenses from their current spending accounts, seamlessly select the items to split with their partner, automate recurring expenses, and settle up at any time.

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

I typically wake up early and get a workout in. I live in Chicago and love to run by the water in the summer. From there, I make coffee and dive right into the day. The morning is spent responding to any urgent emails/Slack messages and then I try to block off a couple hours for “deep thinking work”.

I find I’m most productive in the morning, so I try to knock out the tasks that will take the most effort at that point. From then on it’s typically meetings and calls and getting caught up on anything else.

After that I’ll have dinner with my fiance, and then do a few more hours of light stuff, like posting content to our social channels or reading up on articles, email outreach, etc. I would consider that a chill day. There are also days spent putting out fires, of course. 

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

The concept is really strange as an entrepreneur because you create your own schedule to an extent, but you are always aware that if you don’t constantly move the ball forward, no one else will.

I’ve found the blur between work and life is exacerbated when you are a founding member of a company because it means so much to you that you don’t mind integrating work where you may not have when working for a larger organisation. I was a soccer player my whole life and therefore really attach to exercise as a way to give my mind a break.

I believe if you aren’t healthy you aren’t able to perform at your best, so taking the time you need to get mentally and physically healthy is just as “productive” as shelling out emails for an hour. It’s all interconnected.

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

I’ve been working on a few things to help my mental well-being. One is not looking at my phone first thing when I wake up (I feel once you start filtering through email and messages you’re in it, so waiting 30 mins or so to wake up and clear your mind is huge).

I also try to have a smoothie for breakfast every morning after I workout so I am not going hours without nutrients. It’s always been easy for me to skip meals when I’m stressed or working hard on something, and I believe that impacts your mental ability to deal with things. 

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

The most impactful book I’ve read from a business standpoint is Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. It was a gift from one of my bosses (now angel investor) and I read it in my first year of working. It really helped shape my work style and how I approach contributing and making an impact on an organisation.

I also love The Morning After with Kelly Stafford podcast. It has nothing to do with work so it’s kind of my escape that I look forward to (plus I’m a Michigan native and therefore a huge Kelly & Matthew Stafford fan). I listen to it weekly when I’m making dinner.

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

Sara Blakely (Spanxx Founder & CEO). I think she has absolutely cracked the code.

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

It’s never going to be perfect, your work and your life are going to constantly be evolving and your priorities will shift. What I’ve learned (and am trying to practice) is that the most important thing is to enjoy the time you have – whether it’s working with your team, hanging out with friends and family, or just making dinner at night alone. Everything is temporary, and you are the only one who truly feels your happiness level. Life should not be taken too seriously. 

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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.