CEOs / Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Mimi Lee, Founder & CEO at Meiava

Mimi Lee is the Founder and CEO of Meiava, a startup that is on a mission to elevate more women into leadership and support them in their career and life goals.

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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 Founder and CEO of Meiava, a startup that helps women to connect with advisors to support them in their career growth. We are on a mission to elevate more women in leadership by supporting companies to sustain a pipeline of female talent.

Our advisor matching platform, Meiava Elevate, makes it easier for women to access a diverse network of advisors and peers to have conversations on career and personal development topics of interest to them and match based on relationship chemistry.

After a rewarding career in the professional services industry, I made a pivot to broaden my experience as a female entrepreneur and angel investor. Previously, I was a Global Managing Director with Deloitte serving on the leadership team for the Global Consumer and Industrial industry group.

I was responsible for developing the go-to-market strategy and collaborating with global teams to deliver strategic initiatives that cultivate client relationships, accelerate revenue growth, and enhance brand reputation. 

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

I am an early riser waking up between 5.30 a.m. to 6.00 a.m. on most days. An expresso helps to kick start my routine. Some days I schedule an early morning 6:00 am sales or networking call with people based in North America. I do a quick 15-minute check of emails and scan the global news headlines before switching gears to get the kids ready and dropped off at school. 

My work schedule looks different each day and may include sales calls and outreach to prospective customers. We are creating a new marketing lead generation campaign currently. And, I am spending time working on ways to enhance the content and user experience for mentees and advisors using Meiava Elevate.

You will find me conferring with others to devise our new Meiava memberships which we are excited to launch soon. I am also scouting ideas and talking with potential strategic collaborators.

Each month I am editing our Meiava newsletter to send to our global community. Also, I do a periodic review of our progress to our business plan. Added to this, I schedule time for coaching conversations with women on our advisor matching platform and others that I support with advice.

I look forward to the days that I can fit in an afternoon walk and stretch break. Cooking in the evening is a way to transition and decompress. After sitting down for a family dinner, I try to fit in a last hour of work or any calls and look ahead at the schedule for the next day. There is time spent with the kids in the evening relaxing before an early bedtime.

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

I have been remote and hybrid working for well over a decade now in my previous global roles within the professional services industry, and now as in a startup environment.

In the United States where I worked for most of my career, the remote and hybrid work arrangement is a norm in the consulting industry. There is a high degree of trust to enable team members to make their own decisions as to when they need to be onsite in the office or client location and when they work from home – as long as the team and individual contributions are delivered.

It has been instrumental in enabling me to juggle work and life priorities, especially as a working mom, and it helped increase my productivity and focus. 

During the last couple of years, I have been doing virtual meetings due to Covid-19, but I am taking every opportunity to connect with people in person to build relationships. Meiava’s customers and community are global, so my flexible work schedule aligns well to connect with them across different time zones.

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

It is about work life integration rather than striving for a perfect balance. We can easily create “imbalance” in our lives by setting higher expectations for ourselves, while also trying to live up to the expectations set by others.

I have learnt that the hard way. At various times in my life, I have had different levels of capacity based on my time and energy, the opportunities in front of me, and the help of others around me. Somehow, I found a way to juggle it all. 

I do not miss the days of back-to-back calls/meetings where I forgot to or had little time to eat lunch. And, not to mention the constant gear-shifting between topics. It was like training for a triathlon that challenges your endurance and mental agility. The adrenaline of work can be highly addictive until you stop to realise the weight it can have on your health and well-being.

For those of us who are working and have primary caregiver responsibilities for children or other family members, we are often more time poor, so it is easier to forget about looking after ourselves. I could relate to what one mother once said to me, “I feel like I do a day’s worth of work before I go to work and another day’s work when I get home.”

Honestly, I am still working on finding what work life integration means for me today. Two simple actions I take is to regularly reflect on my short-term work and life goals and write these down.

For years now, I have made it a habit to prioritise time on my calendar for actions around these goals and the people that matter most to me – rather than be driven by my email inbox which was flooded with several hundreds of daily messages.

It has been incredibly helpful to improve my focus, allow me to get more done, while also being mindful of taking time out for my wellness.

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

Three things that I have prioritised more have been my wellness, networking, and short-term goals. 

I try to get at least 7 hours of sleep and go for walks or runs to clear my head. Just being outdoors brings for me a sense of calm. 

Meeting new people and building my global network energises me. I find it fascinating to learn more about the journey others have taken to get to where they are today. I actively started last year to reach out and meet new people (mostly virtually and some in-person) and have also made time to renew old connections. 

Finally, I have changed my time horizon to focus more on shorter-term goals and priorities for the day, week ahead, or the month. This is helping me to make incremental changes and accomplish things step-by-step, rather than feeling overwhelmed with the weight of everything.

What have I stopped? Personally, I have not been a big user of social media until understanding the importance of it to build brand visibility for my startup, Meiava. Social media can be both inspiring, yet also very consuming in time and mental wellness.

We spend so much time looking at our phones and laptops to check out what others are up to and do our work. There can be a negative mental wellness impact that social media has by creating a pressure to post every thought or event in our lives.

Over the last 6 months, I have reduced social media activity to only the necessary things for my startup and to show support and celebrate others. Being present in the moment with those around you is important to me and something that I notice when others do the same.

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

I recommend reading You’ve Got This! by Dr. Margie Warrell. At a crossroad in my journey, I had picked up her book and it supported me through major changes and setbacks that I have been experiencing in work and life.

Through one of my connections, I was introduced to Margie and in a recent meeting, thanked her for sharing her uplifting personal stories and coaching advice. A message from this book that resonated with me was to trust in yourself and connect with others as “True friends uplift us when our wings are struggling to remember how to fly.”

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

I have always been an avid note taker and love to write down ideas in my Moleskine notebook. I like the power of paper and pen, but they also have a digital version which I received as a gift. Keeping notebooks and flipping through them provides a reminder of the people, ideas, and great conversations along the way. Also, these days I live in my Brooks running shoes. They are incredibly comfortable and put a “spring” in my walk and running stride. 

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

No one specific in mind. In fact, I absolutely love the format of Balance The Grind and your team’s effort to unlock the work-life stories of a diverse array of everyday people. 

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

Let’s face it, work life balance is a myth. Finding that perfect 50:50 balance is tough and somewhat unrealistic for most of us. Many of us struggle even on our best days to find our own sense of work life integration. 

I think that shifting the perspective from work life balance to work life integration is especially important for women. Why? Because if anything, the COVID-19 pandemic has magnified the invisible additional load that women carry at home especially with caregiving responsibilities, and the stepped-up efforts needed to make workplaces gender equal.

When this happens, work life balance becomes less of a topic, and we move forward to showcase the impact that women (and men) continue to make at work and in their roles within families and communities.

We spend a significant amount of our life working and building a career. While it can be a source of immense fulfilment in learning, stretching your capabilities, and celebrating great accomplishments – it should not be what defines you. Having life aspirations and enriching experiences and spending time with people that matter is what counts in the end.

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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.