Balancing the Grind with Nathalie Rafeh, Entrepreneurship Educator

Nathalie Rafeh is an Entrepreneur In Residence at global VC & startup generator Antler. She is also a part of the UNSW Founders team, providing advice to startup founders.

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

I’ve always been into finding ways to do things better, solve problems, improve processes and methods and be creative in doing so. I then found out that this space is fitting a space called startups.

So I’ve always been a startup kid and continue to naturally be drawn to it! My background is in growth, operations, and strategy & go to market.

I started off initially doing my own SME consultancy after I noticed that many businesses were slow in terms of digitisation – then I moved to project management in IT but realised I’ve always been motivated by solving problems and building things.

I joined a startup where I kicked off and grew a business there as well as my own ecommerce business before joining UNSW’s entrepreneurship team to help teach and create more startup kids (you can never have enough) 

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

 Depending on the days whether I am working from home or not but I usually like to wake up around 3 hours before work so I get enough time to have a quiet morning and catch up on news that I missed out from the rest of the world due to the timezone difference.

If I am heading to work I try to get there around 10am to avoid the early busyness and do an hour or two from home before that. I split my days between privately consulting for startups or advising startups at UNSW so they vastly vary, which is what I love most.

I also like to go for walks during the workday and often find myself strolling around to get moving. I wrap up early and either exercise, see some mates or head home for dinner.

I like to spend my evenings quickly prepping for my next day, read, or learn a new skill or about a new thing. (Often though, I am exploring a new masterplan to tackle)

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

Absolutely. It fits perfectly as I have never been someone that liked rigid routines and structured times. I really like how I can plan my calendar around the different activities I do every week and it changes.

I also do some startup meetings on the weekend usually in the mornings before kicking off to other activities and it doesn’t bother me one bit. I still get time to unwind and recharge.

I do miss kicking off a new startup so ask me again in a few months time!

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

For me it means to be able to integrate different pillars of my life at once and acknowledge.

When you love what you do, hours stop becoming so structured and rigid (e.g. I will only give X hours) and become more intertwined.

As long as I get  to be able to make time for my family, exercise, and have some time for myself during the day then I am happy.

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

I have started avoiding putting off minor tasks e.g. if a task requires less than 1 minute just do it now. It helps you so much without realising

I have started reflecting,  journaling more. I did it for a short while 8 years ago but couldn’t keep up.

I sometimes now try to do a 5-10min of meditation when I get the chance weekly. Meditation never really worked for me and often I struggled to like it so I am slowly getting there because I realise how calming it can be. You’re really telling your mind to avoid overthinking and just shut off.

I have also begun the habit of going out of my comfort zone every once in a while and begun new activities like painting, motorbiking as well as reading fiction books (I am a big non fiction reader so that is a stepping stone).

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

A bit of a mix! 

Books: Strategy Beyond the Hockey Stick by Mckinsey, Huxley Brave New World, Marcus Aurelius Meditations and Salm Walton Made in America.

Podcast: The Economist Radio.

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

My Mac and phone are a given but Spotify, Maps, Google, Messenger and cordless earphones are essential. I can deal without the rest. Despite loving tech and gadgets, I am not too tied to many apps for regular use.

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

Perhaps Angela Merkel and  Elon Musk.

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

For me there is no magic formula to work life balance. Ultimately, work life balance is a system to achieve more happiness in your life. How that fits your bill is up to you to create and optimise.

For me, it is not about  working longer or working harder. It’s about working smarter. That doesn’t mean I don’t work hard or long, especially when certain circumstances require me to. I am just wary that other facets of my life are just as important to be filled for me to be a high performer at work.

Having time for myself, my friends and family and my health is crucial for me to continue nurturing doing what I love.  

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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.