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Balancing the Grind with Nic Dahlquist, CO-Founder & CTO at BaseNote

Nic Dahlquist is the co-founder & CTO at BaseNote, a music tech startup that has an ambitious goal: to redefine how musicians fund their work.

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

Sure! I started my career off by joining Snapchat as an intern, after my third year of university. Following my internship, I made the decision to drop out of college and join full-time (which turned out to be a fantastic decision, in hindsight).

I did a few years at Snapchat, a few years as an engineering manager at another tech startup, and then last year I started BaseNote along with two co-founders.

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

As a startup founder, each day is different! Last week, I was networking at SXSW. This week, I’m focused on our lead-gen and partnerships pipeline (optimising our marketing campaigns, having discussions with potential partners, etc.).

Next week, I’m hoping to spend some time on product design and development. Surprisingly for a CTO, engineering and engineering management currently make up the minority of my work.

I generally start my days by catching up on Slack messages and emails (we are a fully remote team, so this is how most of our communication happens). I usually have a few video call meetings per day, and I fill in the rest of the day with deep work tasks.

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

Absolutely. From the start, BaseNote has been a fully remote company, with employees spread across multiple time zones. I love working remotely. My wife and I actually went on a multi-month road trip, spending a week at a time in different cities all across the western US. I’m extremely thankful for the experience of working from Vail, Seattle, Phoenix, Napa, Denver, etc.

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

There’s a school of thought that work-life balance means that at 6 every day (or whatever hour you set), you cut yourself off from work and focus on other things.

For me, work-life balance is more flexible than that- it means the freedom to switch off work when I want to (but not necessarily at predetermined hours). If I want to work on a Saturday morning to get ahead, great! If I want to take a Wednesday afternoon off to go hiking with friends, also great.

In practice, I’ve been fortunate enough to always have jobs that I’ve legitimately enjoyed, which often means that I choose to work long hours. But I leave myself the flexibility to take time off when I want to; whether that’s for friends and family, non-work priorities, or just because I’m low on “work energy”.

Caveat: I do think that vacations should be fully cut off from work stuff. Both for mental health, and because that results in more resilient organisations.

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

The digital nomad lifestyle was really great for about 6 months, and I would absolutely recommend it, but it eventually felt taxing to be moving around so much without a home base. My wife and I actually just bought a house, and we’re looking forward to settling down for a bit.

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

Since BaseNote is a company at the intersection of music and finance, a few of us enjoy reading Matt Levine’s Money Stuff newsletter. It’s a fun way to gain perspective on current happenings in the finance world.

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

I’m a big fan of the reMarkable 2 tablet. It’s an ePaper tablet that writes like paper. I used to use paper notebooks for note-taking, but the reMarkable is thinner, sleeker, and backs up to the cloud.

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

I’d be intrigued to read an interview from Elon Musk. Obviously not because he’s a champion of work-life balance, but because I think his perspective would be unorthodox and interesting.

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

I think it all starts with finding the right job and manager, and that’s the hard part. After that, consistently make time for friends, family, and yourself, and the rest follows.

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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.