CEOs / Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Nicole Tj, Co-Founder & CEO at Travis

Nicole Tj is the co-founder & CEO at Travis, a travel startup building consumer travel technology for millennials and Gen Z travellers to discover, curate and book their next best trips.

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

I’m co-founder and CEO of Travis – a travel startup. We’re building consumer travel technology for millennials and Gen Z travellers to discover, curate and book their next best trips – in one place. I founded this with my partner, Thomas Lo – we’ve worked together for the last 11 years, through various side hustles, career pivots, our first business venture, and now Travis. 

I had worked in consulting at Deloitte Digital for 5 years prior to this, focusing on strategy and corporate innovation. At the same time, I had a dual career as a classical pianist.

Thomas and I had founded a music and creative studio called anon. – where we curated, produced and performed in live events that aimed to reimagine the classical music experience. This included curating a music series at NGV Friday Nights and being invited to speak at TEDx in Washington DC

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

My role changes from week to week, depending on what we’re focusing on at that point in time. Working remote, we keep things grounded with a daily standup, then meetings with the team usually or anything product or marketing – or with external partners we’re looking to work with.

I usually try to get solid stretches of work done in the afternoon, this could vary from creating new video and social content for our newest product launch, or outreaching and pitching to new creators or hotels in Australia and US, or diving deep into our product analytics. 

I do come back to work after dinner – it could be a mix of strategic planning for the next month / quarter and researching new trends, competitors, inspiration, or tallying up our expenses and financial forecasting. 

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

Yes – it’s remote and flexible. It’s a way of working that we’ve gotten comfortable with and made work during the pandemic, and definitely can see us building out our team with a remote approach. It saves so much time that would have otherwise been spent on public transport, and overall I’m loving it more. 

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

I recently came across the concept of work-life integration – and to be honest that is probably where it sits for me right now.

As a startup founder, things are always-on and having a clearly defined start and stop between work and life is not always possible. What works instead is being able to work flexibly so that ‘life’ can fit harmoniously with work.

That being said, my favourite ‘me’ time activities are spending time at the piano, or cooking up new dishes – I make sure to do that as much as possible, it keeps me in balance!

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

I’ve started cooking much more than I did prior to the pandemic, and while I don’t do overly complex dishes it’s a surprising creative chaos kind of outlet for me to get innovative with ingredients in the kitchen to spring up new cuisines and flavours. 

Also Netflix has (unexpectedly) become a regular part of my everyday entertainment – which helps wonders to have something easy to wind down with.

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

How I Built This by Guy Raz is probably the main podcast I listen to. I love the startup stories of founders from all different industries and especially where they share stories that show that their ‘overnight’ success story was built through sheer vision, grit, and belief of the founders. Some faves by founders of ClassPass, Starbucks, Calendly, Spanx and more.

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

Piano is the number one thing I can’t live without. It’s been with me since I was 4. Music keeps me sane, gets me excited, or focuses my attention – so where there isn’t the piano, Spotify and stumbling on new music and playlists there has been invaluable in keeping me company.

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

Melanie Perkins and Cliff Obrecht – co-founders of Canva. They’ve shown that they’ve been able to make being a couple and co-founders work – very successfully – even if there are people out there who couldn’t imagine ever working that closely with their partner.

It’s something that Thomas and I talk about all the time – we’ve learnt to work together over the years, with complimentary skills and a shared vision in lots of things – so learning about the realities of how other couple-founders balance their work/life, is something I’m curious about.

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

I’ve learnt that it means different things to different people. Founder life is hard, so the way I do work / life / balance right now wouldn’t be what other people love, and vice versa. So do what works for you for where you are in life – and understand what works for others.

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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.