Paul Wong is a co-founder at JourneyLab.io, a portfolio governance platform for large organisations seeking to adapt their business for the future.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I’ve always aimed to follow my interests. At university, I did a combined degree in engineering and commerce, then completed a PhD in biomedical engineering because I was fascinated by neurobionics and computational modelling. After that, I wanted to learn more about business and higher-order decision making, so I joined PwC Strategy&, a global management consulting firm.
While I was there, I worked with a range of private and public sector organisations on their biggest strategic challenges. Every client’s context was unique, but as an outsider I could see that the core issues were common – even across industries. After reflecting on this with a fellow colleague who had similar observations (Yuyan Wang), we decided to found JourneyLab to help senior executives turn change into their competitive advantage.
As a co-founder, I do a bit of everything. My main focus is currently on developing our platform, where I act as the bridge between customers and our technology team to ensure we are meeting expectations from both a business logic and user experience perspective.
2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I’m more of a night owl than an early bird so I try to structure my day with that in mind.
I typically get up around 8am and keep a simple breakfast routine. Most days, work starts with a morning call from my co-founder to discuss any overnight reflections and align on priorities. Then I check and update our Jira board, and review and test any overnight code changes from our broader dev team so they can get going whenever they’re back online. The rest of the day includes a mix of meetings with advisors, leads and sometimes investors, and calls with my team. I find time between those for front-end development, which continues into the evenings when I’m in flow.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Yep, we have a remote team and all work flexibly. When we first started, my cofounder and I based ourselves in a co-working space which was important for keeping aligned while navigating the ambiguity, but after the lockdowns in 2021 and as our roles evolved to more distinct responsibilities, we realised we no longer needed to be in the same space. After all, we have an amazing team and are all adults who trust each other to get things done.
Being able to work from home has saved me a ton of commute time, but aside from that I find that it helps me get more out of my time and energy. For instance, if I’m stuck on a coding problem, I can take a quick screen break and let my unconscious mind work through things by doing some laundry or going for a walk or run. I’ve also cooked my own food more often instead of eating out.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
For me, purpose comes first. To achieve that, it’s inevitable that you’ll have to balance many different things, and that requires ongoing effort, but you also have a choice in how you balance things: in parallel or in series.
On purpose, what helped me the most is the Japanese concept of ikigai, which is about finding the intersection of four things: what you enjoy, what you’re good at, what you can get paid for, and what the world needs. Each step in your career should take you closer to that, and the problem we are tackling through JourneyLab hits the spot for me.
Then it’s about figuring out what to balance at a point in time (in parallel) versus over time (in series). I’ve found it helpful to take a long-term view and work backwards from there. Some of the things I’ve balanced over time are skill stacking and life path. Shorter term, paying attention to where your attention goes is crucial but often underrated. Setting boundaries, prioritising tasks, and reflecting on effectiveness are key to being productive and not just busy week after week.
Ultimately though, it’s all about experimenting with yourself to find out what works best.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
I watch the sunset on most evenings when I’m working from home to give my eyes a screen break and appreciate the beauty of nature.
I’ve also consciously tried to take weekends off as much as possible and spend that time with my partner or family. As a founder, it’s hard to stop my mind from thinking through problems and I can’t control when inspiration strikes so I don’t expect myself to adhere to this perfectly, but at least the principle is there to guide me.
I stopped getting regular haircuts. Initially this was because of lockdown, then a bit of laziness, but now I’m using it as a chance to experiment with some longer hairstyles. I’ve only changed hairstyles a couple of times so far in my life, so it feels like a pretty dramatic change for me. It’s been fun to see the reactions from friends and family.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
- Cascade, by Greg Satell – on how to make change happen at scale
- Range, by David Epstein – on finding match fit for your life and career
- Cooking for Geeks, by Jeff Potter – for understanding the why behind cooking
- 3-2-1 Thursday, by James Clear (author of Atomic Habits) – quick reads that are full of wisdom and prompt meaningful reflection
- xkcd, by Randall Monroe – a fun webcomic for tech geeks
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
I’m a huge techie and have a heap of devices (desktop, laptop, smartphone, Remarkable, iPad, DSLR, drone), but I don’t feel attached to any of them. In my current role, my desktop and smartphone are non-negotiables, but outside of that context I try to minimise my device usage.
Controversial opinion: something I think we could all live without is social media. There are so many moments lost in today’s world, not just directly from habits like doom-scrolling, but also because of how social media steals you away from the present. I learnt from photography that it’s often better to just use your eyes and appreciate the moment instead of trying to capture it for likes.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
I’d love to hear from Elon Musk, with a comparison of how he approached it before his time at PayPal versus now.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
I think there’s a real opportunity to have more conversations about these topics as part of our formal education system. When I was teaching at university, I would actually dedicate part of a tutorial (later in the semester) to this and have an open discussion with my students on careers, life choices, growth mindset, and related topics. The feedback I got each time was extremely positive, and I truly believe that the perspectives offered have made a meaningful difference to them.
If anyone reading this wants to give it a go but isn’t sure how to start, please feel free to reach out – I’m more than happy to help!
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