Interviews / Operations

Balancing the Grind with Rebecca Bannan, Chief Operating Officer at Emmi

Rebecca Bannan is the Chief Operating Officer at Emmi, a company that exists to help the investment sector understand, manage and solve the financial risk associated with the global carbon transition.

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

I’m the COO at Emmi, a climate tech company trying to provide the infrastructure, tools and ecosystem to help financial markets (and eventually the world) reposition to align with a net zero world.

My background is as an investor and management consultant. I worked running and advising institutional money before moving into financial services business and operations strategy consulting. Before joining Emmi my career was helping companies that make money for a living make more money.

Now my role is very different. I see I have two core responsibilities; firstly I support our incredible visionary co-founders operationalise their idea and build a business around it, and secondly I always ask the question ‘but can clients use it’ leveraging my experience as an investor to ensure our potential for value add is translated into a reality 

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

As COO I am really responsible for the delivery of our strategy and expansion plans. We are an early stage start up with very audacious goals, so we are expanding across a number of dimensions which means I spend my time across clients, products, commercials, operations and people. 

A typical day in my life involves rolling out of bed about 20 minutes before I have to start the day for calls – I am NOT a 5amer and begrudgingly get out of bed pre 7.30 only for important strategic meetings. 

I start every day by jumping onto our daily stand up first thing in the morning and ensuring there are no team roadblocks and working though and solving these straight away. Then I might jump onto our daily product hour to input the strategic direction and execution of our latest product development. I’m also running our latest product launch so I might use this time to escalate issues or check in on direction with the team.

I might then spend an hour or two engaging with clients to understand their use cases and help to improve education – when you’re creating something no one has ever done before education and empowering clients is so critical. I might then draft some new content to support our product roll out or to respond to client queries and improve their experience.

Finally as a scaling business I need to ensure that we have the right people, process, technology and data in place. I will likely spend some time connecting with talent I think might be a good fit and working with the broader team to streamline and automate all our decision making. 

I try to get outside for a walk / run every evening just to keep moving, this either signals the end of my workday or I use it as a way to clear my head before jumping onto evening calls. 

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

One of the first things we did last year before we started to scale was to roll out a work anywhere (within Australia) policy. We want top talent, not top talent limited to a certain geography.

So I work remotely from Brisbane – it’s great as it means I haven’t had to make the family/ lifestyle choice vs career progression and opportunity decision. 

WFH means I can fit my life admin my challenging work schedule (lots of London and New York calls) and look after my very needy covid kitty

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

I don’t really think the “work-life” needs to be in front of “balance.” I think about balancing things that expend my energy and things that give me energy, and ensure I’m not spending more energy than I ‘create’ on a daily basis.

Some ‘life’ can expend my energy so much more than work does. I think through the lens of defining my physical and emotional capacity on a daily, weekly, monthly, whatever basis and allocating my time accordingly.

On some days when I’m really into what I’m doing at work, I can work 15 hours and feel more alive at the end of it, on other days 8 hours drains me. I focus on how I feel and adjust my expectations of myself accordingly. 

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

I started professionally coaching and it has quite literally changed my life. It came at the start of my entrepreneurial journey and has deeply helped me to get out of my own way. I realised how much of my stress was created by myself and more importantly the expectations I had of myself and circumstances I might find myself in

Through the help of my superstar coach, May Samali, I’ve put in place the frameworks to allow me to be a better version of myself, bring my full self to the table, and surf the waves of what’s coming rather than battling them 

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

A few books have completely shaped my career and direction: 

Half the Sky encouraged me to dedicate my life to build a more fair and equitable system 

Doughnut Economics helped me to see just how fundamentally broken the system is 

Principles and Drive helps me to see the importance of HOW you do things and lining up work that truly motivates you 

The Hard Thing About Hard Things remains my bible for building a successful startup, every time I glance through it, I learn something new.   

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

  • – I’m obsessed I can track everything across the company and my personal life 
  • reMarkable – you’d think I get sales commission I go on about it that much 
  • PQ app – helps me to stay centred and stay out of fight or flight mode where I’m least productive 

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

Doc Rivers or Ray Dalio. I’m equally obsessed with both of them, not just because of what they have achieved but the incredible amount of time they have sunk into thinking about HOW they have achieved it. Something all of us running companies could do more of. 

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

Ultimately I think balancing the grind had two dimensions 

1) Reduce the grind 

  • Work smart, not hard. Put systems in place that allow you to be your most effective self. For me this has been controlling my saboteurs and quieting that negative voice in my head that impacts my performance
  • Set boundaries. What works best for you is different for everyone so evaluating what you need to work most effectively is critical. I hate early mornings but don’t mind back to back meetings. I despise 30 min gaps where I can’t get into things but I’m fine working until 10/11pm. Set your own rhythm and schedule 

2) Make the grind feel less like a grind 

This is what is really important and I have a few things I have learnt the hard way through my career

  • There is a right and wrong kind of difficulty. Focus your time on effort on the things that are hard because they push you to grow and learn. I get so much energy from what I do, even though what I’m doing is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, it feels great to push through it. 
  • Do it with the right people. Life is too short to hate the people you work with or work for, spending your working hours alongside people that are a genuine joy to be around is the best 
  • Do it for the right reasons. When things get tough an Emmi the fact we are trying to change the world and have a huge impact on limiting the effects of climate change keeps me going. It’s my why and shining light in the dark times. 

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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.