Balancing the Grind with Rory Preston, Principal & Founder at Eudemo

Rory Preston is the Principal & Founder at Eudemo, a venture consultancy that specialises in full-stack data & analytics.

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

My primary interests work-wise and academically have pretty much always been centred around data, and putting it to use to understand things of practical importance.

After university, where I studied Economics and then Maths & Stats, I joined an early-stage data and analytics consultancy in London called JMAN Group, as their 2nd/3rd employee. We experienced a lot of growth for the few years I was there, with all the excitement and pains that can come with that. It was certainly a big learning curve!

But it made it clear to me that there was a big commercial opportunity in helping companies make sense of their data, and become more data driven. It was an area where new entrants could compete – and potentially outcompete – the bigger incumbents.

Whilst at JMAN, we also did some work with early-stage startups, helping them with their tech and data development. I was fortunate enough to work with a startup called Limber, building a hospitality shift-working marketplace.

But that really showed me my passion for early-stage software environments. I just loved it – the sense of creation, purpose, and freedom to influence the company’s direction at its most formative stage I found highly motivating.

After that, I got the opportunity to join a data software startup called Count – setup by a former colleague – and jumped at it. It was early days for them then, but they’ve since gone on to release a Miro-like data canvas, which in my opinion is a brilliant addition to the world of data tools.

Unfortunately, during that time I experienced the beginnings of ME/CFS – a horrid and potentially very debilitating illness, which is woefully understood and under-researched. I was forced to stop work, move home to live with my family, and ultimately became bed-bound over a period of several years.

It was a very bleak period, with genuine uncertainty over whether I was going to be able to find a way back – something a lot more people are now facing with the ever-growing scourge of Long COVID.

However, I personally experienced a turn in the tide with a change of medication in early 2021. Since then, I’ve been gradually rebuilding all facets of my life – including work. I decided to set up my own data and analytics consultancy, called Eudemo, to enable the flexibility I required to gradually move back into things – and I haven’t regretted it one bit! It’s currently just me, but I think the demand is there, so I’m excited to see where it leads.

I now work as a full-stack data and analytics consultant – with tech product companies taking on big problems. My first major client is Visible – an app and wearable platform, for people with Long COVID and ME/CFS, to help them monitor the body’s signals, track their condition, and pace their activity. It’s a brilliant team, and I couldn’t be happier to be working on something to address the condition that so severely debilitated me.

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

The effects of ME can still make it quite difficult to get going in the morning, so I tend to wake up around 9am – and typically start work around 10am.

I usually work from home, thankfully with a little study space that I can close the door on. That is something I’ve found to be very beneficial for maintaining some sort of work-life balance!

I find the morning most productive for analytical or technical work (or sometimes later at night), so I’ll usually try and crack on with the ‘big thing of the day’ straight away. Eat the frog, as they say! This may be prototyping a model, coding work, data analysis, or just thinking through something we want to implement.

I find I can do about 1.5 or 2 hours of concentrated work, before getting quite tired. After my morning session, I’ll go out for a little wander around beautiful Edinburgh, to stretch my legs and pick up lunch. The botanic gardens are a favourite haunt!

After that, I usually need a lie down – to help manage my energy levels. After a rest, I’ll then move onto my afternoon work session. This may involve some calls with other team members, or discussion over Slack: getting feedback, discussing ideas, or how we’re going to implement new features.

With Visible, quite a lot of the communication is done asynchronously – Loom is a tool we’ve found incredibly useful for sharing video updates. This is particularly important as people with ME/CFS and Long COVID can find in-person conversations very draining – and over half of the Visible team has lived experience of these conditions. So we’ve really had to push the boat out on efficient comms – and I have to say, the results have been pretty amazing to me!

I’ll then take another rest period in the late afternoon. The key thing for me is flexibility: being able to listen to my body, and be in control of when I work, and when I rest. That means each day can vary quite a bit. But at the moment, I’m averaging around 4 hours of project work per day, with an additional hour or two spent building up Eudemo itself.

Sometimes that’ll be it for my work day. But if I’m hitting a particularly creative or productive streak, I may find myself picking things up again later in the evening. I find that calm period, where everyone else has signed off, can be very helpful for more creative thinking!

In the evening, I like to go to the gym or swim – sometimes only very gently – to help me unwind and relax, before crashing out on the sofa. Then it’s fun TV, podcasts, or a bit of reading to help me unwind. Meditation is something I’ve also found really helpful for stilling the mind, and stopping at the end of the day.

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

Work-life balance for me means having the freedom to exercise choice. Choice over when I want to work, and really get stuck into it. And choice over when I need to rest, take time out, and enjoy other aspects of life.

For me, that’s something that’s really been enabled by becoming my own boss – and being very open and transparent with my clients about how I need to work, and what they can expect from me.

I’ve so far been very careful about which projects I take on, and which people I work with – to make sure they understand my need to balance work with rest, and to take each week and month as it comes.

I think trust plays a key role here, and I’ve tried to work hard at being open and transparent about where I am in my recovery, when things are going well or I’m experiencing difficulty, and what (if anything) they can do to help. I think that sort of clear communication goes a long way – as if people are well informed, they tend to be a lot more understanding and empathetic.

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

My routines have hugely changed over the last 12 to 18 months, compared to before falling unwell. This has been to help me manage my condition, and make sure I’m prioritising my health. It’s mostly been out of necessity, and without question has been the most difficult period of my life.

However, it’s also forced me to decide what matters most, what is worth my energy, and what is not. It also led me to starting my own company – something I’ve implicitly wanted to do for a long time, but may have put off without the need to really be in control of my own hours, and how I engage with the world of work!

I’m hopeful that in the long run, by building in more pit stops along the way, and more time for relaxation and enjoyment, I’ll be on a much better and more enjoyable path than might have otherwise been the case.

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

On the more serious end of the spectrum, a real standout for me has been Thinking Fast & Slow, by Daniel Kahneman – which summarises his life’s work in cognitive psychology, and the beginnings of behavioural economics, with his late research partner Amos Tversky. As one review says, ‘buy it fast, read it slow’!

To balance it, I’d highly recommend a PG Wodehouse novel – for example, The Code of the Woosters. They’re very silly, totally escapist, but masterfully written. A real joy.

As for podcasts, I tend to listen mostly for relaxation, rather than anything more studious. I’d like to give shoutouts to No Such Thing As a Fish (a comedy podcast from the makers of QI), The Rest is History (a tour of any and every historical topic you can think of), and Stadio – which I think is the best football podcast out there!

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

I think one of my favourite people to listen to or read on this sort of topic is Naval Ravikant, the founder & CEO of AngelList. He was the first prominent person in tech who I heard talking about more than just having a successful career, and optimising everything around that – but having a happy and fulfilling life.

He’s a philosophical thinker, and I remember finding that a very pleasing tonic to a lot of the discourse. I would highly recommend seeking out his conversations – for example, on the Farnam Street podcast.

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

As a parting shot, I’d like to give a shout out to the company Flexa Careers. They’re a group who are flying the flag for creating more flexible workspaces, and helping people find jobs with companies that really promote more flexible work practices. I hope that empowerment helps people to find whatever a great work-life balance means to them!

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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.