CEOs / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Ruby Kolesky, Co-CEO & ♥️ of Product at Joyous

Ruby Kolesky is the co-CEO and ♥️ of Product at Joyous, a Kiwi tech company helping large organisations include their people in making change happen.

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

I am part of The CEO Collective and ❤️ of Product at Joyous. We are a Kiwi tech company helping large organisations include their people in making change happen.

The way we do that is with our two-way conversational feedback platform. We are known for taking employee feedback, making it open instead of anonymous, using it outside of just HR topics and giving people a voice that actually gets heard. 

Previously I held roles helping other Kiwi startups achieve global success within the engineering and product functions. I’m reasonably obsessed (in a good way) with inventing new and better ways of doing things at work. So much of the “done thing” these days really should be done with – and forgotten.

I am most proud of the open-source Parental Journey benefit I created. I am also the co-author of Joyfully – a book about shared leadership, modern organisational structures and a new way of working for product and engineering teams. I am pretty excited about that as it’s only recently been published and there’s nothing else like it!

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

Right now it’s total chaos. Let’s be honest, this pandemic has made a day in the life of most of us feel like mission impossible. I am currently in a strict lockdown in Auckland. I have a 3-year-old and a 6-year-old and my husband also works full time. We are doing the best we can juggling work, childcare and teaching. The struggle is real and there are as many bad days as good ones. 

Within a work context – no two days are the same. I do lots of different things: strategy, product management, product design, customer care, sales, strategic HR, CEO stuff, and lots of experimenting with new ideas. 

At Joyous, our culture is founded on having people with broad capabilities that collaborate in partnership, and we like to share leadership roles. So, I’m never doing anything alone (lately with a lot more video calls and Slack huddles). 

Joyous has been growing at a steady pace and it’s really accelerating now, so things are evolving fast. As we build our team and product I’m deliberately trying to ensure we are as streamlined and effective as possible – so we can grow in a sustainable way. I also care a whole lot about making sure our team and customers are super well supported and feel as much love from us as possible. 

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

Well, the pandemic has really made this a non-negotiable for parents like myself. The reality is right now I am on short hours doing the work of more than one full-time person.

I am balancing things as best I can and being as realistic as possible. There are (many) occasions when I come off a work call and the kids have caused major chaos while I wasn’t paying attention. 

At Joyous we generally prefer a flexible hybrid way of working. When the world is not in crisis most of us will work with others three days a week in an office and then two days from home. We have three offices around the world and a few remote employees. 

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

The order of importance is meant to be to put yourself first, then your partner, then your kids, your other family and friends and then work. I really don’t have that nailed. I’m the last equal with my husband, my kids and work are tied in first place, and I mostly have no time for other family and friends. 

When it’s not a pandemic I will try to limit myself to just one evening away from the family per week – whether it’s work-related or dinner with friends. 

Honestly, I just want to be with my husband and kids as much as possible. Especially while the kids are young. We have a short holiday booked each month for the next several months, although I keep having to rebook them for later dates! 

I don’t work super concrete hours, but I also tend to not work crazy hours per week (unless it’s really necessary). When I am working I’m laser-focused and highly productive. And I’ve become pretty good at compartmentalising and keeping steady and calm during challenging times. 

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

At Joyous we are all open and honest with each other. No topic is off-limits, and we respect and listen to one another. We’ve become each other’s safe space and we talk regularly. I don’t think many people get to experience that at work. It’s made a hugely positive impact on my personal well-being and I think it has for others at work too. 

Being relatively new to the Co-CEO gig I have committed to being my authentic self with no veneer. It’s wonderful not having to waste my energy trying to meet anyone else’s expectations.

Within The CEO Collective, we are also doing that in our own unique way. There are three of us. Myself, and Mike and Phil Carden, who co-founded Joyous. And even within that we don’t try to fit any CEO stereotype. 

I think being really deliberate about finding a better way to do things has become a default habit for everyone at Joyous. One I hope we never stop. 

On a more personal note, I went back to seeing my old counsellor once a month. It’s my personal well-being insurance policy. It forces me to reflect on how things are going and ensures I continuously regulate my work-life balance. Oh, and TRE (Time-Restricted Eating) I find is a really great way to regenerate when I’m feeling sluggish. 

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

I’ve read countless books. I love reading. I recommend Joyfully – it’s also free! ? I believe it has the potential to make a significant and positive impact on other organisations. From how they are structured, to how they form a winning strategy, to how they work. 

I also recommend The Best Place to Work by Ron Friedman. Probably the most useful book I’ve ever read. I’ve put a lot of the recommendations from that book into practice at Joyous. 

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

We use Joyous ourselves and it’s so useful in shaping how we do things as a team. Having a mechanical desk at work and at home seems totally essential. And Netflix! ? 

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

Probably my own colleagues – and all of them! Maybe I’ll run these interview questions as a conversation in Joyous. 

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

Because of the pandemic, I think if you are not feeling okay about things all the time then that’s pretty much normal.

As leaders, I think we shouldn’t pretend to have it together all the time. Of course, we shouldn’t be burdening others, but we should make it okay for the team to let us know if they are not feeling okay. 

I also think we should give each other grace and kindness – especially when someone is acting out of character. And, do as much as we can to be flexible with our teams. Their safety and well-being is more important than profit.

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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.