Simon Bos is the founder & director of Gravitywell, a creative technology agency for startups and innovators, based in the tech hub of Bristol.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I founded the creative technology agency Gravitywell 20 years ago, soon after leaving university. In the early days I was creating 3D animation for CD-ROMs and basic websites (Dreamweaver & Flash!), often in collaboration with traditional design agencies.
These days, Gravitywell’s focus is on helping tech startups build and launch their products. I have the great pleasure of working with entrepreneurs and innovators right at the early stages, as we design new technology and build businesses.
Recently we’ve launched Mezze, our own SaaS B2B platform for the food manufacturing industry. This is mostly a product of our internal R&D efforts and it’s enormously exciting to see it take off over the last year.
We’ve also been dabbling with AI/ML recently and are close to launching a sister brand exclusively for the AI space – Clever Stuff
Our headline project is helping the biggest Social Media platforms fix a problem that affects a minority group in a very severe way.
2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
In the morning, I need two coffees to activate the tiny thinking part of my brain. Then I’ll catch up on small tasks I’ve missed from yesterday in Slack or email.
We hold a stand-up and stand-down every single day. Although very quick (<5 mins each), it’s essential to keep everyone informed and allows us to head off potential problems.
I’ll likely take one or two video calls with new leads. Often I’m going in completely cold – ahead of the call I have no idea what the requirements are or what the client’s background is.
It requires a great deal of my concentration but usually by the end of a 1 hour call I have a rough model of what needs to be built in my head. I can then answer questions about how it might work and what it means for different types of users.
In my lunch hour I’ll try to make sure I’ve been for a run or used my scrappy garage gym, set up during one of the lockdowns.
I may need to present to an existing client, to demonstrate development progress or propose a new solution for the UX, for example. I will also be spending time on our SaaS platform Mezze – pitching to a new client or helping out with marketing.
As I consult for a couple of startups, I’m often spending time at the end of the day on team calls or presentation prep. If I’m not too worn out, I’ll make it to a climbing gym, then back home to cook a late dinner.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
I’m still working from the kitchen table! Although some of the team has returned to studio life, I don’t want to inflict my back-to-back video calls on everyone else. I’ll sometimes bike to the office to join internal workshops but for the foreseeable future I’ll still be remote.
Interestingly, what’s kept the team together during the last 2 years of remote working is perhaps a little unusual.
We immediately started using Discord (the voice & video community tool for gamers) to simulate an open-plan office environment. We’ll join different rooms and leave voice comms open, which recreates the vibrant atmosphere of the studio.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
I don’t believe there is a perfect balance for me. As soon as I get enough space to breathe, I start thinking about something new I can start to do. I’m happier and more satisfied when I’m constantly pushing against that balance, either direction.
However, although I am jealous of those that have managed to create a consistent daily routine I’ve got no intention of trying to achieve it myself.
Rather, I’ve accepted that I both need to be flexible and need to act on impulse in order to create a constantly shifting mixture of work and life. If the new lead can only make a call in the evening because they’re west-coast USA then perhaps I can take a couple of hours off one morning to test-ride an electric bike.
One of the best changes I made was years ago and I know is something that many of us stick to – turning off device notifications.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
I’ve started trying to keep Fridays free. This should be thinking & writing time only – bigger picture stuff that gets lost otherwise.
I recently cut out alcohol during the week – it’s obvious, but it improves sleep and therefore prevents me from running out of steam before Friday evening.
I’ve taken up mindfulness meditation and I can recommend Sam Harris’ Waking Up app to support. Mindfulness can be hard to describe but there are benefits in concentration, emotional awareness and clarity of thought.
More recently I’ve started on reducing the length of meetings rather than simply accepting the default 1 hour slots. This seems to be saving me time each day with the added benefit of others valuing my time more.
The business world’s acceptance of video calls has worked out great for me. I can fit so many more conversations into the week than before. But the Zoom Fatigue is real! I’m using the time saved with shorter meetings for staring out of the window or going for a walk.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick is the book that I recommend to entrepreneur clients. It’s a superb reframing of how to validate your idea before you commit time and money.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
Probably #1 is a pair of bluetooth noise-cancelling headphones. I need to be cordless because I frequently forget I’m wearing them and pull the laptop onto the floor when I get up to make tea.
If we all wore headphones in video calls then we could get rid of most of the annoying audio drops and awkward talking over each other; a great reason to normalise wearing them in calls!
I also can’t live without a second monitor – pretty essential when you’re having to jump between several projects during a single day.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Sam Harris seems to have crafted a balance he’s comfortable with and apparently still has time for writing books, public speaking, academic research and regular podcasts. I’d be very interested to hear how he’s achieved that contentment.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Don’t forget to consider your spontaneity and consistency balance as well. They apply to both work and life.
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