Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Steffen Wulff Petersen, Co-Founder at Sona

Steffen Wulff Petersen is the co-founder at Sona, an employee app creating the People OS for deskless teams, launched in 2021.

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

I started out working 120 hour weeks in investment banking at Goldman Sachs in London. About a decade ago I moved into tech startups. I set up Rocket Internet’s base in the UK and helped build companies like Lazada and HelloFresh, both of which exited as unicorns. 

I’m now one of three founders of Sona (we’re a software platform for frontline workers) and I focus on sales and marketing along with fundraising and investors. 

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

I start early so on most days I have 1-2 hours before my first call to get focused work done. I typically start by prioritising my day and then cracking on with the biggest/worst task on the list as this is usually the best/only chance of getting it done. 

On Mondays we start with a weekly founder call where we run through key topics like growth, hiring and product. Then I’ll join our daily standup where everyone says hi and runs through what they’re up to and if they have any blockers. I then roll into my weekly one-to-ones with my direct reports. My afternoon is typically piled up with various external calls across sales, partners, hiring and investors. 

Generally, I’ll have more calls on days at the beginning of the week, and a bit more time to focus on days towards the backend of the week.  

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

At Sona, we work remotely and people decide their own hours. My number one priority is to spend time with my 2-year-old daughter every day, so I do that from 7-8am and again from 5-7pm.

So on most days I work from 8am to 5pm. Zero commute really juices up the quality time around work. Being obsessed with my startup, I of course often spend some evening time on work as well, but that ebbs and flows. 

We also work a 4.5 day week so I’ll try to take a half-day to do something else, typically a sport or a hike. It’s not work, but it’s actually incredible how much it helps me clear my mind and set priorities, so it’s definitely beneficial for my role and I’m pretty sure there’s a net positive return on the 10% of work hours sacrificed. 

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

See above – it’s a personal and professional priority and we’ve built our company and culture around it.

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

As mentioned, I started out in banking where you work constantly and even after banking I’ve always worked a lot of hours. 

My daughter completely changed my routines! I’m now way more efficient with work because I have to be! It’s been really healthy and I wish I had learned that sooner!

Startups can be all-consuming, so having a kid also helps put stuff into perspective. It’s important but it’s not life or death.  

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

Work-wise I consume a lot of SaaS and startup related content; my go-to is Saastr. SaaS is so blueprinted and the learnings from others are often so valuable and directly applicable which I love. 

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

My Starlink dish. I live in an area of Spain with crap internet so this has improved my setup significantly! 

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

Elon Musk would be quite entertaining!   

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

I would say to any company leaders worried about going fully remote that the upsides far outweigh the downsides. We couldn’t have grown the company and team as fast as we have if we’d insisted on them being based in a particular place or having to work X days in an office.

When you get an office, a lot of time is spent thinking about how to decorate it, the layout, who sits where, etc. You need to invest time in thinking about how to set up your remote organisation in much the same way.

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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.