Tessa Wijaya is the co-founder & COO of Xendit, a financial technology company that provides payment solutions that simplify the payment process for businesses in Indonesia and the Philippines.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I’m the COO and co-founder of Xendit, and I’m in charge of the company’s overall business operations; from the beginning of the customer’s journey post sales, i.e. onboarding and integration, to customer success through their lifetime with us, to the stuff that gets Xendit working like a well oiled machine in the background like financial operations, risk and compliance, I run.
I’m Indonesian, so homegrown, but was lucky enough to have been able to go to school in Australia and the US. I came back because I wanted to make an impact in Indonesia. Before Xendit, I started my career in private equity. One of our investors calls us SEA turtles, SEA for South East Asia, and turtles because they eventually do come back home after exploring the ocean.
2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
Information flow is one of the most invaluable things in a fast growing organisation. I spend most of my time in meetings, to collect information and disseminate information to various leaders in the org.
Teams and team leads at Xendit make most of the day to day decisions to do with their orgs. Occasionally I do step in to break ties and make decisions, but most of my meetings are about ensuring that people have the right information to keep going. My record was 17 meetings in one day, starting at 7 am and ending at 2 am the next day.
These days, when I’m not travelling, I take work life balance more seriously. I’m an avid surfer so once or twice on a weekday I’ll wake up at 5:30 am to go surfing. My team generally respects this and doesn’t book meetings before 10 during those days. The startup grind can be never ending so I’m proud that I can show people that I can work hard AND do other things I love as well.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Xendit currently still does a hybrid situation. Some countries are still implementing limits to offices and through the pandemic we’ve been hiring people in locations where we don’t have offices.
For us, it’s about hitting goals for individuals and the company. If that works you can generally do this from anywhere. We like Asia though, because time difference can be an issue, especially in operations where fixes often need to be dealt with immediately.
I’ve recently started basing myself in Bali, and that really has given me the gift of more work life balance. I now live close to the ocean and do ocean related activities like surfing at least 3-4 times a week.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
They say you can only really focus on 3 out of 5 big categories in life. Work, family, friends, hobbies and health. My way of hacking this is choosing things that overlap.
Start up life is very different from your regular job, the experience of building Xendit will bond us forever. Some of my colleagues from the early days are my closest friends. So that takes care of work and friends. I love surfing, so that takes care of both hobbies and health. Then there is family.
It’s me and my husband, so we’re quite a compact family. We bond through surfing and travel. His love language is an act of service so I try to do little things like making him dinner once in a while. He’s definitely the better cook but he definitely appreciates the gesture.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
As I get older, health and longevity is becoming more important. I want to stay as fit as I can for as long as I can.
Other than surfing, I do pilates. I like that the movements are slow and deliberate, and that you are building your core strength in a targeted manner. At work everything moves at lightning speed, and the breath work slows down my pace.
I’ve also started getting used to waking up early and sleeping early. I’m naturally a night owl so this has been a difficult habit to pick up. I feel much more productive when I can do stuff when it’s light out before the workday starts. It definitely gets me in a better mindset to start the day.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
One of my favourite books is The Culture Code. It talks about how culture influences success in groups of people. As it turns out a lot of it has to do with coming together as a team. I still have my original book and from time to time I’ll pass it on to people at Xendit for them to borrow.
The commute isn’t really happening that much anymore so I don’t listen to as many podcasts as I used to. My favourite is still Reed Hoffman’s Masters of Scale.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
Three things I can’t live without are my phone, calendar app, and my waterproof watch.
I used to have a Google Pixel 2, which I used until the screen cracked and I was functioning out of that phone for years. My husband had enough and one day bought me an iPhone and that’s been a godsend because my work life has basically run out of that phone.
The app I can’t live without is google calendar, because my calendar does dictate what I do on a daily basis. Getting the right meetings on the calendar allows me to organise Xendit and I obsess over this. The first thing I do when I get to my desk is to stare at my calendar and organise the next 2-3 days to ensure I am hitting all my top priorities.
My waterproof watch goes with me in the water. It’s a simple digital watch that tells the time, no other bells and whistles, but it’s so powerful for me, as it gives me that time to be in the water before the day starts.
8) Who do you admire for having great work life balance?
I admire Viki, our head legal counsel at Xendit, who is very independent, relaxed, and on the ball with everything even though she has a young child. She even managed to close a funding round while taking care of her small kid and family. I feel that she has it all altogether.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Having that ability to have work life balance is a privilege. Some people cannot. They have no other options but to work for a living. For women especially, even the ‘work’ part of work life balance is a privilege.
Some people don’t have supportive companies, families, or friends. I don’t take this for granted – my husband is amazing, he doesn’t have an ego and doesn’t mind that I’m the one who disappears at work, while he does the chores and makes dinner. My close friends are stay home moms, and understand that I cannot hang out with them all the time, yet they are still around and take me as I am.
My team understands I have to have time off and cover for me. I’m grateful for them all and hope that we can each be that supportive person to those around us to facilitate work-life balance.
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