Balancing the Grind with Tracey Warren, Founder & CEO of F5 Collective

In our latest conversation, we meet Tracey Warren, Founder and CEO of F5 Collective. With over two decades of experience in financial markets, advisory, and strategy, Tracey has honed her expertise in identifying and amplifying investment opportunities in female-founded businesses.

From her early days as a currency trader and adviser to venturing into the startup landscape and corporate finance, Tracey’s career is filled with rich, diverse experiences. She candidly shares her transition from the traditional broking model to embracing the startup world and her pivot during the pandemic to become a mentor for female founders.

In this interview, Tracey opens up about her daily routine, her non-negotiables for maintaining work-life balance, and the lifestyle changes she’s embraced for personal well-being. Tracey also offers insights into resources that have shaped her journey, and imparts wisdom on setting boundaries and listening to one’s intuition for success and fulfillment.

Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to?

I spent my early career in Financial Markets on broking floors and was a currency trader and adviser for a number of years. Being disenfranchised with the “Old School” full service broking model, I moved over to the online broking world and learnt for the first time what an API was. I relocated to Melbourne and decided to walk away from broking in pursuit of something more fulfilling.

Taking on some contract roles I finally found my way into the startup landscape matching founders with my network of sophisticated investors. Before long I found myself in Corporate finance working on large market deals Oil&Gas, Timber etc. and got to a point where I could no longer press the lift button I felt like my soul had died. At that moment, I decided to walk away without a plan but with a deep knowing I was meant to do more.

I set up a business that was helping digital brands do collaborative pop-up and I loved it. It was the first time I could be creative, work with incredible women who founded brands and businesses and felt like I was for the first time surrounded by a genuine community of incredible women, and then the pandemic hit and lockdowns put an end to that business.

I then became a mentor and somewhat of a “Go-To” for several women’s groups working with female founders and I spent most of the lockdown mentoring incredible female founders. I say this a lot but, it’s funny how life can find you when you give from a selfless place. I then had the opportunity to meet the California based family office, also deeply passionate about supporting women founders and who helped establish F5 Collective and bring fund 1 to life.

We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday?

I’m an early riser and get out of bed before 5am and do some light exercise.

If I can, I keep 7:00am – 9:00am meetings free to set myself up for the day as I then spend most of my day on zoom or in person meetings – founder meetings, ecosystem contacts, other investors / VC’s, partners, lawyers, events etc.

Monday is also a day I typically try to keep meetings free to get a good start to the week – but this is pretty tough to maintain some weeks.

Walking my dog in the evening is something I look forward to as a wind down 

Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach in maintaining it?

Balance for me includes 3 non-negotiables in my week to keep me happy: Walks with my dog, light exercise and reading a fantasy novel – these three things are what I need to stay grounded, happy and the creative juices flowing.

For example: I work out at home since removing the need to get to a gym or get to a class at a certain time removes the anxiety and stress and means I can roll out of bed and fit this in first thing in the morning.

I like to end my day with escape and reading fantasy novels (hello Sara J Maas) takes my mind off the to-do list, allows me to sleep better even if it’s just 15 mins before bed AND allows my creativity to flourish.

I spend my day in a lot of meetings and have had to get much better at maintaining my schedule, setting boundaries and non-negotiables to avoid burnout. As an example, Some days I am doubled up when I begin one meeting, leave halfway and catch the end of a second meeting before heading into back to back meetings for the remainder of the day. A focus for me in 2024 will be getting better at managing my schedule and including time outside of meetings into my day.

I also need one complete day (Typically Saturday) to do absolutely nothing to recharge. I then spend Sunday catching up on work and strategy to set myself up for a great week ahead.

Change is constant, and it’s essential for growth. Have you made any lifestyle changes in the past year to improve your work-life balance?

After feeling really burnt out at the start of 2023, I decided to focus on my health this year to help me feel better and keep up with the workload. I removed alcohol and swapped my coffee for matcha which has made a huge difference to my energy levels. 

I have also been focusing on having something healthy to grab in the fridge for meals and snacks. I don’t focus too much on putting pressure on myself to meal prep since there are so many healthy meal delivery options these days. As long as I have something healthy to grab in the fridge I am ok with that.

Taking the pressure off. We are constantly bombarded with all the things we should be doing and such high standards that we can set ourselves up to feel like we are failing constantly. Something I have learned this year was to stop trying to live up to unrealistic expectations of what success looks like and work on achievable goals.

That meant, light workouts at home for 30 mins and walks with my dog keeps me consistent, meal delivery instead of meal prep, they are achievable and I feel like I am winning each week rather than the unrealistic 1 hour in the gym each day etc.

I also have one day over the weekend that is completely work, plan or chore free – typically a Saturday. These days I need a complete day to recharge after the week and then am ready to go again on Sunday.

We’re always on the lookout for new resources! Can you recommend any books, podcasts, or newsletters that have helped you in your journey towards balance?

The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel was fascinating and definitely worth a read, Blue Ocean Strategy by W.Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne is also brilliant and any founder, business owner should definitely pick this up. However, they are outliers for me and I could probably tell you more about the latest Romantasy author than I can self-help books.

Before we wrap up, do you have any final words of wisdom or insights on work, life, or balance that you’d like to share with our readers? 

Love yourself and fight for yourself as much as you would for anyone else. As a chronic people pleaser in my earlier years, I realised I had to set strong boundaries since people will continue to take until you have nothing left – It is up to you to set yourself up for success. And listen to your gut, the times I have ignored my own intuition or gut feel are typically the times I look back and can see all the red flags in hindsight and wish I’d listened more. Find something that takes your mind completely away from life even for a few moments a day – For me, that comes in reading fantasy novels, your mental health will thank you

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.