Wendy Chen is the founder and CEO of Omnistream Co, a retail analytics start-up based in Singapore.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I had a reverse career relative to a typical founder. I started out in quant trading in New York City, then decided to get into angel investing. After looking at a variety of industries, I found the grocery space the most fascinating. It touches almost every human in the world, and it’s inefficient and full of waste.
That’s when I decided to take the leap of faith, and to do my own thing in planning automation. There is something so magical about taking quantitative thinking, complex models about a complex world, and turning it into something so tangible.
Currently I have the best job in the world. I spend a quarter of my day dreaming big with key customer accounts. What could it look like in 5 years if we co-innovated and both approached our collaboration with blue sky thinking?
The other half of my role is overseeing research & development of our quantitative algorithms. I get to scratch both sides of my brain while working with diverse personality types from all over the world. I wouldn’t trade my job for anything.
2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
8:30 I have coffee with my dogs on my balcony. It’s a short moment of morning gratitude and calm before the chaos.
Then it’s time to align with the team to make sure all of our sprints are aligned with customer requirements and long term roadmap.
12:00 I’m such a food lover – I have weekly lunches with one of our mentors to go over blind spots – it’s as much about learning hard truths as it is about tasting new foods.
1:30 I still lead research & development for core algorithms, this means dedicating time to reviewing critical bottlenecks and pretending like I have solutions to mathematical ‘impossibilities’.
3:00 It’s my favourite part of the day – afternoons are usually dedicated to big client work. This is when I switch into big picture mode and spend time with clients.
6:00 I’m a natural introvert, so I need to balance my days with spurts of teamwork and energy with quiet reflection. This is usually the time for walking & reflection on the day.
7:00 Aerial hoop training! There is no better way to balance off the energy for the day than to push the body a little.
8:30pm back to loving food and spending time with the chosen family. Admittedly I will take after hour calls if clients from overseas are calling.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
There’s a lot of flexibility in startup life. We’ve also been incredibly fortunate that our customer base is global! I’m constantly on the road visiting them in Australia, USA, Europe, Asia.
Rather than letting the travel wear me out, I’ve recently taken to thinking of the various cities as part time homes. I’m taking the time to make friends in each place, and to build support networks everywhere I go.
I’m trying to think of knowledge and values as being locally contextual – it makes travel a lot more entertaining. I found that once I tweaked little aspects to my travel schedule, it all felt incredibly flexible and fulfilling
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
I don’t believe in work life balance. It’s much more meaningful to me to find work that aligns with my life goals, so no moment feels like a waste of energy.
The more interesting question then becomes, how do I try to make sure that work is meaningfully aligned to my life goals on a daily basis? For me it’s a constant sense of self improvement, perpetual pursuit of knowledge and the ability to see positive impact somewhere.
Without diving into the meaning of utility (that seems better fit for a utilitarian blog), it does not limit me to working in any particular industry – but it does define the culture of organisations and people we want to work with.
Perhaps the question should be – how do we create the type of organisation that allows our colleagues to feel this same sort of alignment between work and life?
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
I had to stop training in aerial hoop & silks on a daily basis. The intensity of the exercise was taking an undeniable toll on my body. It is a part of my nature to want to push everything until it is perfect, or beyond what I thought I was capable of achieving.
But perhaps it is not possible to both be a venture scale startup founder and a Cirque du Soleil performer. I have now scaled it back to be physiological support for my other endeavours.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
Marginal revolution – it has nothing to do with startup life or building businesses. But it’s an interesting economic discussion on everything from the zeitgeist to scientific research
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
I will cheat and list two. I bought an illy espresso machine from a restaurant last year – they were upgrading their setup. The consistent, high quality coffees in between calls is such a small pleasure in the middle of stressful days. I also love Scribd – the monthly book subscription app. Their range of audiobooks is massive, from Chris Voss to stoic philosophy.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
The Collison brothers.
Before you go…
If you’d like to sponsor or advertise with Balance the Grind, let’s talk here
Join our community and never miss a conversation about work, life & balance – subscribe to our newsletter