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Balancing the Grind with Yuyan Wang, Co-Founder at JourneyLab.io

Yuyan Wang is the co-founder at JourneyLab.io, which provides high order decision-making support tools for executives in charge of complex portfolios.

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

I started my career in management consulting at PwC Strategy&, working across all sorts of high-profile business problems with senior leaders, like transforming legacy organisations and crafting international growth strategies.

Consulting taught me heaps about business, but we generally stop at the recommendation stage. I was craving real accountability and wanted to drive problems through to outcomes at scale, so earlier this year I founded a start-up, JourneyLab.io.

We are building a tech solution that brings executives and employees together to deliver change outcomes, faster.

In a world where change is inevitable and project success remains low ($48T are invested in projects every year but only 35% are considered successful in delivering the intended benefits), the focus is no longer the traditional on time, on budget and task completion, but what value and impact projects are delivering – and when we have hundreds of projects, are we still doing the right things as an organisation.

Our goal is to be part of the driving force that shifts the paradigm, from a world driven by efficiency to a world driven by change. 

My current role as the co-founder allows me to work on two things I love at once – 1) building something from 0 to 1; 2) turning around big legacy organisations – all with amazing people and we’re already seeing real impact from our work.  

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

Given the early stage we are in, our days are centred around 2 things – talking to the customers and building the product. A typical day is some kind of a permutation of the below: 

  • Read the news and catch up on anything that came through overnight – keep abreast of what’s happening is crucial
  • Share any new ideas / reflections with my co-founder 
  • Speak with the team and people we’re working with to provide clarity and unblock issues (to make sure I’m not the bottleneck)
  • Get on with meetings / work – including problem validation, product design, business development, etc.
  • Jot down thoughts and ideas when they’re fresh
  • Plan ahead – what needs to be actioned now to keep the momentum versus how to validate longer term goals – prioritisation is key
  • Check on progress with the team and any learnings / next steps 
  • More quiet working / thinking / reading time at night 

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

Yes, in fact we’re a fully remote team right now. The team is spread across multiple geographies, and so are the clients. We model our belief that driving outcomes is most important – how we get there is less relevant, unless obviously when support is needed.

This develops mutual trust and allows everyone to be more innovative and flexible, working at the pace that suits them best whilst keeping a clear goal in mind.

I personally stick to a pretty fixed wake up and bedtime routine, and have full control over how I allocate my time in between, e.g. when to think strategically versus doing tactical things, rather than being driven by a daily schedule.

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

To me, the book How Google Works summarises this well:

For many people, work is an important part of life, not something to be separated. The best cultures invite and enable people to be overworked in a good way, with too many interesting things to do both at work and at home.

How Google Works by Eric Schmidt

I definitely don’t value doing unnecessary work ‘just because’, and I respect that people have different routines and priorities. A good test is whether I want to ‘overwork’, not being forced to, but willing to, is where I draw the line.

This does require some good judgement on what’s important not just for me, but for JourneyLab, our team, customers, and partners. That’s why having clarity and alignment on our future vision and having people who believe in that vision and want to be part of the journey are crucial.

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

I started reading a lot more – being under lock-down created the perfect opportunity to pick up books more often and immerse myself in them. I also drink less than when I had a corporate job – it’s way too easy to have a glass with colleagues or in the hotel (during work travel) just to make the late nights more bearable.

Now that I have more control over the work I do, I’m consciously not having drinks on weekdays. These two habits combined are making me healthier both mentally and physically!

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

My recommendations are probably most relevant to founders who are in the B2B enterprise space or anyone who’s interested in change / transformation, management, and leadership.

Books: 

  • How Google Works 
  • No Rules Rules
  • Crossing the Chasm
  • Behind the Cloud
  • The Phoenix Project
  • Blitzscaling
  • The Hard Thing About Hard Things

Podcasts:

  • How I Built This 
  • HBR IdeaCast

Newsletters: 

  • First 1000

Also, there are tons of amazing content from the YCombinator Start-up School.

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

Nothing in particular right now, apart from the basics of course (like laptop, internet, MS Teams, etc.). Something I haven’t got but would love to have is a tool or app that can sync up calendars across multiple accounts seamlessly.

Calendly came pretty close, but I still need to manually consolidate the calendars first to make it work. The amount of time I need to spend lining up calendars (particularly for workshops) is enormous!

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

Elon Musk. I bet many people would want to know how he keeps up with so many different aspects of work and life, yet still has the mental capacity to think ‘first principles’ through the most challenging problems.

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

Balance is not just achieved by individuals, it needs to be worked out with other people, continuously. My co-founder, Paul, is an ex-colleague from consulting. When we started this journey together, we discovered many differences in our ways of working despite having worked together previously on multiple projects.

Forcing your beliefs on others doesn’t work, and neither does expecting that they work the same way as you. To reach the right balance that works for us both, we had many open conversations and made a conscious effort to understand each other’s perspectives both from the start and on an ongoing basis.

This is super important to ensure the longevity of our start-up – it’s a marathon with many sprints along the way, so sustainability is essential!

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About Author

Balance the Grind is a work-life balance publication on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.