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Tips for balancing work and life in the tech sector

Woman Taking Break from Work and Meditating Sitting at Office Table with Computer and Coffee, Balancing work

ARTICLE SUMMARY

Dr Zoë Russell, Co-founder, Rethink Carbon, takes a look into the importance of a work-life balance and gives her tips as a female founder on achieving it.

When she’s not climbing hills in the Highlands of Scotland, often with her two teenage kids and two spaniels in tow, or riding horses, Zoë, a certified Scrum Master, is tackling the mountainous challenge of climate change.

balancing work

Zoë holds a BSc (Hons) in Zoology from the University of Glasgow and a PhD in Biology from Stirling University.

She started her career at Scottish Natural Heritage (now called NatureScot) where she was ultimately instrumental in creating and launching their first mobile app designed for environmental monitoring.

From there, she took a role with the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) offering expert advice to Land Managers on best practices in land management, advising them on available funding options and how best to utilise them.

In 2017, she was appointed the Operations Director of software development agency, Ginger Land, building bespoke software for clients in various sectors.

Her experience and passion for the natural environment gave Zoë the confidence to co-found Rethink Carbon in 2021. With a strong foundation in software development, ecology, and land management, the company took on a CivTech Scotland (a Scottish Government accelerator programme) Challenge to use technology for the betterment of land-use decisions and carbon capture.

Today, Rethink Carbon is on the brink of launching innovative land management software that condenses days of research into mere minutes and revolutionises land management by making it easy for land managers to do the right thing for climate change, the planet and the community.

Zoë is a fantastic role model for women working in tech and for anyone who wants to turn a passion for the environment into a meaningful career.

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Co-founding a start-up company is hard! It can consume your entire life.

There’s excitement and innovation but also high stress levels and at times a demanding pace. It’s so important to find the right work-life balance if you want to last through to success and not burn yourself out getting there.

Achieving work-life harmony in the tech sector in general is challenging, but with the right mindset and strategies, you can create a healthy balance between your career and personal life. Finding a design that works for you will enhance your productivity, creativity, and overall well-being.

At Rethink Carbon we have developed a culture based on our shared experience of the workplace over many years, where we’ve learned that trust, open communication, and a commitment to flexibility are essential components of a successful and fulfilling work-life environment.

My work-life balance

balancing work

My Co-founder (and partner) Mark Caulfield and I run Rethink Carbon from our home in Aviemore, in the Scottish Highlands. Our commute consists of walking from the kitchen to the office. I can see the Cairngorm Mountains, often snow-covered, from the window. Our spaniels Moose and Peanut snooze peacefully under the desk. Sounds idyllic? It is, but it’s also a hive of activity on many long days with the remote team, readying our software platform for launch.

These are the things I do to keep myself motivated and productive:

Routine. I like to set myself up for the working day – breakfast, coffee, Wordle and out with the dogs for a good walk – before I sit down at my desk. I thrive on routine so If I miss out on this, I can get a bit grumpy. Ten years ago, it was a different story, a mad two hours of getting kids ready for school and out the door before driving 45 minutes and arriving at work for a rest! Thankfully they can now get themselves up and out to school and work.

Personal pursuits. Living in the Highlands where the winter is long and the weather is not always great, I make sure to take advantage of good weather and daylight. I’ll sometimes leave work early or take a long lunch break to get out for a run or go horse riding – things I generally cannot do in the dark and don’t want to do in the rain! Doing my favourite things as often as I can helps to recharge my energy and boost my motivation.

Put family first. From home-schooling my kids during the pandemic to supporting my elderly parents who live 200 miles away, sometimes work just has to take a back seat. It’s then easier to focus on work knowing that my family is safe and well.

Take time off. I book holidays several months in advance. Something important at work always comes up, and if I didn’t book them in advance, we would be much less likely to take the time to go away.

There are times when work commitments mean I don’t manage to do these things and that’s fine too.

Flexibility

In the tech sector, where innovation thrives on diverse perspectives, embracing individuality is crucial. What works for me may not align with the preferences or circumstances of my colleagues, and that’s perfectly okay. This is where flexibility comes into play—a cornerstone in enabling everyone to find their own work-life harmony that respects individual differences.

I believe everyone should be able to make choices according to their needs and priorities, whether those are running a business, following a career path, managing family responsibilities, pursuing personal passions, or addressing health needs.

Trust & communication

Flexibility isn’t just about adjusting schedules or choosing remote work—it’s a mutual understanding nurtured by trust and communication. At Rethink Carbon, we’ve found that fostering an environment of trust is essential for allowing the flexibility that contributes to our team’s well-being.

Knowing that team members are committed to their tasks and responsibilities, even when outside traditional working hours, fosters a sense of reliability. Trust empowers them to manage their time autonomously, confident that their dedication to the team’s success remains unwavering.

Open and transparent communication is essential for ensuring everyone is on the same page. It’s not just about expressing one’s need for flexibility but also understanding the broader goals and timelines of the team. Regular check-ins, daily stand-ups, and an atmosphere where questions are welcomed create a culture where everyone feels heard and understood.

In a dynamic industry like tech, where innovation often transcends conventional timelines, trust and communication become invaluable assets. They not only pave the way for flexibility but also form the groundwork for a collaborative and cohesive work environment.

Balancing work and life in the fast-paced tech sector requires more than just individual effort—it demands a collective commitment to fostering environments of trust, communication, and flexibility.

By embracing diverse working styles and prioritising personal well-being, we not only enhance our productivity and creativity but also contribute to a more inclusive and resilient tech landscape.

Let’s encourage each other to find the right balance and thrive in both our professional and personal lives.

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