My Working Day – Elizabeth Tweedale – Founder and CEO of Cypher
As the leader of a company, you are there to set an example, to lead and inspire a team of individuals to achieve a series of business goals. But how do these business leaders go about their daily routine? Business Leader spoke to Elizabeth Tweedale – Founder and CEO of Cypher, about her working day.
What time do you usually wake up?
At the moment, I’m working in the US staying with family and looking after my three kids, including my 2 year old, with my husband. This means that my day usually starts at 5am, although meetings are only scheduled from 6am my time in order to 1. align with my team back in the UK and 2. hopefully not wake up the household with video call chatter!
What do you typically have for breakfast?
Considering how early I’m getting up at the moment, my breakfast mainly consists of just coffee – and lots of it. As I’m working remotely, I often skip breakfast and have my lunch early with the kids to match their schedules, and use this time to speak to the kids about the day ahead.
What’s the rest of your morning routine before you start work?
My mornings before work focus on childcare. I always ensure that alarms are set for the children so that they can make sure they’re ready for the day and that cereal is on the table. One of my children takes Cypher courses throughout the day, so I always ensure that she’s awake and ready to learn.
For me, striking a balance between running a business and raising a family is key. I have always involved my children within my career – I had my first child whilst doing my masters and I had my third child while scaling Cypher, so I’ve learnt to work in the business world and balance childcare too. With working remotely, I love that I can spend time with the family in between meetings and more ad hoc.
First thing you do at the start of a workday?
I try to start my day with a morning run. I often find catching the sun as it’s just coming up is the perfect way to start the day and get into a positive and motivating mentality. After the run, I get ready to hop onto virtual calls until around 10:30am with the team and answer any questions that may have come up overnight. Usually calls last from 6am to 10:30am, at which point I take a little bit of a break as the kids are starting to wake up by that point, and make me very jealous of the lie in!
How do you prioritise your work?
Blocking out large parts of the day to specific tasks is my key to prioritising. Since I’ve been working in the US and had to compile all my meetings into one block in the morning to accommodate my UK team, I’ve found this to be a great way to structure the day. Following the morning block of calls, I set time out ‘focus time’ where I can do deep work where distractions are minimised. This way, I’m ensuring that I’ve allocated time to collaborate, but also allow myself time to get my priorities in order and complete individual tasks. My focus hours usually take place after lunch and an hour before bed when my team is just waking up in the UK, meaning I can prepare and see what needs to be prioritised for the following day.
Do you plan meetings or are they a waste of time?
At Cypher, we’re a fully remote team, meaning that virtual meetings are our way of connecting and collaborating. I see meetings as important markers in the day, and a chance to socialise and communicate with colleagues. In my previous role as Co-Founder & CTO at GoSpace, I ran daily standups with my tech team – running through tasks for the upcoming day and checking progress on the previous day’s tasks. This is a great way to flag concerns and capacity issues, especially as programmers can have the tendency to become ‘stuck’. We’ve taken the same concept from our team’s experience in technology companies and instilled them into Cypher across all of our internal teams whether it’s marketing, education or growth. I would highly recommend for any remote team a ‘stand-up’ meeting integration!
Do you have a working lunch or is it good to take a break?
At the beginning of the pandemic, many employees across the globe felt concerned about how much they ‘appeared’ to be working. Almost a third of workers said they made an effort to ensure their status was never set to ‘away’. I never want anyone at Cypher to feel like they’re under this type of pressure, especially when working remotely has been so tough on people already. Our team knows that if they don’t respond immediately over lunch, that’s ok. The wellbeing of our team is top priority so everyone is encouraged to take a break, taking time to step away from their desks. For me, lunch is a great time to put technology aside and spend time with my kids.
When does your working day finish?
As an entrepreneur, the working day never really finishes and your brain never really stops thinking about the business, so it’s a matter of prioritising when you’re online and offline. For me, working while looking after a family of three children means that I space out my work time throughout the day, working in between activities, meal times and educational classes. It’s never a 9am-5pm structure for me as I work around the children’s schedule. This actually means that I end up having to get my work done during my scheduled ‘work time’ however disjointed that schedule might appear which is really refreshing and helps me to prioritise.
How do you prepare for your next day’s work?
The time difference between most of my team and myself leaves me with an opportunity at the end of my day to check priorities and key discussion points to raise on the following morning’s standup – it’s a great way to look back on the day and think ahead.
What’s your favourite piece of technology?
YouTube Kids has been a fantastic educational tool for my children, particularly throughout the pandemic. With no advertising, an easy to use interface and ability to filter content by age appropriateness, it has been so useful in developing and furthering my children’s education whilst they were unable to go to school. Whilst managing children’s screen time as a parent sometimes proves difficult, I think it’s important to look at the benefits it’s having on learning and the real life applications it brings with it. We’ll certainly continue using technology and screen time in a productive way even when the children go back to school after the holidays. I feel like it’s massively helped my 2 year old daughter’s development in particular – she’s learned really helpful songs as well as how to count to 20 from the videos that I never would have taught my other children that young!
How do you switch off?
In my own time, I enjoy creating beaded bracelets. I love having something creative to do even in my downtime – I find it’s so important to keep your mind busy and engaged, especially with fun activities. In fact, my first ever business was making and selling friendship bracelets! I ran a baby bracelet business too, and even now with Cypher, I still like to make them when I’m ‘switching off’.
Best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
“Do your best and let them say”, a quote from my grandmother, Rose Hayne, always resonates with me as I continue throughout my career. As a woman in tech & an entrepreneur, I’ve encountered many naysayers and pessimists – listening to these types of people can easily derail any project or entrepreneurial spirit. However, by keeping true to myself, confident that I’ve applied myself and my experience to the business, then for me, it shouldn’t matter what others say or think. I truly believe this piece of advice can help other women in tech and entrepreneurs as it is so important to stay positive and keep moving forward using the best of your abilities despite what those around you might say or think. I’m determined to push forward in order to inspire the next generation to learn to prepare themselves for their best futures.