Alexey Mitko is the Chief Financial Officer and part of the founding team at Eucalyptus, a brand engine that builds and runs digital consumer companies.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I guess the highlight of my career is that I always worked in startups, clocking at 12+ years now. I started in the US, graduated in the middle of GFC, so startups were an interesting option for me.
The few early ones I was a part of did not work out, but the most important thing I learned is that in startups you can punch above your experience level. Startups face a lot of problems, some pretty interesting, some a bit more mundane, all of them need solving and often there is only you to solve them, so you do, and you learn!
I was lucky enough to do this for a while before I joined Canva (it was about 20 people at the time). Canva experience and environment maxed out my learning abilities and it was great!
After a few years, I decided to refine these lessons and join another 20 people startup and that one was Koala, a similar story of incredible growth.
I met my co-founders at Koala and together we decided to start Eucalyptus, a direct to consumer brand house specialising in telehealth with brands like Pilot and Kin Fertility. Here I lead all the finance, hr, and legal aspects of the business while dabbling in a few smaller things.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
My role in startups has an interesting curve of progression to it. Early on (like the few first months) I am a reliable person for any kind of a general role.
For example, I did a bit of product wireframing and design, thinking through logical steps customers need to go through, while also handling the customer experience side and customer emails.
That was a powerful combination, but once the ground is established I pass these responsibilities to people who are a lot more talented in these things than I ever would be.
I am a chartered accountant though, so a similar pattern happens in other functions like HR, I make sure all the contracts are in order and policies are in place before a specialist takes over, similar case for legal, or finally my core skill – finance and accounting.
So my recent workday goes something like this – a bit of investor reporting and management, some legal reviews in relation to our next brand launch, a bit of financial accounting to close the month for one of our brands, a bit of bookkeeping and some payroll, review of the lease for our next office, join a few meeting in relation to our next core product ideas and help train up recently joined people in their understanding of our business and industry.
A lot of details, but that means my cofounders don’t have to worry about these things and can excel in things they do best.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
We, like many other businesses, went through COVID-19 lockdown. During that time, all of us were working remote. So it’s definitely possible.
I also have the privilege of being able to decide whether I personally work remotely or in the office. While appealing, I would say that due to the nature of my work I have to be in meetings with people quite often and my effectiveness is diminished if I am remote.
You can only help a new person starting so much without taking them out for a coffee, there is just so much feedback people can take over a Zoom call, it is harder to help and notice if people need helping.
We still need to wait and see on how profoundly the nature of work will change, if it does move more digital and permanently so, then we will need to invent new ways of
4) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
In terms of routines, my partner and I recently had a baby, so all my routines have changed! Definitely less time for myself, but the way the time has been reallocated has made me a lot happier!
Nappy changes, bedtime stories or middle of the night lullabies – you work for smiles and giggles and it does not feel taxing at all, as such a lot of my routines are reorganised around this major life event.
5) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
I guess it’s important for all to think about what makes them happy and what proportion of these things achieves the balance that is right for them? Am I happy at work, doing what I do?
Yes, but too much time here will quickly drain that happiness away, so you set boundaries and try to prioritise things at work that make the most impact and build systems where you can delegate to others.
Am I happy spending time at home with our new addition? Yes! I would like to spend a lot more of it, but I know that too much time would also mean that I would become anxious about my work commitments.
So in a way, work-life balance goes both ways although most of us probably have to spend too much of our time at work by no choice of our own, so we tinker at the edges. But the same principles go for all the other relationships in your life, your parents, family friends.
Too little is bad, too much is taxing, so you need to experiment and find what works for you, your loved ones, and accept it as it is – a balance.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
Stratechery is some quality strategic thinking. There are plenty of books that I would love to reread like Creativity Inc. and a few more to cover for the first time like Code Complete by Steve McConnell.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
I can’t do without my Blackberry inbox app, a relic of the past in a way, but any strong email management system is a must.
In a business sense, on day to day basis, we use dozens of apps so at times, while looking at my 1Password, I wonder if this the way that business is moving towards, not just startups.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Although I do not follow any particular sport avidly and it is not directly related to work-life balance, I do find that sport psychologists have a unique lens. When everything hurts but peak performance is needed, what do you do? One such person is Grigori Raiport and when I can I’d love to get my hands on the original Red Gold book he has written on the subject.
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