At work with Duena Blomstrom
4.40am starts and scheduled time for being a supermum: it’s all go for Duena Blomstrom. The Co-Founder and CEO of Emotional Banking and PeopleNotTech tells Efma’s Boris Plantier about how she juggles her busy work and home life.
Tell me a little about your background.
I stumbled into the fintech world ten years ago as one of the first employees of a tiny Icelandic start-up that went on to become an international leader in the space. I then went on to work with hundreds of banks and fintech companies, started and ran a few companies, wrote a book and changed a few slices of the world!
What does your workplace look like?
At PeopleNotTech we are a young tech start-up, so we each work from home offices, shared spaces and airports. We found this actually keeps us nimble and on our toes as it fits into our permanently flexible and agile way of creating things.
Could you describe your usual working day?
Not really! I can say it starts at 4:40 on a weekday and a lavish 6 on a weekend. If I’m not on a plane, which is about half the time, it’s usually straight into some wellness practice and me-time (be it meditation, yoga or lifting weights) then Trello to see my cards (to-dos) and then writing for a solid hour or two before the world stirs. It’s then all about stand-ups with the team, calls with customers and partners and being a supermum in between.
What is your favorite food?
I have a bit of an addiction - sweet and salty popcorn. I’m almost as addicted to it as I am to Ted Baker. Now if Ted made sweet and salty popcorn I’d be doomed!
What do you do when you need a break from work?
I surgically schedule breaks. My team and my friends still shake their heads at two of my habits: the double espresso waiting by the bed which I drink cold when I wake up; and my predilection for setting aside very clear times to disconnect in the calendar such as “Netflix for 45 minutes” or “focus on awesome child for 90 mins”.
How do you build a successful team?
This is the million-dollar question for us at PeopleNotTech. Nothing is more important. What we set out to do is crack the human code of workplace chemistry and have machine learning feed us the answers for who are the people best suited to make magic together while we feed it smart behavioral data. We also obsess over the most important ingredient for success and productivity of all: psychological safety. Successful, efficient teams have it and we spend every waking hour focused on how to increase it through our software solution so every organization can win.
There is a saying that we learn more from failure than success. Tell me about one of your failures and what you have learned from it.
I had thought that if you speak the truth and say it loud enough that will change the world. I was on the road having the boards of all banks nod fervently at the truths I was articulating in my Emotional Banking book and we all left these executive briefings or workshops energized and full of beans. However, we went on to do nothing about anything.
I used to think that passion alone can carry us through but without knowledge and – above all – courage, and without allowing technology to help us make significant change at scale, it’s all a waste. These are the three things we obsess over at PeopleNotTech.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to succeed in financial services?
As I mentioned, we obsess over three values: knowledge, courage and passion. Fintech is addictive and it can be an awesome ride but without working at each of these three things every day it won’t pay off if you’re the kind who wants to make a change, not just make a buck. In addition to this, avid, ravenous curiosity and delight in learning as well as oodles of heart and bravery are non-negotiable.