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Lily Bruns, Thailand Country Manager at Draper Startup House

In this accomplished peeps interview, we speak with Lily Bruns, Thailand Country Manager for Draper Startup House. Lily explains her role as one that is very entrepreneurial, and on any given day, she may find herself dancing between any of the roles and responsibilities.

Let's dive in for an inside look into Lily's day-to-day managing remotely.

Explain a little about your role at Draper Startup House and what a typical workday looks like for you.

As the Thailand Country Manager, I'm responsible for running our brick and mortar co-working space and hostel, marketing, managing the community, signing startup founders onto our fundraising platform, securing and managing partnerships with government agencies, incubators, accelerators, universities, and other actors in Thailand's entrepreneurship ecosystem, business development - the whole shebang!

I typically start the workday in my home office processing my inbox and to-dos. If I have deep work to do, I'll stay home for that, but otherwise, I get dressed and head to the co-working space to check in on my team, chat with customers, and take meetings. I have been doing a lot of interviews lately - both myself interviewing our community and sharing their stories on social media, as well as representing the Draper Startup House brand to local media. I'm an active networker so I often end my day running an event at our space or popping across town to join someone else's meetup.

Describe the layout and feel of your personal workspace.

I have big windows that let in lots of light and outside my house, it's very lush and green which I love. I have minimal furniture and big leafy plants. My boyfriend finally convinced me to start using a monitor at my desk so I don't scrunch my shoulders so much anymore. I am a big fan of knick-knacks and stationery so my large desk has a friendly amount of clutter. The art in my office is inspirational quotes and such, supplemented by post-its that contain notes my coach encouraged me to write for myself to stay focused on goals and mindset. At any time there's probably a furry friend attempting to nap on my desk or lap - I live with three cats and a dog.

What's one habit or ritual you need to start and finish your day and why is it non-negotiable for you?

I start my day nursing a cup of coffee and reading non-fiction. I don't let myself check my phone until at least 9 am. I'm working hard to break bad habits about phone use and being "too available." Setting boundaries and expectations on communication are so important to your long-term functioning in a remote context. If I start my day on my phone, I go into firefighting mode and it never lets up from there. If I start my day reading non-fiction, it gets my brain going and I feel super pumped and full of ideas!

At the end of the day, my phone goes into Do Not Disturb mode again at 7 pm so I have enough time to wind down from the workday and untether from my phone. Before bed, I read fiction, preferably a real paper book. I have been so addicted to my phone (and work) in the past and it messes with my sleep and wellbeing so I have to be strict with myself.

How does your team use asynchronous communication to stay in the loop while working remotely?

For collaborating with the global team, we basically exist on Slack and Google Suite - getting more into Notion for managing an internal knowledge base. We went into meetings overload during lockdown last year, and then, unfortunately, had to let a lot of people go, at which point meetings dropped off precipitously but overall productivity went up. We tried to learn from that and shift to collaborating async and keeping meetings to a minimum. When we do get on Google Meet though, we make room for social chit-chat and enjoying each other's company. Most of our team to date have been in Asia and Europe so collaboration is aided by overlapping timezones. As we've launched more locations and brought on colleagues in South America though, I think we'll have to revisit our culture and communication habits.

How do you limit distractions while working from home?

Over-ear noise-canceling headphones! Even if I don't put on any music, something about putting on headphones tells my brain and body we're in work mode and I focus much better. With the headphones, I am also not pulled into casual chitchat with my charming but distracting boyfriend who also works from home. Closing the door and kicking out my pets is sometimes necessary, but they're kinda like furry, natural Pomodoro reminders so it can be a useful type of distraction.

This isn't to do with distraction per see, but more on the topic of focus - I schedule meetings in chunks on certain days in order to limit task-switching and make headspace for deep work. Life changing for my productivity.

Is there one particular podcast or Youtube channel that you can't stop listening to or watching?

I would read blogs posts over watching Youtube or listening to podcasts any day. I am not particularly loyal to any creators or channels and shift my attention based on what I'm working on and want to learn about. I've gotten involved with the Plumia (first country on the internet) initiative, so lately I jump into that Discord and read up on all the fascinating links and resources the group has recommended.

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