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Day in the Life: Kami's Alliv Samson

Alliv Samson is the co-founder and chief operating officer of award-winning tech company Kami, which helps millions of students get a better learning experience every day. She shares how she gets through the day, how she organises her time and how she handles the madness of business.

What time do you wake up?

If I’m in New Zealand, I wake up at 5am to get a head start at some work as our market is in the US, we try to get started as soon as possible. When I’m in the US, where I’m based almost half of my time, I wake up at 8am.

What kind of work do you do?

I do operations and marketing. I’m tasked with the day to day operations of the company, team growth, and user growth.

What’s the ideal way to start your day?

The ideal way to start my day is if I get a chance to go to the gym in the morning. Unfortunately, work gets busy fast, so my personal activities tend to be moved to later in the day.

Do you have any morning rituals?

In Auckland, I spend an hour of personal time. That includes going through my personal social media accounts, messaging family and friends, reading. Then I have breakfast while going through Slack and messages from my team. I will then go to the office where I go through my morning emails. Meanwhile, if I’m in San Francisco, I go to the nearest cafe for some freshly brewed coffee. Where we live in SF, there’s a lot of great cafes just nearby which is very handy. Then I go through Slack, messages, and emails before heading out for meetings.

How soon do you begin doing work-related things each morning, such as checking phone or emails?

I used to have the bad habit of checking my phone for messages first thing in the morning. I started removing any notifications from apps, so I don’t get pressured to reply to all of them when I’m still in bed. Now, I prioritize the team messages while having breakfast and avoid emails until I get to the office.

What’s your media consumption or interaction like – which podcasts, radio, videos, books, magazines, and new sites do you read or listen to?

I’m currently listening to more podcasts and audiobooks than reading as I can multitask listening with other work. At the moment my regular ones are Girlboss Radio, No Man’s Land, The Vergecast, HBR Women at Work, and The Atlantic Interview.

What do you think is unique about the way you approach your work?

I’m always adapting to what needs to be done. There is no proper structure or procedure to how I (or even the company) do things, which makes us faster to adjust to changes and solve problems.

What responsibility do you have in a typical day? What takes up most of your time?

I feel like a conductor of an orchestra. Every day I make sure everyone knows their goals and are communicating with each other. Communication and collaboration have been our key to our team success. And as I learn to spend less time replying to emails, I focus more on how to filter and not have my inbox control my day. Most of my time, I would talk to our team members especially the marketing team, then I go through job applications and interviews and spend the rest of my time planning.

Where do your best ideas come from?

My best ideas come from my own personal needs or want. I usually problem solve when I’m procrastinating.

What does inspiration look like for you?

Inspiration is when I know that I will make a difference. I get really excited and execute it as soon as possible.

Our vision is to build the future of the classroom. And that future includes productive teachers, students who are more engaged, and a classroom that is more environmentally friendly. Our app does not only improve the admin and learning side of education but also the attitude towards excess printing and paper consumption.

What has been the most transformational business practice you’ve implemented at your work?

We have a lot! Firstly, we give more responsibility and freedom to our employees. They take part in building the company’s strategy and goals. We believe in hiring the right people, so we are confident that each and every one of them is an expert in their roles and that share the same vision as the founders. This makes our day to day work less for managers handing them tasks, instead, they plan and execute on their own. It’s not a typical ‘boss’ world’, everyone needs to step up and collaborate as a team.

We also make sure everyone in our team flies to the US at least once a year to meet users. We bring them either for training, meetings, school visits, or tradeshows.

What social or environmental issues inform the work you do, as well as what you’re aiming to do with your company’s overall vision?

Our vision is to build the future of the classroom. And that future includes productive teachers, students who are more engaged, and a classroom that is more environmentally friendly. Our app does not only improve the admin and learning side of education but also the attitude towards excess printing and paper consumption. With our app, a school saves tens of thousands on printing expenses and cuts down waste while increasing productivity and saving teachers time.

What’s the most enjoyable part of your day?

Talking to my team. I love brainstorming with them and planning. We spend our Monday mornings in a cafe just going through our strategy.

What about the least enjoyable?

Going through emails! Thankfully there’s Slack, so that decreased my inbox a lot.

Do you have any side hustles you’re juggling alongside being an entrepreneur?

I used to run a lifestyle website and social media even before there were ‘influencers’. Unfortunately, Kami as taken most of my time so I have to close it down and just keep my personal blog and socials.

Do you procrastinate? Is it good or bad?

I procrastinate. I think it’s good because most of my new ideas come from procrastination. I’m a very creative and visual person, so I need that time for me to fill that gap. I would usually spend time on Instagram looking for inspiration or taking photos as I love photography. Other times I would play strategy mobile games just to clear my head from work and have fun.

What’s your best productivity hack?

I learned this from Sam Altman, one of our investors. He is definitely one of the busiest people in Silicon Valley, so his hack is something that helped me a lot. He said to ‘make your emails shorter and straight to the point’. Before, I would write long formal emails. Now I do what he does which is very short and straightforward. Some people might find it ‘unconventional or rude if it lacks the traditional form, but if it saves me and the recipient more time and still gets the message across then it’s essential.

Do you measure your accomplishments or productivity? If so, how?

I measure my accomplishments by results. Some days might seem busier, some might be slow especially if we’re traveling, but I see things on how close I am to reaching my goals. This goes to our team as well.

What’s your interaction with friends and family throughout the day? Can you be both a successful entrepreneur and a good mother/partner/friend?

I am lucky to be married to my co-founder, so we spend most of our time together. I make sure I see my family on the weekends. When we first started the company, we isolated ourselves so much that we lost touch with a lot of our closest friends. I’m glad that now that we’ve learned and adjusted to entrepreneurial life, we have reconnected with our friends and we make sure we see them at least once a month and keep in touch via social media every day.

Do you get stressed? If so, how do you manage it? Do you practice any mindfulness or meditation?

I used to get a lot of burnouts. It came to a point that I needed to drop everything and fly somewhere far just to disconnect. That happens when I work every day (even weekends) and don’t go on holidays. I have learned that doing less doesn’t mean being unproductive. I’m just wiser with what I do and I how I do it. Now I do more personal activities like going to the gym or doing groceries, which I love, just to take my mind off work. I have also started learning a new language and getting back to my photography to keep my mind at peace.

What do you do once you get home? Can you switch off?

When I get home, I try to switch off as much as I can. As mentioned, I turn off all notifications on my phone, so I don’t get pressured into reading them.

What do or don’t you eat or drink to maintain your performance throughout the day?

I drink coffee and lots of fruits to keep my energy. I don’t drink alcohol as much as possible and keep sugary snacks at a minimum.

What time do you go to sleep? How many hours sleep do you try to get each night? Any special techniques for a good night’s rest?

Nowadays I sleep for eight hours a day. I try to sleep early and if I struggle, I drink some herbal tea to help me calm down. I’m still learning how to put down the phone when I’m in bed.

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