Vaitea is co-founder and CMO of Enapter, a renewable energy startup designing and developing electrolysers for green hydrogen production. She works with a team of 70+ across Germany, Italy, Thailand, and Russia. She is a Pacific Islander, a 30 under 30, and a practitioner of no-shoes habits.
On learning to accept pain and sports analogies.
My mom is from New Caledonia, my dad from France. I grew up in the USA. He used to be a ski instructor, and I started skiing competitively very young. Before university, I joined the state team. I had the choice to go pro or to stay in school. I continued my studies: I realized I loved the sport more than its competing side.
The training was rough - early mornings in harsh environments. You hit the gates all the time and must hike back up the hill, skis on your shoulder. You go up and down and it seems quite repetitive. You get better with practice, but you still get tired and cold. It taught me that is okay to feel pain. You cannot avoid it or distract yourself if you want to get better. You have to be in it, get through it, and then do it all over again. It formed my habits showed me I need to keep healthy and active if I want to keep a clear mind.
On her ideal daily routine.
A good day starts the night before. My phone goes in airplane mode around 10 PM. Nobody can reach me, it's goodbye, world. Then I read for 30 minutes: I enjoy fiction before sleeping, I get funnier dreams after. In a best-case scenario, I am asleep around 10.30 PM. I wake up at 5.45 AM, to meditate for 15min and do one hour of yoga. I shower, then read the news while having breakfast. Airplane mode gets turned off at 7.30-8.00 AM. The workday starts there: ideally, I collaborate and do meetings in the morning, get on with tasks in the afternoon. I try to do sport in the evening as well, also to get rid of any residue caffeine. This month, I have been rock climbing 2-3 times a week.
On her wellbeing hacks.
Deep breathing is my hack. Whether from exercise or breathing techniques, it cleans my mind when I need to refocus and find my center before getting back in. I practice both Wim Hof's method and belly breathing techniques. I find them beneficial, even in small doses. Most times, I just need to exercise. When I need to relieve tension, I do jumping jacks to get my blood rushing and start to breathe. Another thing I find beneficial is "Power Posing" before entering a stage. It's a technique popularized by Amy Cuddy to build up confidence. You keep this stretched position where you take up more space for a minute or so. I discovered this at a startup competition. It tricks your mind to feel confident.
On her productivity setup.
Classic, but I find standing desks absolutely necessary. Today, I am getting an ergonomic pad for my feet so that I can stand longer without them hurting. Another big productivity tool is the bullet journal. I end every workday by writing what I need to do the following. I structure my ToDos in a matrix set up so that I can begin the day knowing what is urgent and what is important.
On a particular office habit.
An odd thing we do is taking off our shoes and changing into house shoes. It's more of a cultural thing, as our company started off in northern Thailand, where it's common to do so. Chiang Mai, where I was living, is a Buddhist city. People take off their shoes even when entering restaurants. I consider it a sign of respect, to not bring in the dirt from outside and cherish the inside more. It also grounds us. Now with COVID-19, we need to re-evaluate this with guests and visitors, but we are still shoe-less.
On managing her inner critic and anxiety.
I still fight with it every single day and have a really hard time. I'm a perfectionist and I was raised to compete and be the best. I know there will always be someone trying to bring me down, and I try not to be excessively harsh with myself. If I'm in a very negative loop of hopelessness, I do sports, go outside and get some fresh air. Staying in that headspace is useless.
On safekeeping her energy levels.
Working over the weekend doesn't make it for me. If I do, I feel like 20-30% diminished the following week. Over time, I discovered that I need a switch-off. I keep reachable for my co-founders but don't open my email client or read industry news. I come back much more energized and more focused.
It's increasingly difficult to coordinate, but it's never a mistake to go away for 24 hours. In Thailand, I would just take the motorcycle and go. In Berlin, the City does not stop you from disconnecting and grounding yourself in nature.
On staying accountable while staying creative.
Brainstorming questions is a tactic we tried recently. In traditional brainstorming, you ask a question and then look for answers. In this setup, we challenge ourselves to only come up with the questions. We first set up criteria and topic, then for four minutes, we push our creativity in "What if" and "How might we" kind of questions. The result opens up the problem way more than attempting to answer a question that might have not been the right one, to begin with. By open up creativity, you end up being more targeted on what you are trying to solve.
On hard things defining her experience as co-founder.
Growing the team. At the start, everyone is involved in the hiring process, and your assessments are almost personal. Over time, you learn to fine-tune on more professional, longer-term perspectives. We hired a hiring manager when we reached the 30 people headcount. Now my challenge is to account for different mindsets and values across our offices around the world. It's teaching me to not be impulsive and make an effort to think about personal dynamics and cultural motivations. I'm a very individual person, in the sense that I've done individual sports and I've always kind of done my own thing. I am learning to communicate more as our team is growing, to actively reach out to others to know what they're doing. Because I know I can do things. but I don't know how much better I can do things with others.
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