‘You don’t get trophies for working long hours’: A day in the life of Aaron Wollner, CMO of Quontic
- As CMO of Quontic, Aaron Wollner leads the digital bank’s creative vision and marketing initiatives.
- What does it mean to juggle building a brand with building a house? Or raising brand awareness with raising a baby? Find out in this week’s Day in the Life.
For the past few years, Quontic has been on the journey of establishing itself as a digital, tech-forward bank, officially letting go of its branches in 2021.
Suffice to say, there’s a whole lot of marketing initiatives that go into making this happen.
Leading the company’s marketing vision is CMO Aaron Wollner, who joined the company in 2020.
With Quontic’s team working remotely, Wollner has the interesting challenge of balancing constantly touching base with his direct reports and managing his own high-focus tasks.
When he’s not working, Wollner is playing hockey, hanging out with his family and friends, or in the midst of planning his house.
Here’s a day in his life:
Morning: Baby o’clock, emails blocked
I get up as late as I can. I have a baby, so I usually get up around seven-ish and spend time with her. She’s one and a half, so almost a toddler now. We’ll usually hang out until the nanny comes, which is around eight.
So that first hour of the day really gives me energy. I've become way more of a morning person over the years, but just in this most recent chapter of my life, I really value that first bit of the day.
So that's what I do when I first wake up.
I do my best not to check my email first thing in the morning. I think that if the first thing you do at work in the morning is look at emails then you’ll be tempted to respond to them – and that means you're starting your day in a reactive mode. And so I do my best not to do that.
It doesn't happen every day, if I'm being honest, but most days, I will know what I want to proactively do first thing in the morning, whether it’s a 10-minute task or a 30-minute task. This morning, for example, I had a document that I needed to do for our regulators, so I put a chunk of time in the calendar this morning, from 8:30 to 9:15. And then I was able to open up an email without getting into reactive mode, I just knocked that out.
Diving into the work day: Office mode…activated
My office is in my basement. You can't ignore the reality of the world. And so my team and I, and the company at large – we're spread across over 35 states at this point. I’d say there are some rituals around turning on the lights and opening the door, and things like that, just to make sure that I have a good, positive working environment, and to make sure it feels like work.
I think that the onus is on us now to make sure that if you're remote, it still feels like work.
Afternoon: Walk & talks, catch-ups and check-ins
For me, high-focus tasks work best in the early morning and late afternoon. So the middle of the day is where I have some flexibility: I really enjoy using these hours to call my peers or individuals on my team to catch up. I actually do that a lot. I'm overcompensating for something, and that's the fact that we're all remote and disconnected. So my job, at this point, is really heavy on the people leader side of things, and to make sure that the people on my team are clear-headed, positive and focused.
So one of the things I do, for example, is go on a walk and catch up with the VP of Marketing for 30 minutes. It doesn't happen every day, but I'll do something like that on most days.
I really enjoy walking and talking – I actually have a few days a week around lunch where I walk and talk with a few of my direct reports, even if there’s no agenda to our conversations. The name of the meeting is ‘walk and talk’, and it’s supposed to be like, ‘Are we both outside? Okay, cool, how's it going?’ Stuff like that has really worked for me.
Evening: A clean sweep
So the nanny leaves at five. My workday has not ended by then, but it's basically a really good planned break. I’ve seen parents with young children over the past years being very rigid about not responding to emails or doing any work between five and seven. That's basically true for me, but I may occasionally look at emails sometimes, as well.
When the nanny leaves, that’s when my wife and I take over – then it’s family time. So usually that includes things like going for a walk, playing in the backyard, or even just eating dinner together. So I like to make sure I’m starting and ending the day with family time. It keeps me energized.
After that, I sit back down at my desk, and best case scenario, I’ll work another 15 to 20 minutes – worst case scenario, another hour or two.
You don’t get trophies for working really long hours. I tell my people this all the time. It's less of a problem now, but earlier in my career in New York City startup culture, I remember not leaving until the people next to me left. There's this sort of unspoken competition that doesn't help anybody, because nobody's really doing work at that point. But you end up sticking around so that you’re not one of the first to leave. Luckily, that's less of a problem now that we're remote.
I'm a zero inbox kind of guy, which I know is a little old school, but I'm a tidy person. So it means my desk is super clean and my office is super clean. It also means that things like my inbox need to be super clean.
Winding down: Ice & fire (but also TV)
The number one thing that I do outside of work is play hockey, which, I don't know if that's winding down, per se, but it certainly helps clear the head.
I usually play hockey once or twice a week. We’re in the process of building a house, so on the average night, I’m looking at spreadsheets with plumbing fixture orders and just thinking about a million little things, like where my grill’s going to go relative to my kitchen. So for the past six months, this has really taken up most of my spare time and removed room for other hobbies I've had in the past.
And, of course, there’s friends. So tonight, for example – this is sort of a leftover from the pandemic days – but I've got a group of friends I get together with around the firepit to catch up and hang out.
On a good night, I'm also able to catch up on some good TV with my wife. So last night, we watched Game of Thrones.
In this day and age, post-pandemic, and being a young family, there’s nothing too earth-shattering to my evenings, but that's generally what I do on the side.