“Children will constantly surprise and amaze you with what they do”, with Gareth Williams and Dr. Ely Weinschneider

Other than the health and wellbeing of your child, it’s tremendous fun. They constantly surprise and amaze you with what they do — whether it’s when they start talking, walk round the garden with a bucket on their head and walk straight into the shed, when they share the money the tooth fairy gave them with their sibling because it was the right thing to do, or a spontaneous hug they give you.

As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview Gareth Williams

Gareth leads the YellowDog team, spearheading the vision to build a world where people do more, create more, discover more; unleashed from limited computing power.

Following an MEng in Information Systems Engineering from the University of Durham, Gareth cut his canines working in software and telecoms at companies including Orange, Experian QAS, FREEDOM4 and Arieso, where he was part of the Management Team that completed the successful sale of the company to JDSU in March 2013.

One day he had a brilliant idea for using spare mobile capacity which, following a chat with someone in the animation department at the University of the West of England, gave birth to what is now YellowDog. When not coming up with brilliant ideas, he is a dad, a keen cyclist, and an ardent reader. He also likes ale and talking to anyone (usually together).


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?

I was born in 1977 and raised in Manchester in the UK. My Mum was a Primary School Teacher then Head Teacher, my Dad an Insurance Broker. I have one younger sister (we get on much better now). I was educated at Manchester Grammar School before heading to the University of Durham to study Engineering. I left with a Masters’ Degree in Information Systems Engineering in 2000.

Growing up and coming of age in the ’90s in ‘Madchester’ was a real privilege!

Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?

My career up until starting YellowDog was in Product Management. I joined the mobile operator Orange in 2000 as a technical grad and left in 2008 heading up one of Orange’s B2B product teams. After that, I ran product management functions in Freedom4, Experian QAS and Arieso, which we sold to JDSU in 2013.

Having delivered innovative and breakthrough products for other people, I always had an itch to do it for myself. I’m now scratching that itch.

Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?

During the week I’m up between 5 & 6am. Having had my breakfast and made my sandwiches for the day, and said morning to my two children, I leave the house at around 6.30 for my 13 mile cycle to work. The office in Bristol (in the South West of the UK, often cited as the best city in the UK to live in) is only 2 miles away but I enjoy a long ride in — it clears the head and sets me up well for the day.

Having showered in the office, my day starts around 7.30 clearing the emails and Slack messages that came in overnight. I do better thinking work first thing in the morning so I block out 8am — 9am for writing/thinking time. Meetings start at 9 and from then on, no two days are really the same. Running a fast growing, scaling business means that there’s lots of variety.

I set a bad example for the team by taking lunch at my desk but I do always try to squeeze in a game of table tennis at some point during the day.

I tend to head home around 4.30 — either cycling straight home or taking the longer route depending on how the day has gone. I get home to have a couple of hours with the kids before they go to bed. I often make their dinner, read with them, play or simply have a chat. I then help and bathe or put the kids to bed.

After dinner with my wife, work usually restarts at around 8pm and I try to finish by 10pm. I then try to read for 30 minutes before I head to bed.

During the weekend, I get up with the kids around 6.30am. I make their breakfasts, spend some time reading whilst I have my breakfast, then do some housework. We try to have some form of trip out every weekend. There’s a couple of hours work I usually do on Saturday and Sunday, catching up when no new emails are coming in, and that’s when the kids watch some TV or play on the iPad. The rest of the time is at the park, seeing family, playing with Lego, reading and eating together as a family.

In the evening, my wife and I relax with a glass or two of wine and something good on Netflix!

Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. This is probably intuitive to many, but it would be beneficial to spell it out. Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?

It’s imperative for every part of their development whether its social, emotional, intellectual. Not only is it your duty of care as a parent to help them develop in the best way possible, but if you don’t they will be stunted in some way.

On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is important to make time to spend with your children?

Other than the health and wellbeing of your child, it’s tremendous fun. They constantly surprise and amaze you with what they do — whether it’s when they start talking, walk round the garden with a bucket on their head and walk straight into the shed, when they share the money the tooth fairy gave them with their sibling because it was the right thing to do, or a spontaneous hug they give you.

As any parent knows, it’s also hugely frustrating at times. They don’t listen, they push boundaries, they push your buttons. And it can be exhausting. But that’s all part of it.

According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give a 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?

I get this wrong sometimes. I’m a slave to the email and Slack on my phone and I sometimes need to be reminded to put it down, which makes me feel terrible. So I try to leave my mobile on the side when I’m at home and not in my pocket.

As already mentioned, I like getting up early with them at the weekends. That’s me and them time with very few distractions. It also gives my wife a break!

I also take my son to play rugby every Sunday morning. I really value that time when it’s just him and me.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention?

It’s really hard! My suggestions would be:

  1. Put your phone somewhere else, out of reach.
  2. Limit screen time (phones, TV, tablets etc) to no more than two hours per day.
  3. Get a routine in place — an activity or something that’s systematic — that makes you carve out that time.
  4. Really listen to what they have to say — get down to their level when they’re speaking.
  5. Do things that you both enjoy.

How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?

I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer this question. I would suggest a good parent is anyone who is able to raise a healthy and happy child.

How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?

My children are quite young: 5 & 6. What they want to be at the moment varies from day to day, from hour to hour. We’re trying not to limit their ambition in any way: whether it’s a fireman, chef, hairdresser or astronaut. Yes they can! We also try to be gender neutral in all our role models.

How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?

My family and I are healthy: emotionally and physically. We enjoy what we do — we have a purpose in some form. We take time to reflect on where we are right now, and also where we’ve been and where we’re going to.

Also, for my business, our exit is bigger than the exit we achieved at Arieso!

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?

Early on, we decided not to read any parenting books. We found they forced a comparison that was unrealistic and unhealthy.

So, inspiration to be a better parent for me comes from my wife (who’s an amazing mum) and my children. I simply want to the best I can for them.

That said, I love reading a wide range of fiction and non-fiction and you never know where inspiration is going to come from: the novels of Steven Brust, The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida, any of the books by John Gray, China Mieville, The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky, to name but a few, have all had an impact.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I can only think of Yoda: “Do or do not, there is no try”. The psalm of entrepreneurs everywhere.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Right now, the political systems in the UK and US are in real trouble. It feels like a new movement in both countries is needed.

Longer term, the change to the climate is the single biggest issue the world faces. We need global leadership and long term thinking but us humans are so very short term.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!


About the Author:

Dr. Ely Weinschneider is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist based in New Jersey. Dr. Ely specializes in adolescent and adult psychotherapy, parenting, couples therapy, geriatric therapy, and mood and anxiety disorders. He also has a strong clinical interest in Positive Psychology and Personal Growth and Achievement, and often makes that an integral focus of treatment.

An authority on how to have successful relationships, Dr. Ely has written, lectured and presented nationally to audiences of parents, couples, educators, mental health professionals, businesses, physicians and healthcare policymakers on subjects such as: effective parenting, raising emotionally intelligent children, motivation, bullying prevention and education, relationship building, stress management, and developing healthy living habits.

Dr. Ely also writes a regular, nationally syndicated column about the importance of “being present with your children”.

When not busy with all of the above, Dr. Ely works hard at practicing what he preaches, raising his adorable brood (which includes a set of twins and a set of triplets!) together with his wife in Toms River, New Jersey.