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Black coffee, limited screen time, and early morning rowing: Here’s how the CEO of language app Babbel stays sane

August 9, 2022, 12:00 PM UTC
U.S. CEO of Babbel, Julie Hansen
Courtesy of Babbel

Today’s CEOs are facing innumerable challenges: a global pandemic and a sea change in how and where employees want to show up for work, just to name a few. For leaders, the pressure has never been higher. How do they mitigate it? In our new series, we ask executives about their day-to-day wellness habits to gain insight into the tactics they use to minimize stress and maintain their well-being.

Julie Hansen, chief revenue officer and U.S. CEO of Babbel, is focused on accelerating Babbel’s global growth and transforming its successful language learning app into the leading online language learning platform, offering various learning experiences for consumers and businesses alike. Before joining Babbel, Hansen was chief operating officer and president of Business Insider. Hansen held top management roles at sports site, Condé Nast Publications, and Time Inc. She began her career at Penguin Books, creating software for learning about literature.

Coffee or tea? And what do you put in it?
Definitely coffee! I drink it black for the most part, but I’m fond of an occasional latte.

What is your go-to breakfast?
I tend to go for a piece of sourdough toast with peanut butter spread on top and fruit on the side. It’s a balanced meal that helps me start the day fueled for the challenges ahead.

Tell us about your workout routine.
Most days, I start my mornings at 5:30 a.m. with rowing practice. From April to October, we’re on the water, and the rest of the year, we’re indoors. I love being in nature, so rowing offers me both exercise and a chance to connect with the outdoors (when it’s not too cold). I think rowing is an interesting parallel to business—everyone on a rowing team has to be in sync, working together and equally as hard to succeed. It’s the ultimate team sport, and it teaches you to encourage not just yourself, but everyone you’re working with.

How many hours do you sleep on a typical night?
I’m an early riser, but I always aim for six to seven hours of sleep.

How do you de-stress?
Exercise and being surrounded by nature are huge de-stressors for me. I love to get away to Vermont to golf, hike, ski, and bike—a perfect combination of the beautiful outdoors and physical movement. When I want to give my body and mind time to wind down, I also enjoy reading a great book, usually fiction (I was an English major).

According to your phone, what’s your daily average screen time from last week?
Only 2.5 hours a day on average last week. I was happy to see that!

What app do you use the most?
I have an all-in-one messaging app that consolidates my email inbox, texts, social DMs, and Slack messages. I use that the most often, and it’s a lifesaver for focus and productivity! I also use Babbel every day for about 15 minutes: Our philosophy is that regular usage is key for sustainable learning.

When’s the last time you took a day off? What did you do?
I took some time off around the July Fourth holiday for an outdoor weekend in Vermont. I spent time kayaking, watching fireworks, and just relaxing with family and friends. I also recently took a half day for personal errands, which I encourage everyone to do once in a while. It can be difficult to make time for appointments throughout the workweek, so taking a few dedicated hours offline is crucial for work-life balance. 

What’s one thing your company is doing to prioritize employee wellness?
Work-life balance is something that we prioritize at Babbel, because we know it leads to improved mental and physical health. Our approach to wellness is comprehensive. It includes a generous vacation policy, wellness-focused benefits (like Citi Bike and Talkspace memberships), and a flexible approach to in-office work. A robust set of supports ladders up to overall employee happiness and wellness, and providing them is something that I take seriously as a leader.

What’s your favorite treat?
Ice cream! Really any flavor. There is no bad ice cream, but mint chocolate chip is a classic.

Show us a photo of your happy place.

River side scene with trees and dock.
“This was taken at the Connecticut River in Putney, Vt. The docks belong to the Putney Rowing Club, a small, volunteer-led rowing group that my daughter and I were so grateful to join.”
Courtesy of Julie Hansen