Co-CEO & Founder at WORK180 - the only job platform where employers are pre-screened to ensure they support women’s careers.
Can’t start the day without: Avocado and Vegemite on toast.
Best read of all time: The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz (it's all about his story of founding and growing a start-up - it's so incredibly real).
Non-negotiable: Calling my family
Most random job ever: During high school I worked at a meat factory doing data entry when I was a vegetarian - it wasn't pleasant.
Top music track: Kendrick Lamar always pumps me up for the day!
Mindful habits: I definitely need to get better at these…
I’m most afraid of: Flying and heights - although I overcame both of these fears in 2017!
Go-to for fun: Going to a bar or eating out with either my best friend (and Co-founder, Valeria) or my boyfriend.
Steps to thriving:
How did you choose what to focus your studies on?
My strengths at school were biology and chemistry, so I chose to study Health Science at University. But after my first semester, I decided to take a gap year and then fell into my first proper corporate job whilst overseas – so I never went back.
When you were at school, did you have an idea of what you wanted a career in?
To begin with I thought I would be a dietician or a paramedic. It wasn’t until after I fell into the corporate world that I realised that was where I wanted to be. My dad recently told me that he always thought I would start my own business, because although I was good academically at school. I always wanted to do things my own way!
What was that first corporate job?
It was in IT recruitment, and I did very well in that position. That was my first exposure to the world of IT and it really inspired me to delve deeper into the industry. I went from recruitment to being an audio and web conferencing specialist. That then lead to multiple business development positions within the tech industry. I found myself working on multimillion-dollar projects for government and enterprise – which I absolutely loved.
What were your experiences of working for other people?
In one of my first jobs in Australia, I was one of only a couple of women within the company – it was like being in a boys’ club and it was a tough time for me. I was stereotyped and I was asked to get coffees for my colleagues, take notes in meetings - all tasks that weren't part of my job description, but were given to me because I'm a woman. Because I was young I didn’t find it easy to resist, but eventually I began to, and people started treating me differently, which was really good.
I was asked to get coffees for my colleagues, take notes in meetings - all tasks that weren't part of my job description, but were given to me because I'm a woman.
My next job provided a completely different experience and this was due to the gender balanced leadership. It was refreshingly diverse - both culturally and in terms of age and gender. This made a very noticeable difference to the working environment - the employees were happy, engaged and productive.
I was then offered a job with more money at a large IT consulting firm, so I took it. But I soon regretted my decision to move - it was like being back in the boys’ club again. Experiencing this level of sexism again started to fuel my passion for somehow supporting women within the workforce.
Experiencing this level of sexism again started to fuel my passion for somehow supporting women within the workforce.
Was there a defining point that brought about the idea of creating a jobs board for women?
Yes - I had an experience which was the final straw. I attended a meeting with a senior executive of one of our large IT partners. There were other male colleagues there, and the senior executive looked at me and remarked, “Oh, so I guess your company just hires the pretty young blondes?” I informed my manager after the meeting, but I was advised not to do anything because it would ruin the working relationship.
I felt incredibly angry and frustrated. That was the point when I decided I needed to make a change. Within a couple of weeks, I had registered Work 180, drawn up a business plan and started working on it.
Did you stay in your current role while developing the company further on the side?
Yes, initially I had to continue working full-time for six months whilst doing this, which was extremely difficult. I was surviving on three hours sleep a night just to get everything done.
Early on, I contacted my now co-founder Valeria and asked if she would help me with the marketing side of things. Unlike me, she had a background in that area. She’s also very creative, so she was a real asset to have onboard. We then grew the company together.
Taking the plunge was financially very tough for me – I went from a big six-figure salary with my previous employer, down to an income that saw me strip my life to the very basics to enable it to work.
How did you find having to strip back to the life basics after earning a great salary?
Even though to begin with it was incredibly tough, I really felt like my life had a purpose - and I truly cared about and believed in everything I was doing. The financial hardships were worth it and were thankfully only temporary!
When I was in IT Consultancy, although I loved the industry, I didn’t feel a deep or personal connection - it was just a job. With Work 180, it isn’t just a job, it's a mission. If you are able to find something you are passionate about and can make it into your job, you’re on to a real winner – it’s the best thing ever.
If you are able to find something you are passionate about and can make it into your job, you’re on to a real winner – it’s the best thing ever.
What were your biggest fears in those early days of establishing Work 180?
It was a big risk and I did worry about failing and losing everything I had worked so hard to achieve. However, it was definitely worth the risk. Even if I had failed, I would have been happy knowing I had tried to do something I care so much about.
How did your employer take the news of you leaving to start your own business?
When I handed in my notice, my employer was quite surprised and didn’t think my company was going to go anywhere. But as the Work 180 objective and mission became known, employers and job seekers quickly jumped on board – so I showed them!
With Work 180 you’re pioneering a change in attitudes towards the position of women within the workforce and reforming approaches to employment in general. Do you meet much resistance from prospective employers in regard to your aspirations?
Yes, although I am definitely seeing the resistance become much less frequent. There are some employers who just can’t see the value in diversity and don’t want to embrace change. It’s really about changing mind-sets. I’ve seen it first hand - in a homogenous team there just isn’t the innovation that a gender-balanced, culturally-diverse and age-diverse team has.
Traditionally, it is the jobseeker who is required to show their CV to the employer. Work 180 are flipping that model on its head and saying that the employer needs to provide their credentials to the jobseeker as well. We give women the confidence that these employers have policies which will support them. And while it has been built for benefiting women, all employees benefit from supportive, flexible working environments.
There are benefits from an employer’s perspective too. Employee retention is so important because of the costs involved in the hiring and training of new employees. We recently had a number of our clients actually promote or give pay rises to women whilst they were on maternity leave, to ensure that they had the motivation and incentive to return.
We recently had a number of our clients actually promote or give pay rises to women whilst they were on maternity leave, to ensure that they had the motivation and incentive to return.
Who were your main supporters and believers when you first came up with the idea for your business?
My dad was amazing. He actually works for us now and being able to provide him with a job where he can work from home is so rewarding.
We have such incredible supporters - we are always being approached by people wanting to help or volunteer because people love what we represent.
Matt Lee who was the COO of Qantas has been a big supporter from Work 180's inception. He’s passionate about what we are doing for the future, and has always been an incredible sounding board for us. It’s great to have male advocates as well as female.
Advice to thrive:
Are there any skills in particular that you would still like to master?
I think for me it would be assertiveness - being able to articulate firmly what I feel strongly about. It's a fine balance to maintain as an employer, creating a culture where people can bring ideas to the table and feel empowered to make decisions; but at the same time ensuring that everything they do is contributing to the bigger vision. I’m getting better at this than I used to be!
The other is making better hiring decisions. I don't think people realise how hard it is to find really great employees. Hiring well when you're a start-up is so crucial, because those people will form the foundation and culture of your business.
Which three personality traits do you possess that you think have contributed to your success to date?
First and foremost, I would say determination – being incredibly focused and doing whatever it takes to make it work. Problem-solving and creative thinking is another valuable trait. I will always find another path if I hit a brick wall. And finally, I would say being able to work collaboratively and seeking out other people's advice and guidance (although being able to determine good advice from bad is also crucial too).
Have there been any 'pinch-me-now' moments since you established Work 180?
There was a real pinch-me-now moment when we were raising our initial investment. I didn't know any rich people or anything like that, so I had to go out and try to raise the money. But very quickly, within about a month, we had $2.2 million of offers on the table from people wanting to invest! We only wanted a million dollars so suddenly we found ourselves in the position of being able to pick and choose our investors - it was incredible.
If there was one piece of career advice you could have given yourself in your twenties, what would it have been?
To back yourself, have confidence and believe yourself – don't be afraid to speak up. When I was at school I was a very confident person, but when I entered the workforce I was degraded and diminished and it really knocked my confidence. I wish that I'd had the courage to stand up for myself at that time, because for the first couple of years I felt very undervalued at work.
Back yourself, have confidence and believe yourself – don't be afraid to speak up
For other women reading this, who want to make a move but haven't taken that leap yet, what would be your advice?
Just do it – there is absolutely no reason to work in a job that you're unhappy in, or for an employer that doesn't value you. There are amazing employers out there who want you and will treat you properly. So, do your research and find employers that align with your values and offer the supportive environment that you're looking for. Obviously the Work 180 site is a great place to do that! Similarly, in terms of entrepreneurship, there is never a right time. So again, just do it. Get started!
there is absolutely no reason to work in a job that you're unhappy in, or for an employer that doesn't value you
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