Tell us about your pathway to startup life?
While I pursued an arguably ‘conventional’ profession in accountancy, I’ve never subscribed to the standard prescription of what that means. I’ve always pushed myself and, from early on in my career, was always interested in – and had an aptitude for – the operational aspects of business. People, processes, compliance, as well as the P&L and balance sheet. They’re all so intrinsically linked.
As such I have always chosen to work on the more intense challenges and projects such as mergers, acquisitions, expansions, and restructures; where my deeper understanding of the companies I worked for, the people, and the processes combined with my finance-led capabilities to give me a real niche.
I met Craig at strategy firm Blue Rubicon six years ago. We formed a friendship through working on a large project where we brought very specific skills (me; finance and ops, him; technology, product, and market). Years later, when the time came for Craig to look for a co-founder for Upgrade Pack, our highly complementary ‘two sides of one coin’ professional strengths made for a perfect fit.
What are the most important skills or qualities to have in your job?
The ability to multitask! In a scaleup, we all have to wear a number of hats. And, as COO, I touch every aspect of the business. That’s what I love. From meeting with investors and budget forecasting to managing a rapid succession of new hires and creating a working environment that people will really love, you must balance cost rigour with building and scaling a business. Our shareholders rely on us to make smart decisions. Their support for what we’re creating is what motivates me.
Craig would also happily admit to being an archetypal entrepreneur-CEO and so our complementary skills sets – me as chief operator and him providing the vision – are key in balancing today’s operations and tomorrow’s growth.
Any positive female influencers in your career?
I have so many! I have genuinely been fortunate enough to work with some amazing women in my career, including three female CEOs. The first female CEO I worked for was Sharon Richey. Her leadership style, energy, and sheer determination are all what inspired me to one day be a leader, whether of 20 people or 200. Rebecca Hirst, COO at Freuds, was absolutely instrumental in developing my passion for operations, people, and that ‘helicopter view’ alongside my trade as an accountant. This helped me create a niche for myself that would ultimately help steer, and accelerate, my career. When I joined Shine Communications, Rachel Bell was a huge inspiration, with her empowering leadership style, commerciality, passion, and personal involvement in a wide variety of different businesses put fire in my belly every day.
Which other woman in business or in the public eye do you admire? Why?
Michelle Obama’s involvement and passion for making a difference as First Lady was one of the most prominent that the USA had ever seen. What she did, and continues to do, for causes from veterans’ wellness to education for young women is highly inspirational. I also always sensed that she has fun doing it; which is important.
What do you do to take time out from the demands of working/startup life and relax?
I have danced since the age of four and a few times a week I attend a street dance class. My teacher there, Thalia, is another huge inspiration for me. She helps me to find a space where I can feel alive and creatively emboldened. I love running, and hitting the gym, and try to do so every morning. I’m not a morning person (another contrast with Craig, my co-founder!) but I find I always feel better for it; setting me up for the day.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
I’m grateful to my parents who, being entrepreneurs themselves, taught me: how to be a strong, independent woman; how to always be myself; the importance of staying grounded; and the need to trust my own judgement. Work hard, be honest, and treat each day like it’s a gift.
What is Upgrade Pack’s approach to a more inclusive and diverse world and workplace?
Inclusion is at the heart of our cultural DNA and forms the first of our eight core company values. For Craig and I, it was crucial that we created a company that embraced diversity in the truest sense; where people can genuinely be themselves at work every day. Our team comprises a highly diverse mix of ages, backgrounds, and nationalities – and our female/male gender split of 12/8 is not found in many of the technology firms I know. We’re proud to have women in senior roles across every team.
What’s been your proudest moment/greatest accomplishment so far?
I always wanted to become Finance Director – a box I ‘ticked’ at Shine Communications, working with Rachel Bell. My prior experiences (including, of course, some challenges along the way) all come together to give me the confidence to be an entrepreneur and business leader, and I now know that working alongside Craig I’m on the road to my biggest accomplishment yet. That success is something we will share with the entire team here at Upgrade Pack – as each and every employee will own a piece of the business we’re building. That is my current proudest accomplishment.
Any key advice for women looking at founding/co-founding a startup?
Do it! There are so many positive role models out there and support networks which reflect the growing desire to see more female-founded businesses.