Important business and life lessons from Vogue Codes Sydney Summit 2019
14th Jun 2019
Vogue Australia’s editor-in-chief, Edwina McCann, summed it up best when she opened this year’s Vogue Codes Sydney Summit with these words: “We’re trying to tackle the topic of why women are not engaging with technology.” This year’s fourth annual Vogue Codes Sydney Summit brings together leading thinkers and game-changers in numerous fields to talk about our shared digital future. As McCann noted, Vogue Codes is all about inspiring and empowering women and girls to embrace technology in their careers and lives: “If we can make a career in technology fashionable, then we should be able to tackle this problem.”
While that was the overarching message of the day, there was also plenty of career and life advice to inspire anyone, in the boardroom and beyond. Speakers taking to the stage at Westpac’s head offices in Barangaroo, included fashion designer Karen Walker, entrepreneur behind Away (Meghan Markle’s preferred suitcase brand…) Jen Rubio, Atlassian’s Mairead O’Donovan and Samantha Wong of Blackbird Ventures, to name a few.
Here, Vogue rounds up thoughtful lessons and facts for you to keep and use whenever you need them.
On the facts of gender diversity…
“Gender diverse companies are 15 percent more likely to outperform their peers. 75 percent of new jobs in this country will require some sort of STEM skills,” Craig Bright, chief information officer, Westpac Group.
“We need to change perceptions [of STEM as a career] too,” Anastasia Cammaroto, general manager, business integration and chief information officer, consumer, Westpac Group.
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“It’s about having a champion for the curriculum [to ensure STEM is represented]. The curriculum is really important but so is having the chance to apply those skills,” Sharndre Kushor, co-founder and chief operating office, Crimson Education.
“It’s time to say maths is not optional anymore. We need to reverse it. Maths is as important as being able to be verbally literate,” Samantha Wong, partner, Blackbird Ventures.
On knowing your brand and your audience…
“Sharing stories from one person to another in an intimate, authentic, human way – that’s the business we’re in. We’re not actually in the business of making clothes, we’re in the business of telling stories. Be clear in what your story is and tell it. The customer is god. Don’t waste their time. Don’t waste their pixels. It’s got to be, all killer no filler, every single time,” Karen Walker, fashion designer.
“Our approach to building a brand has always been through telling a story. At the end of the day your brand is what people say about you. Social media is by far one of the most important tools we have. The angle we look at everything through … [is] it has to be so good that people will talk about it over drinks or dinner with their friends and family,” Jen Rubio, co-founder, president and chief brand officer, Away.
On making the leap…
“There’s a point where you have to take the leap. I would encourage you, if you’ve done the work, take the leap,” Katherine McConnell, CEO and founder Brighte.
“Creativity is our super power. But our kryptonite is comparison. One causes us to rise and one causes us to fall. Comparison culture … We’ve been socialised to compare, and we’ve been socialised to be perfect. We can’t be brave if we’re trying to be perfect,” Greg Attwells, co-founder and curriculum architect, Creatable.
“Risk-taking is a skill in itself,” Virginia Ellis, science creator, steam coordinator, Barker College.
“Someone offered to buy my app – I was just so interested in the money. But when they asked me to prove my business growth figures, I realised I wasn’t done. I needed to keep building my business,” Christy Laurence, founder and CEO, Plann.
On the reality gap…
“What is reality and what is what we see or what we’re told?” Meggie Palmer, founder and CEO of Peptalker.
On copycat brands…
“We’ve always said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. It’s exciting for us. You can’t copy and paste community. You can’t copy and paste the story and the emotion people feel for your brand. We’ve always been focused on our community and our story and those are things they can’t copy,” Jen Rubio, co-founder, president and chief brand officer, Away.
“Keep turning up. The winner is the most resilient. They’re the one who wakes up everyday and keeps on going. Sometimes you don’t feel like you can, but you . Keep turning up. Keep turning up – you don’t know if it’s going to be your lucky day. Keep putting in the work,” Katherine McConnell, CEO and founder Brighte.
“Follow what you’re passionate about. Sometimes you chase the title – if I just get that title I’ll be so much better. It never works. Follow what you’re passionate about because the cream of the top will always rise to the top. People will naturally gravitate towards that, it’s infectious,” Mairead O’Donovan, head of growth, Atlassian.
“The advice I always give to women is don’t wait until you’re confident. You have to get in and start participating now and have that learning mindset. Your mindset just has to be that you’re there to learn. You have to be that person who raises your hand when you’re not confident,” Rachael Rekart, vice president of customer success, Soul Machines.
On getting a pay rise…
“Track your contribution. Know your value. Build a support crew,” Meggie Palmer, founder and CEO of Peptalker.
On raising funding for your start-up…
“I went into it going to investors and feeling weird about asking for money. I was always raised to not ask for money. But [I had] that simple shift in perspective – that this is a business opportunity and we’re going into this to make ourselves and our investors successful,” Jen Rubio, co-founder, president and chief brand officer, Away.
On hiring the right people…
“You need to have a great team around you. You need to create an environment for that team to be successful. You need to be super clear about what are the expectations? What does success look like?” Mairead O’Donovan, head of growth, Atlassian.
On diversity in the workplace…
“It’s vital that we have diversity of thinking and backgrounds. The best answer comes when you have people who think differently and you listen to them,” Jane G Anders, senior vice president, Asia-pacific R&D, product and packaging development, innovation hubs at Estée Lauder Companies.
“It’s important to remember that technology is just a tool. What matters most is the hand that holds the tool. A steady hand. For too long the hand has been unsteady, unbalanced, overly masculine. Unbalanced masculinity has become a real danger. It needs to be balanced by the feminine,” Shama Sukul Lee, founder and CEO, Sunfed.
“You can’t expect these [AI] models to be unbiased if you’re training them on biased data. We have to ask, is there a bias in the output of our data?” Caroline O’Brien, vice president data science, Afiniti.