If you’re working in a corporate role, venturing into the start-up space can seem like an impossibly long leap.
On one hand, start-ups offer passion, dynamism and the opportunity to make a real and lasting impact. On the other, they can feel like a gamble, especially for women in senior roles who want some measure of security.
Enter: the Startmate Women Fellowship, a two-month program that enables women to explore the full range of options within the startup eco-system, equipping them with the connections, confidence and skills they need to succeed.
“It’s the MBA for women in Australia”
Alex Lewis, 41, Chief of Staff at commercial music streaming platform QSic
“In 2020, after being on maternity leave for two years, I had no idea where to start looking for a new role.
It was the first year of COVID-19 and the normal ways of job hunting were completely redundant. Having been out of the loop – and primarily talking to an infant – for two years, I was terrified I wouldn’t be able to find my voice or my place in the new start-up ecosystem.
That’s where the Startmate Fellowship came in for me.
The application process was daunting but rewarding. It involved a series of 10 x 10-minute interviews with industry leaders in the Startmate community.
My coach Lauren Capellin, Startmate’s Principal and a former Board Director at FinTech Australia, was really supportive in helping me find direction. I was interested in Chief of Staff roles – which vary according to the company, but often require you to work closely with the CEO – so I requested meetings with anyone who had ‘Chief of Staff’ in their title.
Lauren connected me with Matt Allen, the chairperson of QSic, who is a huge champion of women in tech.
It was the height of lockdown in Melbourne, and we were only allowed out for one hour a day, so I met Matt for a bushwalk along the river in Abbotsford. After I met the QSic co-founders, I pitched them the Chief of Staff role and wrote a job description. Now, I’m back in full-time work, helping an amazing team bring their vision to life.
I can’t recommend the Startmate Fellowship enough – it’s the MBA for women in Australia. The practical advice, hands-on guidance and real talk from start-up founders is incredible.
I can’t wait to see what this community looks like in the future
Plus, you’ll be in great company. I can’t wait to see what this community looks like in the future when so many of the movers and shakers in this country are going to be women who’ve come through the Fellowship.”
“The program helped me land my dream job”
Katrina Hau, 34, Talent Experience Partner at retail crime intelligence platform Auror
“Last year, I moved to New Zealand from London with my Kiwi husband and our one-year-old daughter. I grew up in England, so before I committed to a job I gave myself six months to learn about my new home, its culture and people. A friend mentioned the Startmate Women Fellowship. The idea of a community coming together to fill the start-up sector with passionate and talented women appealed to me – as did the scholarship, which I received.
The program itself was extremely ambitious; eight weeks jam-packed with activities, sessions, workshops and connection-making, which helped me land my current role.
At a Startmate lunch, I sat next to Kirsti Grant, VP People Experience at Auror, which helps retailers reduce theft and improve safety in their stores. She turned to me and said, ‘Do you know I’m hiring?’
I didn’t have any of the technical recruitment experience listed on the job description, but I applied anyway and was hired as a Talent Experience Partner. It really is my dream role; I see myself as the guardian of our culture, working to develop our people and community, and to recognise and retain talent. I don’t think I would have made it here without the generous advice and connections from the Startmate community.
I don’t think I would have made it here without the Startmate community
For anyone intrigued by the idea of joining a start-up, the Startmate Fellowship is a great place to start. You don’t need to have all the answers; if you’ve got the questions, the answers will come rolling in.”
“The network is the program’s greatest asset”
Bree Fitzpatrick, 31, Director of Commercial Strategy at hospitality software company Mr Yum
“Before I did the Startmate Fellowship, I had applied for a job at the Melbourne start-up Mr Yum [a software company that builds mobile menus, ordering and payment systems for hospitality venues], but didn’t have any luck.
I’d been working in a director role at a management consulting firm and had started to wonder what else was out there. I applied for quite a few jobs online, but kept getting rejected, and realised it was going to be tough to move from the corporate world into a start-up.
I had heard a lot of good things about the Startmate program, so I applied. It was a very different way of recruiting: they asked key questions about your values and motivations, and did a fire round of short, sharp interviews. When I found out I’d got into the program, I was ecstatic.
I got some advice early on about optimising for the company and not the role
The community network is by far the greatest asset of the Fellowship. I went into the program thinking more about the type of role I would like in a start-up, but I got some advice early on about optimising for the company and not the role. I still really wanted to work for Mr Yum, as it was based in Melbourne, had a female founder and a great product with global opportunities.
So, heeding the advice, I didn’t just send Mr Yum a CV, I actually tailored a pitch to the company committee addressing some of the challenges they were experiencing and listing the skills I had that could help. And that’s how I ended up as the Director of Commercial Strategy.
In corporate, there’s so much competition and everyone is trying to get to the top, whereas in start-ups, you’re all working towards a common goal. If someone wins, you all win. That’s the difference.”
This story is a partnership with Startmate’s Women Fellowship
Find out more about the Women Fellowship here – applications for the next cohort of 100 women close on March 13