2022 Women in Digital Awards Winner Series: Q&A with Emily Bobis, Founder of Compass IoT
Introducing the 2022 Women in Digital Awards Innovator of the Year, powered by Auto & General, Emily Bobis!
Emily Bobis is the Founder of Compass IoT, a road intelligence company using connected vehicle data to improve road safety, infrastructure and city planning.
Now in its fourth year of operations, Emily has grown Compass IoT into a multi-award-winning organisation making an incredible impact in building safer cities and pushing the boundaries of transport planning. So far, Compass IoT has been used to map 20 million freight vehicle trips across Queensland, halve crashes on one of Sydney’s busiest roads, justify a $73 million bridge widening project, and measure a 50% deterioration of roads in Lismore caused by flooding to help prioritise relief efforts and asset maintenance.
The judges were impressed by Emily’s innovation and ambition to solve a real pain point in the market, alongside impressive growth statistics.
Here’s what Emily had to say about her win on the night:
We were thrilled to talk to our 2022 Innovator of the Year about her winning entry, career journey and thoughts on diversity in digital.
Click here to meet all the 2022 Women in Digital Award Winners.
Congratulations Emily! We are so impressed by your entry and obviously so were our judges, but tell us, who is Emily Bobis?
I’m a 27-year-old Co-Founder and Director of Compass IoT – a multi-award-winning road intelligence company based in Sydney. I’ve spent my entire professional career building tech-enabled startups, particularly around branding, marketing, media, and PR.
I’m passionate about getting things done, communicating the value of good marketing and design for business outcomes, creating a difference, solving problems, and encouraging young people to get involved in entrepreneurship.
What is something that not many people know about you?
I’m a 2nd Dan Black Belt in Taekwondo and have trained for 10+ years. Training for such a long time requires you to take on feedback, get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and challenge your own bad habits – skills that also happen to be essential to entrepreneurship and good team building.
Who is your professional inspiration?
It’s cliche but of course, I’m going to have to say, my mum. She taught me the importance of sustained persistent effort to achieve goals. It’s often persistence that builds life-long aptitude and resilience, which can trump natural talent when there’s pressure to deliver.
I’m also very grateful for my co-founder, Angus. He’s one of the most patient people I know. I’ve learnt a great deal from him about team leadership and we make a great team.
What’s your go-to startup or technology resource recommendation?
The Guild of Entrepreneurs resource library and online community. It’s an incredibly well-curated library on all things startups, and the community is a terrific bunch of founders, mentors, and enthusiasts that genuinely want to provide value.
How did you end up working in technology?
A complete accident. I applied for a study abroad scholarship program because I was trying to avoid writing a book report at university. By some luck, only 4 people applied and there were only 4 places available, so I got accepted by default. On that trip is where I ended up meeting my co-founder, Angus.
A few years later, I had a terrible experience in a corporate internship and had a realisation: I don’t want to work in a job like this for the rest of my life. After the internship ended, Angus and I started Compass IoT.
I’ve always been interested in technology and the value that it provides, but I didn’t ever plan to start a technology company. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I had been a good student and just written my book report…
What has been the best career advice you’ve ever received?
There are 2 pieces of advice I keep coming back to:
- When in doubt, do something – making a decision (even if you’re not sure it’s the right one) is better than doing nothing at all.
- Do it scared – you’ll never feel 100% confident in your ability to do something. If you’re scared about an opportunity, don’t pass on it; just do it scared.
Welcome to our WIDAwards Alumni! We want to know… what does winning this award mean to you?
I’m incredibly proud to be representing the Compass IoT team and our success so far. We often reduce the success of a startup to its founders; in reality, there are 12 other people that deserve a huge level of recognition for building Compass IoT.
In a bite-sized summary, how did Compass IoT come to be?
My Co-Founder and I met while studying at the University of Sydney. I ended up working with him at a bike-sharing startup called Airbike. Through Airbike, we had discussions with different transport and mobility planners and discovered there was a missing link between how cities were designed and how people actually used them. We went on to found Compass IoT to try and bridge that gap using data from cars.
What have been the greatest challenges you have encountered whilst launching Compass IoT? How did you overcome them?
Adapting from being in a team of 3, where I did a lot of the day-to-day tasks, to managing a team of 12 and delegating responsibility. Learning to let go and trust others to deliver can be really difficult and is definitely a skill that I’m still learning. I’ll let you know when I figure that one out!
Compass IoT has achieved some incredible outcomes as evidenced in your submissions. Tell us, how do you work towards driving constant innovation?
So many startups fail because they create a solution first and then try to find a problem space to force their idea into. Our innovation comes from listening to customers and identifying problems, prioritising them, figuring out what is feasible to create, and THEN acting on it. We’re always scanning and searching for new problems within our focused niche and how we can potentially apply connected vehicle data to solve them without compromising our ability to deliver or our business goals.
We went to list all the awards and grants you have received here but truthfully, there are just so many. It is so incredible to see how much you and Compass IoT have achieved in just 4 years.
Often, women don’t put themselves forward for promotions or awards and this is for a laundry list of reasons with one of the most discussed being imposter syndrome.
What advice do you have for women wanting to put themselves forward for an award but aren’t sure if they should?
Self-nominate regardless of whether you think you’ll win. The worst-case scenario is you might actually win. You miss 100% of the opportunities you don’t take – there are plenty of other people who will doubt you or tell you that you can’t do something. Why add to that list by being one of them yourself?
I actually don’t like the term imposter syndrome – it shifts the blame back onto individuals, fostering the idea that women are the ones that need to change instead of looking at overhauling a system that was never designed to offer us a legitimate seat at the table.
As a Founder and growing startup, how have these awards and grants helped you?
They helped by providing legitimacy and incredible brand awareness to Compass IoT, the team, and the value we provide to transport professionals.
What advice would you give to anyone with an idea for a business solution/ product/ app?
It’s never too early or late to start. Building Compass IoT has been one of the most terrifying, lonely, and challenging things I’ve ever done. But it’s also been the most rewarding, interesting, and humbling experience; if I had to go back, I’d do it all over again without a second thought.
What has been your biggest learning this year?
Execution is everything. Ideas are amazing to have but don’t really mean anything unless you act on them and create something tangible.
What is next for you and for Compass IoT?
We’re in the process of expanding internationally to New Zealand and the UK.
It is commonly recognised that there are fewer female leaders in digital and technology. What do you think could be done to improve diversity in tech?
There needs to be an attitude adjustment across all sectors regarding female leadership and mentorship (for men too!), not just technology and digital. My male counterparts have been asked on multiple occasions what business they own, whereas I’m constantly asked what company I am interning for. We need to change the rhetoric we all use so that we don’t unintentionally undermine women’s achievements with outdated assumptions based on gender stereotypes.
This change involves all genders, age ranges, and seniority levels to set an example, communicate expectations, and speak out when something is done or said that isn’t appropriate.
What do you believe is the importance of industry awards such as the Women in Digital Awards?
You can’t be what you can’t see. It’s important to have a platform that highlights intelligent women doing great things because, for too long, there has not been a public forum that provides enough duly earnt recognition.
My hope for the future is that we no longer need female-specific awards. Ideally, I want both men and women to be equally recognised in the same spaces, events, and award categories.
What technology development or trend is most exciting to you at the moment?
Connected and Autonomous Vehicles! We’ve already seen a wave of cars that are defined by their software more so than their physical hardware. Now, we’re incredibly close to seeing more driverless functions, which could lead to a drastic reduction in road deaths and injuries.
Emily, if you could leave the Women in Digital community with one parting word of wisdom, what would it be?
Back yourself. Women are often quick to turn down accolades or public accomplishments because we either think we are undeserving or are afraid to be seen as arrogant if we accept them. Self-nominate, celebrate, raise other women up with you, and become comfortable with the recognition that you deserve.
Once again, congratulations to Emily Bobis on this accomplishment and thank you for taking the time to chat with us!
To read more Q&A blogs from our line-up of Women in Digital Award Winners, head over to our blog and keep an eye out for more stories on our LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram. You can also see our incredible list of 2022 WIDAwards here.