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June 4, 2018 Women in Digital

In a world where technology is as much a part of your daily ritual as your toothbrush, digital really is a girl’s best friend. From the moment we wake up our days are dominated by interactions with apps, programs and devices, modern accessibilities that most of us couldn’t imagine living without.

Not only has the digital era redefined the meaning of convenience, ongoing innovations in technology have also established new and continually expanding job markets, in turn creating a wealth of novel career paths.

One woman who has paved her professional journey in the rise of the tech revolution is Margarita Camus, Digital Innovation Lead at Queensland Urban Utilities. A regular guest speaker and contributor within the digital innovation, marketing and technology industries, Camus knows more than a thing or two about the ever-evolving digital landscape.

Here, we speak to her about everything a tech-savvy woman needs to know about building a career in the digital landscape.

Women in Digital: What does the digital era mean to you?

Margarita Camus: The digital era is the new way of life. As a digital professional it’s about constantly navigating the ever-changing industry so we can make sure we’re meeting customers’ expectations, creating efficiencies and adding value.

WID: How does digital affect your day-to-day?

MC: Digital is all around us, and is especially engrained in my life as a tech professional. I wake up to an alarm on my smartphone, use a smart toothbrush that syncs with my phone, and tell my Google Home to play my favourite morning playlist – all before I’ve had breakfast!

That being said, when I get home from work it’s important for me to put my phone down and enjoy a meal, spend quality time with my family and friends, or make it to a yoga class. Digital can make a very positive impact on a person’s life, but at the end of the day we are still human and need to know when to disconnect and be present.

WID: Throughout your career you have worked in digital strategy, digital marketing and project management for a diverse range of brands across different industries. What has working across these different sectors taught you about the flexibility of digital marketing?

MC: I have been lucky enough to work on incredible projects with some of the world’s biggest brands, including Nestle and UNIQLO. Working for one of Australia’s largest water companies is an incredible challenge and I’m really enjoying working in a more innovation-focused digital role [where] I get to push the boundaries and explore new technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and bots, to see how they can add value to our customers’ digital experience.

Each brand you work with can have a completely different approach to digital, and it’s been invaluable to my career to have a wide breadth of experience; I think getting digital experience across a range of industries is one of the best things you can do early in your career.

WID: What are the most important professional skills required to thrive in the digital era?

MC: I would say the best digital professionals genuinely love technology, have curious personalities, enjoy learning and want to solve complex problems. Digital is constantly changing and you have to keep up with new technological advancements and user trends that change almost on a daily basis, so it’s not something you can do without a significant time investment.

WID: In 2014, Queensland Urban Utilities introduced a ‘Women in Leadership’ Group to promote and harness the potential of women within the organisation. Can you tell us more about how Queensland Urban Utilities is currently working towards improving female representation in the digital realm?

MC: Joining the Women in Digital pledge represents our commitment to supporting diversity within digital teams at Queensland Urban Utilities. We are also involved in other initiatives, including Work180 and Diversity Council of Australia, which promote diversity across the organisation.

I’m very proud to say our digital team is gender balanced and we have tailored sourcing strategies to attract top digital talent from all industries, backgrounds and sectors.

WID: In the digital realm, do you feel there are currently equal opportunities for both men and women?

MC: It’s widely acknowledged that diverse teams are more productive and profitable and it’s great to see more organisations recognising this and pushing this movement, especially in the digital industry, which can often be very male dominated. It’s not just the right thing to do, but organisations will be left behind if they don’t prioritise diversity.

Diversity is more than just [about] gender. There are a range of other factors that organisations need to consider including diversity of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, language, religion, sexual orientation, and geographical area. I also think diversity of experiences and viewpoints are important, as it provides more holistic ways of looking at organisational challenges.

WID: What role do you think analogue communication plays in our digital world? Do you feel there are some business practices and forms of communication that cannot be digitised?

MC: Absolutely – at the end of the day digital isn’t just about technology or processes, at its core it’s really about people. I’m passionate about events like hackathons, as they provide a great opportunity to break down silos and encourage diverse teams to think about digital challenges in new ways. The magic behind a hack happens through human interaction. Plus, they are great fun!

WID: What do you love most about what you do?

MC: I love working with a passionate team, and working for an industry that does so much for our community and environment. I’m supported by an incredible team that believes in my ideas and constantly encourages me to push boundaries. It’s really refreshing. 

WID: What piece of advice would you give to women who aspire to work in the digital realm?

MC: I’d encourage them to build a great network and find a mentor to support them on their professional journey. There are so many digital events and activities across Australia that can help you to connect with like-minded people.

WID: What’s one app you can’t live without?

MC: There are a few! I recently converted to using an Apple watch and I really enjoy the activity tracker to keep me active. I also plan my life on Evernote and couldn’t live without it.


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February 27, 2018 Women in Digital

By Phyllida Yeo

To be big, you need to think big. Canva, the hugely successful online design platform empowering everyone to unleash their creativity and design anything, is doing just that. In four short years, it’s grown from a small Sydney start-up to a $1 billion valuated business — and according to Liz, Head of PR and Communications, Canva, the journey has only just begun!

With 250+ innovators propelling this newly crowned “tech unicorn” into its future, we asked Liz about the business’s latest achievements and what it’s like to be part of the Canva team.

What was the team’s reaction to the new $1 billion valuation and $40 million round of funding?

This new funding round is a great vote of confidence for our vision to empower everyone to design anything and publish anywhere. No matter what you’re creating, we want Canva to be the one-stop place that makes the whole experience seamless. 

Our achievements so far have given everyone even more motivation for the huge journey ahead — everyone here is super excited to play a huge role in it!

What helped the team achieve success so quickly?

One of our values is to “Set Crazy Big Goals and Make Them Happen”. While chasing after them can be intimidating, it pushes you to try harder and dream even bigger. Without this value, our most recent achievements and projects such as Canva Print, Canva for Android and Canva Animations wouldn’t have happened. And, we wouldn’t have helped millions of people all over the globe collectively create 400 million designs since launch!

How is this new funding going to help Canva achieve the rest of its “crazy big goals”? 

Just recently, we launched in 100 languages, which brings us one step closer to making our product accessible to everyone. This new funding will enable us to implement even more enhancements and give us the ability to scale, so we can bring Canva to more people around the world. 

Our number one focus is creating a product that users continue to love, while scaling our team and culture — this chapter is definitely the most fun! 

How does it feel to work in a place where innovation and breaking the boundaries is at its core?

I’m incredibly lucky to be surrounded by super smart people, all of whom share the same big dreams and plans for Canva — especially our CEO, Melanie Perkins.

She is one of the most visionary, yet down-to-earth and approachable CEOs I’ve ever worked with. She leads by example, setting a company culture and approach to teamwork that really sets Canva apart. When you see someone as dedicated as Melanie — always willing to roll up their sleeves and help out — it’s hard not to get infected by her drive for success!

Speaking of success, what helped you achieve yours?

Perseverance, bravery and learning to deal with negative feedback positively so you can forge ahead with your new learnings. This also means having a strong locus of control — you need to understand what you can control and accept what you can’t.

Also being willing to do the grunt work despite what your title says.

Lastly, where do you see the future of online design platforms and Digital Marketing going?

We continue to see a strong trend toward visual communication. Marketers will have to continue to explore new visual ways of getting people’s attention. This is why I think the trend for more personalisation will continue to grow. We’re already seeing super tailored video content become the norm. It’s that personal touch that makes all the difference.

Whether it’s creating marketing collateral or a killer presentation, the Canva team is continually pushing the boundaries to provide the best experience for all members of their design community. With no dream too big, they are well on their way to achieving even more success locally and on a global scale.

This article was contributed by our star blogger, Phyllida Yeo. Phyllie is a driven digital marketer based in Brisbane. Since she started her career in a graduate program, she has developed a passion for all things digital. Whether it’s content marketing, search marketing or simply getting inspired by others, she enjoys building her skills across all areas of the industry. She is currently a Digital Marketing Coordinator at Signet.

Read more interesting stories on Inspiring Women in Digital here.


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February 23, 2018 Women in Digital

By Jade Ong

How do we get more women investing? The economic reality women tend to face is full of gaps – super, wages, investing – and part of closing them involves gaining the knowledge and tools necessary for tackling the inequality.

It’s why we’re developing a series aimed at inspiring women to invest in their financial future (and in turn, themselves) by looking to others who are already on that journey.

I’ll be sharing my own experiences in finance to kick things off, detailing 4 things I would tell my 24-year-old self.

15+ years in financial markets taught me a lot about myself, and has helped develop the investing mindset I have today. While learning along the way is part of the fun, these are the things I wish I knew from the get-go:

1. Find your passion and pursue it

I’m a big believer in doing what you are passionate about, not what others say or think you should do. Haven’t quite figured it out yet? That’s okay, just never stop searching.

I’ve seen too many friends make life decisions, such as choosing courses and careers paths, based on what their families think.

They almost always end up with regrets.

When it comes to investing, I’ve learnt the same principle applies – invest in what you find interesting, because you’ll be naturally motivated to learn more and become well-versed in whatever it may be.

If you can align your passions and beliefs with what you’re investing in, it’s going to be a far less uncertain and stressful ride.

2. It’s good to take risks sometimes

At 24, I couldn’t possibly picture myself quitting an amazing job in investment management to go overseas and pursue my travel dreams (let alone stay there for nearly 4 years), then leave an established career in investment banking to found a start-up.

If you asked anyone who knew me at the time, they would probably say it wasn’t in my DNA. Fast forward a decade or so, (eek, I’ve just given away my age!) I’ve discovered that taking on these risks, which I now see as opportunities, has only led to positive outcomes.

If you can overcome the fear of failure; the experience gained is priceless.

“You’re unlikely to regret decisions you make, and more likely to regret decisions you don’t make.”

I’m not saying quit what you’re doing and jump on the latest fad, or try to double down on your life savings at the casino. But rather strive to develop a healthy relationship with risk – it can be quite rewarding.

Let’s take the stock market as an example. Numerous studies have suggested a major factor influencing a woman’s likelihood to invest is they fear it’s too risky.

However, once the fear is overcome, research has shown women tend to outperform their male counterparts – partly for the very reason they don’t enter markets in the first place. The research data (collected by Fidelity Investments) also showed that while men are more likely to make trades, which means trading fees eat away at their portfolios:

“Women assume less risk, such as not loading up entirely on equities. They also invest more in vehicles like target-date funds, whose automatic allocations make for smarter diversification”

I thought being in a career surrounded by men had changed my perception of risk over the years – turns out perhaps it was in my DNA after all.

3. Start investing early & think long term

Compound interest is a wonderful thing. It’s simple math we’re taught in school (if we’re lucky), that if I had fully appreciated at the time, I would have started investing sooner and started building wealth early on.

The beauty of it is you can start small, and watch compounding work its magic over time – supplementing it with a simple monthly savings plan based on what you can afford.

A close second behind compounding is possessing a long-term mindset. The share market will have its ups and downs, and unless you pride yourself in being a successful day trader, just let your investments build up over longer periods.

It’s your long-term mindset that breeds superhero-like qualities according to the Fidelity Investments study:

“If you want to invest like a wonder woman, that means shifting to a long-term focus, saving more up front and giving up on trying to time the market with brilliant trades.”

While it’s not gender that drives performance, there’s no harm in embracing your natural tendencies when they happen to work in your favour.

Don’t be hard on yourself if your long-term thinking hasn’t infiltrated your investing mindset yet. One of the key findings from ‘Enabling Change: A Fresh Perspective on Women’s Financial Security’ research report revealed:

“Equal numbers of men and women (around one in two) say they were taught about managing finances at an early age. But the situation is very different when it comes to investing. Only around one third of women have been taught about the benefits of long-term investing when they were young, with lasting effects on their behaviour and financial wellbeing.”

Take it into your own hands and have a long-term plan as early on as you can. The difference between putting away money for investing at 25 compared to 35 is stark.

4. Invest in what makes sense to you

As a young fund manager, I was encouraged to ‘put my money where my mouth is’ by investing my own personal money in the stocks I recommended. This taught me two things.

  • You should only invest in what you know about and believe in
  • You can spend all your time reading, but you learn so much more by taking part in investing yourself

Like with anything, learning the theory is good a foundation, but I found the best way to learn was through practical experience.

People always say the fastest way to learn a language is to spend time in that country, and immerse yourself in the culture.
Want to learn Spanish? Spend some time living in Spain. Want to learn about investing? Why not start investing? It’s a piece of invaluable advice I live by to this very day.

You should never settle for less than having full transparency over knowing what you’re investing in and why (especially when someone else manages it for you).

It can be as straight forward as truly understanding or believing in a long-term investment trend like e-commerce, or knowing a little bit about every global stock you own.

You might be surprised by how much you’ll already know about a stock given you’re probably using their products or services every day. That iPhone you’re using is made by Apple (a listed company on the stock exchange: NASDAQ), and that item you ordered in one-click was from Amazon (also listed on the same exchange).

If you stick to what you’re familiar with, you already believe in or are passionate about, it will be less tempting to give in to the latest get-rich-quick scheme or investment fad.

And whatever you do, just don’t forget to learn, invest and grow. Plus have some fun along the way.

About Jade Ong

Jade Ong is a Co-Founder of AtlasTrend, an online investment platform that makes it easy for anyone to learn and invest in trends transforming our world. Jade has over 15 years of experience in financial markets including roles at Macquarie and IAG Asset Management.


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January 19, 2018 Women in Digital

By Jeannine Meyer

If you are currently active in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) or have a hankering to explore and understand the depths of machine learning, then you have most probably heard of recent PhD graduate and co-founder of Brisbane’s own AI meetup, Natalie Rens. What is even more intriguing is how this South African born ballet dancer turned neuroscience extraordinaire came to be one of Australia’s most up and coming AI experts.

Upon entering university life, Natalie first saw herself as an adventurer who would take a trip to the Amazon, discover unknown exotic plants and ultimately create brand new pharmaceuticals out of them. As fate would have it, her travel log and academic journey would deviate from where it originally began upon the completion of her undergraduate in biomedical science in England. Natalie continued her studies by undertaking a Masters in neuroscience in Portugal and France, which then led her over to Australia where she continued to pursue her interest in neuroscience and thus began her PhD at the University of Queensland in Brisbane.

So, how does one write and submit a thesis in which they combine the works of both neuroimaging with machine learning? Natalie explains that she was first introduced to machine learning through one of the new techniques that had come out in neuroscience called “multi-voxel pattern analysis” (a tool Natalie used throughout her own research) which is presented in the context of “brain reading” programs that showcase how certain mental states can be picked out and translated. Natalie’s first study was created within virtual environments that revealed where in our brain the information for upcoming complex decisions was actually stored – similar to how Alice in Wonderland is required to find the right lock that fits the tiny golden key! Her study (just published – https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnhum.2017.00610/full) showed widespread brain activity when individuals prepared to make their own choices, the opposite to when being told to follow instructions – (Bear with me I was just as astounded!).

Throughout Natalie’s next studies, she states she went more philosophical, saying she looked at whether you could decode whether somebody had another option available to them or not – with the idea, that if we navigate flexibly in our environment then we would store all the options available to us. Natalie found that she could decode whether an individual making a decision had alternative options available, but also, somewhat controversially, that the strength of this decoding correlated to how free they said they felt when making their decision.

After gaining some insight into Natalie’s studies, I wanted to immerse myself completely into her story. I personally find AI to be quite a specific yet complex area, and so I was curious as to what led Natalie here. She claims that while you are in academia you are in a bubble of theoretical knowledge of science, however one day she heard that a cohort from San Diego were visiting UQ and were talking about the future of emerging technologies, including AI. It was then that Natalie discovered how significant the impact would be as she came across a powerful discussion amongst the panel surrounding AI and how important it was for companies and society alike to be aware of the engineering and increase in computers that attempt to appear more human and thus, replicate human intelligence. Her fascination led her to Silicon Valley in 2016 where she became passionate about the idea that people needed to have an understanding about AI in order to not fall behind but to also be able to utilise it. As Natalie says, “it allows you to do everything, better”.

I wondered what the defining characteristics of the Australian AI market are and are there any top courses that a novice, someone like myself, could go to learn more about AI? Sadly, Natalie tells me, that in terms of AI courses here in Brisbane, it does not look too promising at the moment and that it is actually quite a problem as there are currently no tertiary institutions in Queensland that promote specialised AI programs, however Natalie recently spoke to some of the universities here who are looking at introducing programs in the near future. With the help of the established AI community, Natalie says they recently finished running the first Brisbane AI deep learning project course. In addition to developing their own projects, participants followed an online course from Fast.AI, a research institute dedicated to making deep learning more accessible, which is run by its democratic AI founders Australian data scientist Jeremy Howard and American academic Rachel Thomas. The 8-week project course just concluded, however she intends on expanding this into a series of courses this year, encouraging people to come along and learn.

Natalie explains that Australia is slightly disadvantaged in the way that “we don’t have the numbers that other countries do”. She goes on to say that, we do not have federal policy yet on AI development and technology start-ups here also struggle to find investment, in comparison to bigger hubs such as Silicon Valley. However, she says, “We can actually grow a good independent scene without having to necessarily face all the competition that they do”. She believes we have an advantage, especially in Queensland, which is home to a strong health community that boasts some of the best health research such as biofabrication research, robotics for healthcare and bionics research companies. With a confident tone, Natalie says Australia has the opportunity to just grow and start a niche start-up AI scene here – and that is exactly what Natalie has done by successfully establishing the first-ever Brisbane AI meetup.

The Brisbane AI meetup was created post attending a conference in California two years ago where Natalie asked the question, “There is this concern about the fact that if only technology companies really know what is going on and they are the only ones utilising this technology, what are we going to do?” Upon her return, Natalie attended a Brisbane robotics meetup where she spoke to Juxi, who would become future co-founder, about the idea of having a place where people could come together to learn about AI. The idea grew rapidly – to the point where they had 150 people attend their first ever meetup. The representation of females, however, within the Brisbane AI community is small, reflecting global numbers that stand at 13% – a percentage that Natalie hopes will increase as word gets out, as there is a huge demand for women in this area.

Natalie expresses that she knows there are many women out there in this environment and should you want to be involved in the community then simply reach out to Natalie or to anyone else in this space! “We are all there to support one another”. Natalie says she hopes to host another “Woman’s cocktail hour” before the next Brisbane AI meetup so that she can get more women together and form a consistent, ever-growing group of female AI leaders!

You can visit/contact Natalie Rens at the Brisbane AI website or sign up and head along to the next meetup – https://www.meetup.com/Brisbane-Artificial-Intelligence/