Written by Lana Weal on the 6th of September, 2018
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This is a guest post from SheStarts alumni, Danielle Owen Whitford.
Danielle is the founder and CEO of Pioneera which uses AI to predict and prevent workplace stress. And she knows a thing or two about pressure…
“Be careful what you wish for….lest it might come true” – an old Chinese proverb we’ve all heard.
It’s also how I’d describe my life right now.
I’d spent more than 20 years in large organisations, leading people and teams. For most of that time, I was the only, or one of very few female leaders. I never considered I couldn’t do something because I was a woman, yet I was acutely aware that not everyone felt the same way. I was raised by a strong feminist mother and have six younger sisters.
We were always taught we could do anything we wanted, so that is how I faced the world.
As my career grew, I realised I had a responsibility to pave the way for other women and other minority groups. I took this responsibility seriously. I led diversity committees, I mentored and promoted women and I found talent where there didn’t seem to be any. I did it because it was the right thing to do and as a consequence, I always had high performing teams. Many of those woman have gone on to have successful careers of their own.
I left the corporate world to start my own business. It’s a AI startup called Pioneera that predicts and prevents workplace stress. This was largely in part to help others avoid the burnout that I suffered a few years ago.
To bring Pioneera to life, I competed with 500 other applicants to secure a place in one of Australia’s top accelerator programs SheStarts powered by BlueChilli. Director of SheStarts, Nicola Hazell told me this would be a game changer for me, and it certainly has been. I recently had the opportunity to speak about startups, stress and burnout to a big audience on That Startup Show.
I love running my own business and being CEO. But I’m also acutely aware that I have a responsibility in being a woman in technology. SheStarts is specifically for non-technical female founders and its designed to bring more women into tech.
“You can’t be what you can’t see” – SheStarts Director, Nicola Hazell.
Nicola says this regularly, that’s why a documentary, media promotion and a huge amount of support exists, to succeed. This has fast tracked my business in an extraordinary amount of time. I am very grateful to be part of it.
This profile and focus also brings with it a fair amount of pressure to be successful. Because success is not just about my company Pioneera, it’s not about the pilots we’re running with large companies like ANZ and it’s not about myself.
Success now is about encouraging other women to move into areas they didn’t dream of before, so we can create the sort of society where we’re all equal. To truly lead by example.
This isn’t that different from my corporate career, except now I’m leading a startup, based on doing things completely differently from anything else on the market.
The stakes are high. The risks are high, but the rewards will be even higher.
I am no stranger to pressure and I’ve honed some techniques to manage pressure over the years.
You can let the pressure get to you, or you can be grateful everyday that you have the experience and luck to be in the right place at the right time and can help others. I choose the later – gratitude and a healthy dose of fun!