Q&A with Susan Beardsley & Suzy Leys, Roundly Co-Founders

Written by Liz Pollock on the 25th of September, 2019

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Susan Beardsley and Suzy Leys are co-founders of Roundly, a platform that matches highly-skilled parents with jobs that meet their evolving lifestyle needs. With more than three decades combined experience in HR and Brand, Susan and Suzy are passionate about empowering women to feel confident seeking meaningful work and growing their careers after having children.

Tell us about the moment you came up with your idea for Roundly.

After having kids, we realised work needed to look different. When we tried to return after maternity leave, Suzy’s employer would only have her back full-time, and Susan ended up going back to her previous role ‘part-time’ – but the role was quite traditional in its approach to flex and the work-life juggle was difficult. We both ended up opting out, and eventually started our own business together, which we still own.

In creating Roundly, the ‘a ha’ moment for us was when we got to the root of the problem: we were invisible to employers. Our whole rounded selves – our skills, experience, strengths and values – were hidden behind the fact we couldn’t work ‘full-time’ in the traditional sense. Our skills were highly transferable to other jobs, but because we didn’t have ‘experience’ in those specific role titles, our CVs wouldn’t even make it through the first shortlisting cut.

Think of how much experience and how many talented women are being missed by employers, because candidates aren’t seen for the whole rounded person they are and what they can offer!

Did you ever imagine you would be a tech startup founder?

We both have a passion for making this world a better place, but we definitely didn’t know it would be through a tech startup. We always used to joke about how many ideas we had, and about 18 months ago we decided to take the leap and pitch one of those ideas at a Girls In Tech startup event.

“The buzz of that Pitch Night – and that community of like-minded, inspiring and innovative entrepreneurs – excited us so much! We felt we had found our ‘people’ and knew the startup world was where we wanted to play.”

Looking ahead, how do you hope Roundly will impact the world?

By encouraging more women into roles where they feel valued and can play to their strengths, we are enabling more women to succeed and become Australia’s entrepreneurs and leaders of tomorrow.

“More women in leadership will bring a different approach to how our world operates and a greater diversity of thinking and empathy to the problems our world needs to solve.”

In five years, we want our approach – uncovering the rounded person – to be the way businesses go about building their best teams.

How does it feel to be a founder?

It might sound cliché, but every morning we wake up excited for the opportunities that lay ahead. It’s a privilege to be in a position to contribute positively, with passion in our world. But we won’t sugar coat it – there’s also the days where we feel overwhelmed and self-conscious.

In hindsight, these are the times when the clouds part, the storm clears – and there’s a little pot of gold to explore and propel you forward.

“Being open to failure and understanding that being vulnerable is where the progress is made helps us get through the tough stuff and stay inspired to continue the journey.”

Read more: 5 tips for stepping into startup land from the corporate world

What has been your most surprising experience so far in SheStarts?

The start-up experience is definitely not for the faint hearted! Several weeks ago, we had to stop and acknowledge that we are human and sometimes need a break to look after our wellbeing. We rested, exercised, spent time with family and turned off from digital connection. And guess what… the sky didn’t fall in! The reaction from the SheStarts team was incredibly supportive and made us realise it’s ok to share honestly how we are travelling. Sharing our vulnerability hopefully allows others in the same situation to feel comfortable doing so, too.

What drives you to keep going when it gets really tough?

First, we’re extremely lucky to have an incredible partnership in business, but an equally incredible friendship. We’re also driven by a cause we believe in so strongly. We want our daughters (and our sons) to live in a world where they can contribute equally. Finally, our families – because we couldn’t risk failure if we didn’t have a safe place to land.

What is your advice to women who have a bold idea for a start-up?

If you couldn’t fail, you’d have a go – right? We need more women to boldly bring their ideas forward, to be leaders of companies that plan to change our world for the better.

“So what if you fail? The very act of having a go sets an example for women to step up and be seen, and that’s bigger than failure – because collectively we only stand to gain.”

Read more: Meet the psychologist building a robot to help kids with anxiety