This International Women's Day, female tech founder Pip Jamieson gives us some insight into how tough and resilient you have to be to hack it as a woman in the tech industry...
There aren’t enough women at the top in the tech industry – and according to The Dots founder Pip Jamieson, once you get there, it’s still an uphill battle.
‘I was never one of those people that actively wanted to be an entrepreneur,’ Pip told us. ‘It was more like “I am having this big problem – I need a solution” – it was born out of need.’
With a career spanning from politics to MTV, Pip started her own business after noticing a flaw with the creative network, LinkedIn. ‘It was great if you wanted that corporate, white collar type professional,’ she explained. ‘But if you were like me and my friends it just wasn’t really working.’
Her solution? The Dots, a creative network ‘for the people and teams that don’t wear suits to work’. And with The Dots app launching just last month, they’re not going anywhere – connecting, supporting and championing the people, teams and brands that make ideas happen and helping people to land their dream jobs.
But as a female founder in the tech industry, CEO Pip has problems of her own, even having to bring male colleagues into business meetings to be taken more seriously. We repeat – she’s the CEO.
Will that stop her? She says not.
Our Women Who Win interview series celebrates strong and inspirational female trailblazers, shaping the future for us all, and Pip Jamieson and her refusal to let anyone or anything stand in her way is that in a nutshell.
Jenny Proudfoot sat down with Pip to find out how tough you have to be to survive as a female tech founder nowadays and how to overcome discrimination in the workplace…
What decision changed your life?
Starting The Dots – it’s actually my second business. My first business was an Australian baby sister version – The Loop – which we grew to become the biggest creative network platform over there – 67% of the industry were using it – but I ended up selling it, acquiring the technology rights and restarting here. I invested everything from my business in Australia into it. My husband was like ‘finally we have made money’ and I was like ‘actually, we have just spent it all again’. We went from start-up to scale-up back to start-up again. All eggs, one basket. We actually started it up in my houseboat, Horace, in Kings Cross. It was real remote working – we had about six people on the boat at one point and I would literally be doing business calls leaning out of the hatch to get phone reception, with the swans trying to peck me. I have dropped three phones in that canal!
Have you been discriminated against?
I was looking for investments just before Christmas and I learnt very quickly that going in as a sole female founder wasn’t the best idea. I had to bring male colleagues with me when meeting potential investors – just to get credibility. It wasn’t right but it worked. There were even times when those investors would only talk to my male colleagues and would overlook me – the CEO. But do you know what? They’re dicks. And I actually think I have an advantage over male founders in that sense. I can recognise and gage if someone is a bit of an arsehole by how they treat me. While it’s not a great experience, it does give me a good radar on who is a bad person.
What’s your superpower?
I’m really dyslexic. I misspell everything and I couldn’t read until I was 11. I really struggled as a kid but now I see it as an advantage. It taught me that if you really work hard, anything is possible. Someone told me a few weeks ago that 40 per cent of self-made millionaires are dyslexic, and the more I’ve reflected on that, I realise there are some advantages of dyslexia that help with running businesses. We are more creative and intuitive, plus we tend to have better peripheral vision and a strong work ethic. We also have really high levels of empathy and warmth, which according to a research study by Yale, is critical when you are building a business. Empathising with and building a great team that you genuinely care about means that you tend to attract and retain really great people.
What will you never compromise on?
I have an absolute fastidiousness about only hiring positive people. And when I say positive people, I mean people who are focused on solutions not problems. I have learnt the hard way that if you hire a bad apple it really can rot the whole barrel. Starting a business is tough – and while there are days you think you will take over the world, there are also days when you will hit real lows. I want people who aren’t going to moan if their computer breaks, they will just go fix it. I won’t compromise on negative, moany people.
How can we all ask for more?
Well firstly no one ever got fired for asking for a pay rise so just go for it. But when you do approach your boss, choose the right time. They will have lots of demands and pressures so if you can get them when they are least stressed, they are going to be much more amenable. Get your boss in a good mood and then ask. That’s when it will be hardest for them to say no.
What is something you struggle with?
I find it really hard to get out of the flow of work – I literally have to listen to storybooks at night to stop my brain working and I work every Saturday, but do you know what, I love it. I know that sounds really weird but I love getting on top of things. On Sunday my phone goes on aeroplane mode and if anyone needs me they have to call my husband – he’s like ‘I actually get to see you for once!’
How do you celebrate success?
When rolling from project to project, it’s easy to forget what you have achieved and to stop celebrating the little wins. So we have a glory wall – I know it’s a really dodgy name – but every three months we stick up happy memorabilia. It’s a visual representation for everything we have done – from lovely emails we have received and good quotes to local kebab shops that we have discovered and all love. One of my mentors once said to me, ‘you are doing a good job, don’t fuck it up’ – that made the wall.
Which song gears you up?
If I am having a hard day, it is ‘I am still standing’ by Elton John. And then that will get me going if it is a hard day, and then I just love ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams, it just makes me happy. I’ll bop along to that, when I need to perk myself up.
When were you proudest?
Something we have put at the heart of The Dots is helping the companies we work with – and that is something I’m proud of. I am a female tech founder and there aren’t a huge amount of us – there’s very little funding for women but a huge need for diversity. It’s so important when running a tech company, not just because it is morally right but because it leads to better outcomes. If you have an all male product engineering team, you tend to subconsciously build a product that is masculine, which is why linkedIn is so masculine. Whereas over at The Dots, 61% of our community is female.
What is the biggest mistake you’ve made?
I have made so many mistakes. But that’s OK. If you’re not making mistakes when running a business, then you’re not really innovating. You just have to make sure you don’t make those mistakes again.
What should women always do?
Women should support each other. We have big hurdles to overcome and there is unconscious bias that exists – the last thing we need is in-fighting between women. I love that quote “There’s a special place in hell for women that don’t support other women”. I think if we all work together collectively, we can make the world a better place. That’s what I love about everything that’s happening right now – women are coming together and making positive collective change. I’m in.