Jeanette Cheah is the co-founder of the Hacker Exchange; an education service that connects university students and the next generation of Aussie entrepreneurs
“What we do is bring tours of students who are entrepreneurial, who have business ideas, from mixed backgrounds, (for example, from IT, to computer science to design and business) and we take them on a two week intense incubators to Silicon valley and we tour around San Francisco,” Jeanette told She Hacks News.
“We want to really empower the next generation and create meaningful connections that can only be created when you meet people in person.”
“We want to really empower the next generation and create meaningful connections that can only be created when you meet people in person. We want to help this generation of Aussie founders understand some of the magic that happens in a place like Silicon Valley where people are opening up their networks and where there’s a huge concentration of ideas and real hustle.”
Most of the students involved are aged between 19 and 37; but there have also been older people who have been doing MBAs who might be frustrated with their situation being middle management and wanting to understand how they can increase their skillset.
Jeanette’s best advice for women in start-ups is to get something out as fast as possible, so you can test the market.
“A lot of people waste time thinking about things or talking about it with friends, but not actually putting something in front of a real customer to test it. One thing that holds back founders is they think that because they can’t code, they can’t create something and that holds them back.”
“You don’t have to do something fancy. You can do a paper prototype, you can do a landing page, a google form or type form like a survey, just to get something in front of real customers. The faster you know these things the faster you can move forward. Then you know it’s worthwhile and you can find a tech co-founder or pay someone to help with your website.”
Jeanette believes one of the biggest issues facing women in tech is the issue of leadership.
“It’s very interesting because I think there’s a concept, particularly with people who consider themselves allies, such as men in the workplace. Yes, they’ll say we need more women in leadership and more women executives, but when you start to see the impact at an individual level where a male ally might not get involved, it becomes a very sensitive line for people who are not in minority positions. We need to take them from feeling ‘I might need to lean out a little bit‘ to actually doing so.”
When it comes to the glass ceiling for women, Jeanette has an interesting theory.
“I think it’s a combination of the glass ceiling and the glass cliff. Women tend to get pitched for roles in companies that might not be going well. We’ve seen that with Yahoo, and we know that Uber is currently looking for a female CEP and not having much luck. But, I think, don’t just give women a senior role because the company is in trouble and you need her to fix it.”
“The ceiling is in two ways; one is systematic and it’s about being not looking the way others look. And also we’ve got to look to Google to look at some of the attitudes that exist in our colleagues and peers. That’s disheartening for women in tech but there certainly are examples of women being excellent tech leaders and the more we see them the more inspiration there is for younger women coming through.”