Kirsteene Phelan is the COO of Rome2Rio; a go-to resource for figuring out how to get from A to B, anywhere in the world.
If you’re in Rome and you’d like to get to Lesbos off the coast of Greece, there are a number of different ways to travel; you can fly, catch a ferry, take a train and then fly, take a bus…the possibilities are endless which can make it pretty confusing.
“In Australia we don’t have a lot of travel choices, we can either fly or drive, but in Europe, South America, Southeast Asia, there are multiple opportunities, so at Rome2Rio we map them out for you. You’ll know the prices, the time it’ll take to get you places and all the different routes,” Kirsteene said.
Kirsteene wants people to know that there are a lot of opportunities for people to do great things in tech even if they have a non-tech background.
While she’s currently a COO, Kirsteene came from a film/TV and music background. She started her own skin care business when she turned 30 but decided she wasn’t good at making skin care. Then she pivoted into a successful jewellery business, selling to around 90 shops across Australia and the US.
“I also travelled to the US and China to work out my supply chain and I took the business as far as I could go. I decided to get a part time job, which came to me by accident. I had an Etsy store and I went to a meetup where I met the marketing director who was looking for someone. I stayed with Etsy for four years where I’d started in community management and ended up being marketing manager and PR. That was the first time I worked for a tech company and led me to my current role with Rome2Rio.”
“When I started at Rome2Rio, we were particularly focused on developing the platform, developing our apps, and getting all the information we needed in order to make the site make sense and function well. I came in a communications role because of my experience with Etsy, as I had a very specific skill set I could apply to the business,” Kirsteene said.
“So my advice is to ask yourself what you’re interested in, in the tech world. I’d be looking at the vision and value and what you’re trying to achieve. Look at what sort of opportunities are available for women in the company. How many people are there in the team, is there room to grow within the company.”
Kirsteene also recommends getting involved with groups around town and building your literacy around the language used in tech companies.
“A great example is Girl Geek Academy. And, also go to One Roof, the female co-working space in South Melbourne, as they have a great program on business and tech-related courses. You could try something like General Assembly, as they do great short courses and also seminars and workshops that can help you build your tech literacy. Also try and attend events by Startup Victoria, as they have lots of networking opportunities.”
SheHacks News asked Kirsteene to give us a snapshot of the role of a COO in a tech company:
“The role of a COO is an interesting one, as it’s always evolving. Because I came from a communications background, I’m still looking after the communications needs of our company. So I liaise with media, I work on copy, and I talk to anyone who is writing anything in regards to our company, whether it’s onsite or off. I also represent us at conferences, so I do some supportive development work by maintaining a network and getting to know people. I travel internationally a couple of times a year to meet people in our industry and stay close to them so I can ask questions when they come out here. When things are happening in a company it’s always good to have people in your brains trust that you can go to.”
“Locally, I speak to other business owners and CEOs, COOs and CFOs , in the start-up ecosystem of Melbourne and Sydney. Other parts of my day includes working on training projects that I devise in conjunction with our CEO. I’ll do interviews with any new staff members that we’re hiring, so I’m part of the development group that we form as we hire new developers for our front and back end team. I’m currently hiring a finance manager, as we’re about to open a few new roles.”
“I also spend time working on large scale financial projects, including forecasting on government grants we’re applying for, such as the export market development grant or the research development grant; both of which are fantastic programs for anyone in the start-up environment. I also have informal one-on-ones with the team, I work on our payroll, our HR function overall, and I’m also working on a new office fitout. So my life right now is pretty busy and I’m working on a lot of budgetary and furniture decisions at the moment! So that’s an example of the sort of things that will happen during my day.”