Womaneer: Meet the Australian Woman Crushing Gender Bias in Tech

Introducing: Womaneer, our new series that highlights and celebrates the oft–overlooked women of our day who are making waves in the fields of politics, crypto-currency, not-for-profit, and design. Each of these women have something in common: vision, grit, and a heavy dose of persistence that keeps them going despite the odds.

These women are proof that the gender gap is closing… that is, if you fight for it. With some guts, you can become the next pioneering voice in your field—a womaneer. Meet our debut Womaneer, Aimie Rigas of Power Ledger, a tech company developing a series of world-leading blockchain energy applications. What does that mean exactly? Read on, to learn more about the industry everyone is talking about right now.

"I started my career at the now-defunct SHOP Til You Drop as editorial coordinator / PA to the editor. I showed an interest in digital and eventually a role for online editor came up that my editor put me forward for it (cheers, Justine!). When I got home I was thrown in the deep end, without a handover. I had to learn what a CMS was (and how to use it) as well as navigate my way around social media, reporting, and audience growth."

"That SHOP Til You Drop promotion made me online editor for SHOP and NW Magazine. It says a lot about where the attitude towards digital content was at the time, each site basically had half of me looking after its entire digital presence.

Eventually I moved to running the DOLLY Magazine website. There was a huge volume of online engagement (because, teens) so my job was to produce, write and edit content for the website, engage the audience on social media, manage the reporting and metrics and iterate my strategy off the back of that. I followed up the DOLLY gig with a very similar role at Cosmopolitan, but it wasn't too long until I saw that HuffPost was launching in Australia and I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I was the Engagement Editor for the site for a year before being promoted to Head of Audience Development for a further 18 months.

Now I’m working with the team at Power Ledger. It’s a Perth-based start-up that’s using blockchain technology to enable peer-to-peer trading of electricity."

"Being on the launch team for a project of that scale was a huge learning curve. I was the first full-time staffer hired, after the CEO, and spent a couple of (intense) weeks in New York absorbing their processes and learning about the HuffPost brand and audience, then brought the relevant lessons back to the team in Australia.

Although we were a global brand, the Australian edition ran very much like a start-up in the early days. I was lucky enough to have a strong leadership team who let me evolve my role from Engagement Editor, which was predominantly looking after social media engagement and reach, into Head of Audience Development which gave me the opportunity to spend most of my day analysing insights and reporting across all platforms. My time at HuffPost taught me a lot about how much goal-setting and planning goes into moving things forward."

"We were a small team at HuffPost Australia and Power Ledger is still very early in its growth so there are a lot of lessons I’ve been able to bring with me. The importance of taking a step back to analyse why we’re doing things and being smart about how we spend our time rather than trying to do everything is really important.

From taking an analytical and data-driven approach to marketing and community management right through to the importance of streamlining and being organised in a start-up environment."

"To be perfectly honest I hadn’t paid much attention to crypto until my boyfriend became obsessed. For context, he doesn’t even have Facebook and never really understood what my job entailed. Then all of a sudden he went from not knowing what a Newsfeed was to talking about blockchain, market caps and exchanges ALL the time. I absorbed a lot of knowledge through discussions with him but was always most fascinated by the real world applications of blockchain technology.

When I heard about Power Ledger’s mission to democratise electricity, I couldn’t stop talking about it. I talked everyone’s ear off at HuffPost and eventually they wrote a story about it. At the time Power Ledger had a need for someone to manage its community and marketing, I had a few Skype interviews with the co-founders, then spent a few weeks in Perth and the rest is history!"

"The simplest analogy I’ve heard to explain the blockchain technology was on a podcast called ‘Unchained: How To Explain Cryptocurrencies And Blockchains To The Average Person’, which I recommend listening to if you’re interested.

If you think about the internet, it stores information in silos that hold data—let’s call them houses. By comparison, blockchain takes all the data, breaks it into millions of pieces and stores it across a network. So instead of breaking into one house, you now have to break into a village, simultaneously, all with different keys. The distributed ledger is what keeps it secure.

Further to that, if we use the Bitcoin blockchain as an example, imagine every ten minutes a new house is built (this is where ‘mining’ comes in), so now the village is a country. And every 10 minutes there are more and more houses, so it becomes more secure.

Cryptocurrency is the digital asset attached to the various blockchain products that you can buy, hold and trade via an exchange. It’s created and stored electronically within the blockchain."

"Marketing and community management, which covers everything from branding and voice, to social media presence and SEO optimisation. There’s also a need for marketing materials and PR around announcements, which sits within my role. Engaging with our community has been an integral part of the business and because of the ICO (Initial Coin Offering) structure, you have people who align with your mission very early on which makes them hungry for updates and eager to give feedback in a way that’s quite unique—and very different to media! The flipside to that is we have to work with traditional media so if something leaks early, they’re less likely to cover it.

We also have a Telegram chat room community of close to 16,000 people and it’s always active, so we also have to manage a team of moderators who volunteer to keep the community friendly and on topic."

"In media, the challenge was keeping our content in front of people with the ever-changing social media algorithms and media landscape. With the crypto community, they’re so eager for content they go looking for announcement clues that often aren’t there—and at times they create content on our behalf that isn’t always accurate. It’s great to have a community that’s so engaged and wants our platform to succeed, but it also means we have to manage expectations and put a lid on rumours almost daily.

There’s a huge education process underway within the industry. Blockchain is such a buzzword that it often comes with a lot of hype, but also skepticism, so we need to educate people first and foremost on the underlying technology and show them all the real world use-cases outside of Bitcoin."

"There’s a feeling of the tech industry being a boys club, which impacts women pursuing a career in the industry even before they’re exposed to it. I’m in a group on Facebook called ‘Women’s Crypto Coin Trader,’ which was created because females didn’t feel comfortable speaking out in the unisex forum with the same name. Feeling unwelcome in the crypto community and being sexually harassed when they spoke up seems like a recurring theme. The POWR community has been pretty good to me, but in my first week I did get a few DMs from people commenting on my looks or saying I’m a ‘stupid girl’ who didn’t deserve to be hired for this role. The flipside to that is I’m getting the opportunity to work with some exceptional women in the tech industry who encourage, support and lead by example from the top down."

"A bit of both. I think it’s easier to get your idea in front of people, but harder to make it stand out. It’s easier to find all the information you need to start a business, but hard to get people to take you seriously. I think there are a lot of strong female role models who have created first-class businesses for women to look up to, but it’s tricky to avoid comparing yourself to their version of success with social media exposing you to it at every turn."

"I try to spend time with people who push me to be better just by being amazing themselves. They lead by example rather than tell me what to do. In saying that, I don’t think I’ve ever really shaken fear and doubt off. I still get a little scared I’ll screw everything up, but what’s changed over the years is that now I use my internal doubts to drive me to improve rather than restrict what I do. I don’t consider myself a blockchain expert by any means… yet. But I research more each day so that every time I’m asked about it I feel more confident about the way I’ve answered. I think the occasional feeling of doubt keeps me on my toes and wanting to improve. I’d rather have fear and doubt and constantly be pushing myself to excel than be over-confident and not learning anything new.

Mike Cannon-Brookes from Atlassian did a TED Talk on Imposter Syndrome and I often come back to it because I find it so relatable. It’s also comforting to think that someone who co-founded a successful tech company still wakes up and feels like he has no business being there."

"I started my career in magazines, so I hadn’t even shared an office with a male until I started at HuffPost which is pretty crazy. In saying that, the board was full of men and I’ve still been in my fair share of external meetings where the males in the room prioritised the opinions of my male colleagues. It feels pretty crap, but I tend to give everyone benefit of the doubt. So even if there has been gender bias at play—which there has—I tell myself I’m being treated that way because I have room to improve rather than the fact that I’m not a man. I carry less anger with me that way.

It’s also encouraging that two of the five Power Ledger co-founders and board members are female. Dr Jemma Green is incredible and taking on a real leadership role in the blockchain space. She’s constantly being invited to talk at leading blockchain and tech events and she’s been a great role model on how to lead in the industry."

"I remind myself that I’m in the room because I belong there. I think you can simultaneously be authoritative in your role while having internal doubts from time to time. I try to compartmentalise those feelings. So when I’m at work I’m able to make decisions with confidence."

"For me they’re not entirely separate. Work is an important part of my life so I try to look after both holistically rather than completely separating the two. Most people don’t retire until they’re 65+ and I don’t want to spend the next 35 years of my life hating my day job and living for weekends, so I try to make career moves I enjoy.

The reality of working in a start-up environment for a global company means there’s always work to do and I have to know when my brain needs to switch off or when I’m not being productive anymore. I love my work so it doesn’t ever feel like I’m giving up my life to do it. That said, I prioritise sleep and exercise. I always get eight hours and I workout for at least 45 minutes a day. I also try to make sure when I’m spending time with friends or family I’m present. My boyfriend makes it very easy for me—he cooks dinner weeknights and does the groceries, so when I’m three-hours deep in the Power Ledger chat room I don’t have to worry about forgetting to buy milk. Not to mention we have a common interest in the cryptocurrency space, so when I talk about work, he’s genuinely interested. I haven’t nailed it, but I’m learning new ways to balance my relationships with work each day."

"Talking about future goals has always been tricky for me because I tend to set myself little goals each day which ultimately lead to something bigger. When I’m setting my mini-goals I don’t know what that end goal looks like, but when I get there I’m always proud. For instance, I didn’t set myself a goal of working for a blockchain energy start-up, but I did set a goal to constantly push myself, follow my interests and learn new things which lead me here.

I have general career goals, like wanting to be known for my contribution to Power Ledger’s mission and being at a point where I’m making a real impact. I also handwrite general mission statements for myself which include things like ‘I’m going to be nice to myself,’ ‘I’m going to kick goals at work,’ or ‘I’m not going to sweat the small stuff’."

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