What can Vogue teach us about technology?

2 July 2018
Women can make their mark in the tech world
Lisa Tracy, Careers and Corporate Relations Manager, MBA Programs, The University of Sydney Business School, relates her inspiring experience at Vogue Codes Live.
A diagram of the direct-to-consumer marketing model

The direct-to-consumer model

I recently had the pleasure of attending Vogue Codes Live where I heard from influential names in technology, fashion and business.

I was intrigued to see how Vogue would to tackle the empowerment of females in innovation. Marrying the creative forces of a global icon like Vogue with technology and start-up founders, I was instantly taken by the warm, vibrant, fun and glamorously decorated venue. Not to mention the feast for the senses with music, candy floss, art, foot massages and interactive sessions.

The key opening message was fact driven. With only 35 percent of women currently employed in the tech industry and over 300,000 jobs to be created in the next five years, there’s a significant opportunity for women and children to make their mark in the tech world.

Vogue is supporting this move, having teamed with Code Club Australia to #getkidscoding. So far, the charity has a community of 165,000 Aussie kids who are learning to code, 3,200 teachers who have been trained and 2,200 Australian Code Clubs.

What I was impressed with most of all was the raw honesty of the keynote speakers. Each presenters’ stories were real and revealing, with the key message of keeping it simple, focussing on one thing and doing that one thing well shining through.

First up was Meena Harris, the tech advisor and entrepreneur who launched the Phenomenal Woman Action Campaign in 2017. Meena’s aim is to promote activism and empower women, with sales of their merchandise going to charities such as Girls Who Code, Planned Parenthood and The United State of Women.

She inspired the audience by driving home the fact that anyone can launch a movement, you just need to recognise your side hustle. Yes, the barriers are still high and yes, the reality vs the challenges of making a huge leap can be paralysing to some. However, the answer is to focus on one issue and dedicate some time to it - engage as deeply as possible and become a subject matter expert in that area.

Meena also reminded us that technology gives us the power to have impact. You don’t know where it’s going to lead or what or how it might elevate.

Next, we heard from Tim Brown, the creative vision behind AllBirds: a new brand of footwear made from natural materials, including merino wool and eucalyptus tree fibres. Tim offered a powerful opening, informing us that fashion is the largest contributor of carbon emissions outside of the fossil fuels industry. This is a problem of our generation and one we need to solve. We have an opportunity to look for better ways to produce goods and services.

AllBirds saw a unique opportunity to use sustainable materials. Whilst other clothing categories have been disrupted, the shoe had been overlooked. Tim realised that comfort is OK. It’s not about being lazy, it’s about being confident. So, they launched one shoe. One shoe. This is not what you do when launching a footwear range.

Time Magazine referred to them as the world’s most comfortable shoes. They developed between 60 and 80 prototypes before landing on the final product that went on to sell one million shoes in the next two years.

The direct-to-consumer models means that AllBirds own the whole customer journey and the customer is at the centre of the business. When they sell, they get immediate feedback, which they use to shape future products.

Co-founder and CEO of Canva, Melanie Perkins also provided invaluable insight into achieving your goals. Her key message focussed on the fact that anything is possible, you’ve just got to work for it. The first step is the hardest – set big goals then break them down into simple steps.

Coming from someone who has clearly mapped out a problem that existed, sought to solve that problem and went on to navigate through a sea of rejection to be recently valued at $1b, I was taking this advice seriously.

Melanie shared with us her top ten tips:

  1. Master your handshake.
  2. Find a problem that people care about.
  3. Start niche, then go wide.
  4. Create a strong vision and plan how to get there.
  5. To succeed at anything takes many, many attempts.
  6. Learn about yourself .
  7. Don’t do it alone, hire others through sites like Freelancer and Upwork.
  8. Love challenges.
  9. Find your own flavour.
  10. Take your first step – this week!

With the growth of Canva, Melanie can vouch for the amazing opportunities that exist right now for product managers, growth marketers and engineers, with exciting high-tech companies being the way of the future.

I came away inspired and with some fantastic insights to take back to my own workplace. It was a fantastic selection of cutting edge business, with founders confident enough in their own skin to tell the truth about the real challenges they have faced carving out niches in this competitive world.