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'No, women shouldn't be afraid of a tech career.'

No, women shouldn’t be afraid of a tech career. Christie Whitehill proves it.

When Christie Whitehill was in high school she was told to not worry about a career because she had “a pretty face so she should just go and get married and have babies”.

Thinking she was worth nothing more than her looks, she entered bikini modelling competition. She won.

Part of the prize was to design her own bikini range — and from this grew into a burning ambition to run her own business.

Christie Whitehill

“I came up with the idea for a dating app called Fancied,” she says. “I knew what I wanted, but going to the male oriented technology area was humiliating. I felt like the helpless women taking her car to the mechanic and not knowing if I was being ripped off.”

She was led down the wrong path and ended up spending $150 000 on technology she didn’t need.

“I was furious. I vowed that this shouldn’t happen to other women,’ she says. “So I decided I’d create a tech company that was transparent and didn’t treat women differently.”

“Through the whole experience I felt intimidated – tech is such a brofest – but it gave me a determination to prove that anything I put my mind to I can conquer,” she says.

She created Hatching Lab.

She did a corporate finance course to learn how to raise capital and an online UX design course to learn how to best optimise a website so it works for the audience and is a positive user experience.

“I needed to understand so I could communicate to developers. It gave me an in-depth knowledge. So now with clients I try to educate them as much as possible so they understand what’s going on,” she says.

“It saves a lot of frustration and miscommunication as well.  It’s a frustrating process with jargon and buzz words so for a non-tech person it’s a whole other world.”

To help women navigate this area, Whitehill now hosts one-day Women In Tech workshops.

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“Most of my female clients are grateful being able to relate to another female and the fact that I’ve been through the process myself they know they are not alone.  I guide then and help them,” she says.

Hatching Lab continues to grow with an impressive client portfolio, recognition in the industry, and has been nominated for The Australian Startup Awards.

Christie Whitehill

But another hurdle Whitehill came up against was industry networking nights.

“Tech networking is very blokey, beer and pizza kind of thing.  It’s a lot of men in a very cold and stiff environment so women are intimidated,” she says.

“I’m planning to launch female tech networking events. I want to create an event that’s more female friendly – sushi and wine and robust tech discussion.”

Now she’s taking this one step further and expanding outside of the tech industry by co-founding Poppy Renegade with four friends.

“Poppy Renegade is a community to help all women succeed in all areas of their life.  Whatever their goal, we offer the tools to achieve this by supporting and connecting them with other like minded women through our events and membership platform as well as inspiring online content,” she says.

“Tall poppy syndrome in Australia is everywhere on social media and the  workplace. So Poppy Renegade is something that I feel passionate about because it’s all about empowering women, lifting each other up and celebrating each other’s success,” she says.

“Whether it’s to campaign for more women on boards, or for a woman to run her local mothers group, I want them to feel there’s a support group, a community of women, who are encouraging them.”

So what would she like to say to the naysayers who called her “just a pretty face”?

“I actually wouldn’t change a thing. I believe a lot of what drives us is our void. My void was that I wasn’t an academic kid, but those comments gave me a drive to prove people wrong. I think I’m fulfilling it now.”