Passion, grit and honesty: The driving forces behind this tech leader's success | Women's Agenda

Passion, grit and honesty: The driving forces behind this tech leader’s success

Colette Grgic embodies the ultimate value of having more women in technology.

She’s been involved in a host of big tech projects over the past few years: Bootstrapping her own travel tech start up, overseeing an intrapreneurship (an internal startup) for in ASX listed company and she now holds the role of Chief Innovation Officer at BlueChilli. Everyday she helps Australian entrepreneurs build up their businesses, raise capital and gain strategic advice and guidance.

She also oversees the company’s accelerator programs– including the formidable ‘SheStarts’ initiative that ran for the first time this year.
Colette was the winner of the 2016 emerging leader in technology accolade at our ‘Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards.’ We check in with her to get an update on life, leadership and where the future lies.

Can you give us an update on the past year, since winning the emerging leader in technology award?

Since winning the Emerging Leader in Technology award last year, I’ve been promoted to the executive team as Chief Innovation Officer. My team has almost doubled and I am learning a lot about leadership and being in service to people in my team – making sure that I enable them to do their best work. There’s a much bigger emphasis on bringing structure and scalability to our operations and I’m loving this new challenge. I’ve also joined the Heads over Heels board as a director, which allows me to keep supporting female founders as they move towards success in their startups.

Who or what inspired you to do this?

I had no idea I was working on a startup – I simply wanted to fix a problem in the travel industry after I spent almost 2 years traveling the world. I think if I had known what I was doing I might have hesitated to start. Passion is often the first ingredient for founders – and I had an abundance of that. It’s not an easy ride, so you also need to be brutally honest about all the areas you will need to improve yourself in to build a business, and then the grit to see it through to success. I’m so grateful that I fell into in – I am exactly where I need to be.

What does an average day look like for you? 

My husband and I alternate caring for our toddler before and after work, so we’ll sit down on a Sunday night and compare calendars to figure out the weekly schedule ahead. Most mornings start with cuddles and spilt Weetbix. I allocate my time at work to roughly 30% on helping my team set priorities and clear obstacles, 50% on building relationships and new business in our community of collaborators and corporate partners, 10% on things I should probably delegate and and 10% on strategic projects. I’m often out at events at night, which can be hard if I don’t balance it by respecting family time when I’m with them.

What unique skills do you have that have helped you grow and be successful?

One of our engineers asked me the same question a few weeks ago. I said “I’m naive enough to say yes to everything, and too competitive to fail!”

How are you handling the daily juggle?

Does anyone really?!?

What does the ideal future look like for you?

Nothing excites me as much as possibility, the process of creation, and the pursuit of passion does. I’m at BlueChilli because I believe in the transformative power of becoming a startup founder. Entrepreneurship, especially in the context of fast-paced and future-oriented tech startups, is a powerful force of change in the world. It provides people with the ability to shape their destinies as they create things that make the lives of their customers better. I’m here because I believe in creating more opportunities for more people to shape the future, and I’m looking forward to the day when BlueChilli has programs running all over the world to help entrepreneurs build their tech startups.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

“Let go to grow”

How do you look after your wellbeing outside of work?

I spend a lot of time outdoors with my son in parks and by the beach on the weekends – the water has an amazing calming effect on my soul. I aim for yoga twice a week and I’ve become such a nanna going to bed most nights at 10pm. I could be doing so much more but I made a choice to cut myself some slack this year and prioritise other goals.

What advice would you have for other emerging female leaders?

Done is better than perfect.

What do you think would change in the world if more women led?

We always look for entrepreneurs that are in love with their problem space, because you can’t fix problems that you don’t understand. The same philosophy translates to business and leadership – we need more balance and inclusion because it broadens our understanding of the world and help us create better solutions. In doing that, the ways in which we work also changes; I’m already seeing a lot of affects from having more female leadership in BlueChilli. It feels to me like the whole company talks a lot more about the impact we can have in the world through our work, and I’ve noticed that we have a longer horizon now. Both of those have been very positive for our own business.

How do you stay on top of business news and trends?

I signed up to Paul Bennett’s Daily News Bot, which pulls in a daily summary and hyperlinks of all startup and tech related news. It’s my daily digest and even if I don’t get to read all the articles, I get a general sense of what’s happening in Australia and abroad. I also hear and learn lots from my team who are always sharing breaking news from innovation and tech on our slack channels.

What’s your favourite piece of tech and why?

My iPhone. It rarely leaves my hand. When I was caring for a newborn I relied on Siri to get everything done.

If you could have an extra hour to yourself every day, what would you do?

Daily yoga!

What advice would you like to tell your 18-year- old self?

In the lottery of life, you’ve taken up a winning spot and you have a responsibility to all the millions of people who weren’t born into the circumstances you were to make a difference. There isn’t a right or wrong choice, so pick something you care deeply about and make a positive difference.

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