To call Marie-Claire Andrews a self-starter is a massive understatement. The founder of leading event app ShowGizmo moved to Wellington from her native England in 2001, lured by a job in events at Victoria University and the prospect of new adventures. After brief stints in the public sector and business development, she took the plunge into the world of tech-based start-ups. ShowGizmo, founded in 2010, has gone from strength to strength and now has 28 staff across New Zealand, Australia, the US and the UK.
“Nothing much ties my career together except that I love starting things,” Marie-Claire says. “I wish I had started my own business earlier.”
Why we need more women in the tech industry:
“One of the investors we pitched to said no because he didn’t think women could run a tech company. The concept that a woman could be successful in tech didn’t fit in his world. I pitched at a big event once and when I came offstage I heard one man say to the other, ‘you don’t get brains and beauty in the same package, do you?’ The worst thing was I found myself wondering which he thought I had!
“It’s the little things like that I want to pick at. We all have these unconscious biases. Little things build up to a pattern of behaviour. There’s a lot of language that’s very macho in this industry and a lot of award ceremonies with no women on the stage. Start-up companies are better, but they have their challenges – if you accept the definition of start-up success is working 100 hours a week, best of luck fitting in your family around that.
“I work with a lot of 20-year-olds and they say, ‘it’s not true, men don’t behave like that’. The fact that they don’t think it’s a thing is good, their naivety makes them strong.”
The best thing about being in business:
“There’s something where there could have been nothing. I know I’m not saving lives, but I’m influencing them. I get satisfaction out of bonding and sharing with people and seeing people change as a result. I love that.”
How to keep going when the going gets tough:
“Never just take advice, but listen and make decisions. All decisions are good decisions; it’s sitting around and not making decisions that’s a mistake or letting other people make them for you. If you make a bad decision, recover and move on, then make another (hopefully good) one.”
The woman who has made a difference to me at work:
“I met Suse Reynolds when worked for her at Positively Wellington and she’s been a massive influence on me, as a mentor and a friend. She has been in typically male fields and has always championed women. She presumes it’s her right to be saying and doing what she’s doing, no excuses.”
The best advice I’ve received:
“Always be learning. That’s what Suse says to me. Nothing is wasted effort if you’re learning something.
“Always look after yourself, because you can’t perform if you don’t.
“When I was growing up, my mum’s favourite phrase was about how being mediocre was the worst thing in the world. I live in fear of being average. If it’s hard, you’re doing something right.”
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