"Diversity is the key to fast-track innovative thinking in the team, to build solutions people love" - Interview to Francesca Boccolini
Francesca Boccolini is a real talent. She founds Sonic Jobs, the world's first virtual recruiter for hospitality that become an enormous success in just two years.
Francesca has been featured in Forbes as one of the 100 European Founders and tech influencers to follow in Europe. Although the media are increasingly interested in her story, the charismatic Italian startupper is still humble and cool, maintaining the attitude of those that have been working hard to achieve results.
In this interview for We Hate Pink, she shares industry insights on what it takes to succeed as a female entrepreneur in the tech and recruitment industries. Read on to get a closer glimpse of her journey and to gather some must-know tips for becoming a dream female startup leader.
1. Could you describe your business and what you do?
I’m the Co-founder of SonicJobs, the world’s first Virtual Recruiter for blue-collar recruitment. We’ve created a unique chatbot – called Julie – that uses Predictive Data and Machine Learning to find the right fit for employers and job seekers—in real time. Our app is like a recruiter but faster—and like a job board but smarter. I’m currently also the COO & CMO of the company.
2. What gets you up in the morning?
Giving my best to contribute to change. I believe there is so much we can do to improve each others lives. Working to help people get hired has been so fulfilling, as jobs don’t just give incomes but are opportunities for people to grow and develop their careers.
We help people working in creative industries to find a part-time work as well as 16 year old school-leavers to build their future as an awesome bartender or chef. Either way, we hope to improve each person’s search for the right job easier and make their life better.
Work can empower people to thrive and unleash the real potential of humankind, triggering a positive cycle for the entire society. And this is true at any level of the social pyramid especially in modern age, where work/family borders are fading and the gig-economy reinforces the fragmentation and fluidity of nonlinear career paths.
3. What is the biggest challenge currently in your business and how do you approach it?
As we are growing fast, one of the big challenges we are facing is to hire the right people in short times. It’s easy to be biased and recruit similar profiles, with the risk of building a homogeneous team where everyone thinks and acts basically the same way.
Diversity is key when building great teams. This goes beyond a pure purpose of inclusion and creating balance in gender and race. Diversity means diversity of background, experiences, personality, attitudes, age, education, perspective and much more.
Tech is all about speed, and diversity is key to fast-track innovative thinking in the team and build solutions people love. It’s proved that diverse teams are more often successful as they have different knowledge bases, are able to provide multiple perspectives, be more creative when facing business challenges and grow faster.
The big risk of too similar people and a homogenous team is to create products for the team, rather than for their target market.
4. I don’t think it’s any secret that many women in the tech industry have felt their gender has affected the way that they are perceived or treated. Have you ever been in a situation like that? How did you handle it?
In a technology economy where new business models and startups’ growth require significative capital of risk to be able to compete in the market, raising money is a key aspect for any entrepreneur. As a female founder in tech, in a male-dominated industry where most of the investors are men, fundraising can be particularly tough.
As you keep pushing and trying hard, you start earning credibility, trust and building your network. To use one of my favorite quotes: “When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this: you haven't” - Thomas Edison
As a woman it’s going to be much harder and will take longer than any initial expectation, but it’s possible! Trust yourself and when you feel like everything is falling apart, keep trying even harder.
5. What do you think is the best part of being a woman in the tech industry?
As a woman in a male-dominated industry you develop resiliency traits and gain that confidence that allows you to overcome the natural challenges and the hurdles of a male-dominated industry. You get to the point where you feel invincible.
Tech is all about speed and in a fast-paced industry you also have the opportunity to learn how to go beyond your limits and learn something new every day.
But the best part to me is about sharing my experience and learning with other women to empower them to succeed. Empowering other women is also the way I empower myself as a woman. This is how I grow and become a better entrepreneur every day. Giving my support to help them progress in their careers and create their own ventures, has been one of the most rewarding aspects as a female founder.
6. What advice would you give to a woman considering a career in the tech industry? What do you wish you had known?
I think it’s never been a better time for a woman to choose the tech industry and launch a startup. We are receiving more support, encouragement and resources than ever before. Still a long way to create the diversity the industry needs though.
Find your female role models: you would be astonished to see how many great and inspirational women there are out there. There is so much you can learn from how they managed to overcome obstacles in their career and to succeed in a male-dominated industry
Build a network of supporters and find a mentor: they will help you get the support needed from time to time and to handle the emotional rollercoaster
Talk to people who have done it before. They have made many mistakes and can teach you what to do and more importantly, what not to do.
Build a great team: Ideas are nothing without execution and a great execution plan has great people behind. Surround yourself with people who have got the right skills, courage to create something new and patience to keep going, especially when the going gets tough.
It’s a long journey. Get ready to run a marathon where you don’t know where the finish line is.
Francesca Boccolini will be one of the panellists of the first We Hate Pink event next 2 May 2019 at We Are Social in Finsbury Square.