DiscoverThe Spotlight Series - Don’t just survive, thrive!
The Spotlight Series - Don’t just survive, thrive!
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The Spotlight Series - Don’t just survive, thrive!

Author: Nicola Steel

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Welcome to "The Spotlight Series – Don’t Just Survive, Thrive”. Season 1 was launched to help people through the pandemic by talking to a variety of experts about topics such as psychology, finance and health. Season 2 focused on more work related issues including HR, marketing and leadership. Now it is time for Season 3! Season 3 is centred on the IT industry, specifically tech startups. There are also Career Spotlights from senior IT people revealing the secrets to their impressive career trajectories.Your host is Nicola Steel, founder of JJP Talent Solutions, an Australian IT recruitment company. For over 20 years, she has helped tech startups and innovative SMEs to attract, recruit and retain technical talent.
61 Episodes
That’s a wrap for Season 3 of “The Spotlight Series – Don’t Just Survive, Thrive” podcast for 2021.  Here are podcast mashup highlights from this year talking to startup founders and senior tech leaders.  ⭐Maree Beare, Founder of Wanngi (and more recently Clinials) talking about disrupting health tech and her purpose behind Wanngi (0:33- 2:58)⭐Tony Ryan, Education Futurist, talking about the future of work and if there is a 50% chance that we live in a computer simulation (3:02-5:12)⭐Stewart Marshall discussing how SaaS companies can scale and grow (5:15- 7:15)⭐🦜 Jeff Jaraved and Taryn Syratt, Founders of CAAsie, talking about how they are revolutionising billboard advertising and their purpose behind CAASie (7:18- 10:13)⭐Rosie Attwell discussing how she went from a degree in Art to a career in AI (10:16- 12:20)⭐Mike Seidle from Pivot CX providing advice to aspiring entrepreneurs about how to start up, persevere and succeed (12:23- 13:44)⭐David Davies, Founder of AgUnity, talking how smartphone and blockchain technology helps smallholder farmers lift themselves out of poverty (13:47- 15:26)⭐Ken Auer, Founder of Role Model Software, talking about the key characteristics of high performers (15:29- 18:36)⭐Simon Keefe, former Atlassian tech leader, advising how to recruit and retain high performing teams (18:39- 21:18)⭐Justin Falk, Founder of TalentVine, provides about hiring in a highly competitive market (21:20-24:46)⭐Adam Amos, Founder of Robotic Systems, telling his story and how his company was ranked in the Deloitte Technology Fast 500 (24:49- 26:19)⭐Madhu Sundararajan & Abhinav Raje talking about their humble beginnings in India to successful IT careers in Australia and tips for migrants (26:22-28:04)⭐Leanne Kemp ★★★      康灵安, Founder of Everledger, about why she turned down an investment (29:07-30:56)⭐Vijay Solanki🦄, Founder of Parental EQ, about being an older startup founder and how Parental EQ helps with children’s emotional health (30:59-34:16)⭐🤖 Yaniv Bernstein Bernstein, former Head of Engineering at Google and Airtasker, talking about the highlights of his career (34:19- 36:58)⭐Miriam van Heusden, Founder of Maralytics, and how her core values have driven her culture (37:01- 38:56)⭐Eli Harrell, Founder of, advising how to grow and nurture high performing remote teams (38:59- 42:01)⭐Evan Cummack, CEO of, providing advice to aspiring entrepreneurs and succeeding in Silicon Valley (42:04-43:55)⭐Mary Callaghan, Senior Director of Product Management at Hitachi Energy, discussing what the key characteristics of high performing product teams (43:58- 45:13) 
Charlie Wood is the CEO of Wiise, the fastest-growing cloud ERP platform. He has over 25 years of tech experience.  Charlie is a successful Sydney-based entrepreneur and business leader, who formerly headed up Dropbox ANZ, held leadership roles at Microsoft and Salesforce, and has built and mentored several startups.In this episode, Nicola and Charlie discuss his main career highlights and challenges.  They discuss what qualities he looks for in new team members when building high performing teams.  They talk about what factors drive successful business transformations and the traps that cause businesses to fail.Charlie describes his plans for Wiise over the next 12 months as well as what he looks for when assessing aspiring entrepreneurs.  They finish the podcast discussing Charlie's main business lessons he has learnt over the course of his career and what habits really drive his success. 
Kody Cook is the Head of Software at Gilmour Space Technologies.  Kody has extensive experience of space and aerospace technologies working at the Australian Space Agency, Fleet Space Technologies and Boeing.  His experience encompasses mechatronics, software and systems engineering.  Gilmour and Kody's team are working towards launching Australia's first sovereign made orbital launch vehicle.Kody demonstrated his engineering credentials from an early age when he started building computers out of junk shop parts from his pocket money around Grade 2. He then progressed to setting his parents' house on fire and electrocuting himself! It is Kody's innate sense of wanting to understand how things work and to solve problems that attracted him to space technology.In this episode, Kody and Nicola talk about the importance of aerospace technology in Australia.  They discuss how many people don't see or understand the benefits of space technology as well as the lack of government support in the development of future space technologies.
Ben Shapira has extensive experience in the digital advertising and marketing industry. More recently, he has become a tech founder, solving problems in the financial services industry with his innovative tech solutions.  His newest venture is dineiro - a mobile app focusing on the interactions between consumers, mortgage brokers and financial advisors.Ben and Nicola discuss a variety of topics including:💲 the future of tech in financial services💲 the democratisation of financial data 💲 the importance of financial literacy, particularly for young people💲 how young people get can get on the housing ladder
Christin Marshall is the Founder of Sol & Sonder.  Sol means sun and Sonder is the realization that each person has a life as vivid and as complex as their own.  Sol + Sonder is a lifestyle brand which is looking to integrate renewable energy into everyday accessories which use solar energy so that people can have access to the power of the sun at any time.  Her first product is a solar travel wallet which combines solar power banks wrapped in leather with beautiful colours.Christin talks about her career and personal background.  Her experience of investing and equity crowdfunding.  She explains the challenges of not getting as much capital as her male counterparts.Christin's words to her 16 year old self - “You should be so incredibly proud of the resilient woman that you’ve should be extremely proud, and you'll come across a few roadblocks, hard things to get across, but you’ll make it out the other side and you’re gonna do well” 
Henry Boulton is the Chief Innovation Officer and CoFounder of FocusBand. He is an innovator, entrepreneur and performance coach. FocusBand has created a wearable brain sensing headset that helps people improve their performance. Henry explains that only 2 out of 10 people are actually engaged at work.  Many people are "time travelling" into the future or they are stuck in the past rather than being in the present moment. We need tools to overcome this with neurofeedback to train the brain. Many people are leaving work feeling exhausted or stressed. FocusBand helps people enjoy going to work and being more efficient so that they can get the best out of their day in the shortest amount of time!Henry explains how he was obsessed with golf growing up.  He studied electronic engineering and wanted to take technology into sports. He initially developed 3D sensors on the body and realised that something was still missing so he started measuring the brain and mental processes with wearable products that could be used in motion on the golf course. Henry also talks about other career highlights such as working with Facebook/ Meta. Henry describes how the headsets can help people improve their performance by picking up brain frequencies. He talks about flowstate which is an optimal state where you are free of emotion and judgement and can get things done faster. We also talk about brain analytics and how his workplace engagement platform provides insights and training for people to sustain optimal performance. Henry believes that the secrets to his success are having a pioneering spirit and believing that anything is possible. If he was to do anything differently, he would simplify his offering. Building the right team has been very challenging and he would ensure that he had a dedicated sales and marketing team together with a good UI/ UX and Data team.
Tony Schirmer is the CEO of CQSola and Co-founder at Neocreative.  CQSola builds cutting edge technology which reduces losses in Solar Farms by up to 25%.Tony explains how he studied Mechatronics at university but ended up dropping out to set up his own business. In this episode, he talks about the various highlights and challenges in his career.Tony talks about both the benefits and problems of solar power. For example, if one solar panel fails then the whole string fails. A simple everyday comparison is when one Christmas light fails then the whole lot fails. Tony explains how the technology at CQSola overcomes this problem. Tony discusses the future of solar power in both Australia and on a global scale.  The episode concludes with the secrets to his success and if Tony would do anything differently.
In the first episode of Season 5 of the "Don't Just Survive, Thrive" podcast, Nicola talks to Dinesh Palipana OAM.  Dinesh is a doctor, lawyer, disability advocate and the first quadriplegic medical intern in Queensland. He has many accolades including Queensland Australian of the Year. Nicola talks to Dinesh about his personal story including his highlights and challenges.  They discuss how tech and his research project, Project BioSpine, is helping people with spinal cord injuries.  They also explore the impact of automation and robotics on medicine and how it can give back the most important element - the doctor/ patient relationship.They finish by talking about how his disability has set him free and what he would say to his younger self prior to the accident.  To discover more, read Dinesh's book "Stronger" - Stronger - Palipana, Dinesh | 9781760984786 | | Books
How can data and geospatial analytics help us understand climate change and climate adaption?  Gopal Erinjippurath is CTO and Head of Product at Sust Global, a Climate Intelligence SaaS company based in San Francisco. Gopal has an impressive background.  He moved from India to the US to study electrical engineering to then work in a research lab, studying a PhD and working as a research scientist. He believes that this background in academia and research has helped build his foundations and passion for enabling widespread use of the application of fundamental research to commercialise products. For example, Gopal drove the research, development, and technical delivery of an imaging IP portfolio for Dolby Vision which was licensed to tier-1 media players including Sony and Apple. Prior to founding Sust Global, he was Senior Director of Analytics Engineering at Planet where he built and scaled 4 diverse Agile engineering teams.  Gopal’s advice for building high performing teams includes: •             Focus on diversity •             Respect each other •             Have a unified mission & purpose  Gopal finishes our conversation by explaining that he would tell his 15 year old self to stay hungry for more information and knowledge.  Basically, maintain your curiosity!
What would you say is the secret to your success?  Which of the following resonates most with you:  ⭐ Being in the right place at the right time ⭐ Knowing when to quit and when to quit early ⭐ Being willing to take risks in decision making  Rav Raniga, Partner Lead at tech startup ELARA, believes all of the above are the secrets to his success.  After a brief break from podcast recording, I was thrilled to speak to Rav who has extensive expertise in Mathematics and algorithmic software solutions.  I find it fascinating how he has the ability to deconstruct complex problems and create elegant solutions using customer-centric design.  Rav is also just a fantastic and humble person so it is always a delight to speak to him!  Rav tells the story of his father’s upbringing in Fiji and how his determination and work ethic led him to a career in pharmacy and then a pivot to law!  The family moved to Australia and Rav says that he had a privileged life which allowed him to follow his interests in arts, sciences, mathematics and the science of decision making.  We talk about his role at Elara.AI, a well-funded early-stage tech startup which has a totally unique proposition.  It is a programmable AI platform which is bridging the gap between business and technology by improving the developer experience and providing business with the best insights so it can make intelligent decisions.  Rav and I discuss his predictions about AI, Machine Learning and data optimisation.   Rav talks about the highlights of his career including the opportunity to travel, meet different types of people and making an impact.  We talk about the problems of communicating with both technical people and the business to provide the best solution.  Rav is helping build a highly talented team at Elara.  The characteristics he looks for in new team members are:  ⭐ Passion for problem solving  ⭐ Customer first ⭐ Trust ⭐ Innovative  I ask Rav what his advice is for attracting and retaining high performance tech teams.  He starts by saying use a really good recruiter who takes the time to understand the business (I didn’t pay him to say this, I promise!).  He also says that paying a competitive salary should be a given as well as the opportunity to work on exciting tasks with clear end goals.  
Jonathan Girroir is Technical Evangelist at Tech Soft 3D, a company which provides 3D software development toolkits that power world class engineering applications.  Jonathan has 25 years experience in the software development industry and has a passion for building the next generation of 3D software. Jonathan talks about Tech Soft 3D’s main software – HOOPS – 3D software development toolkits (SDKs) which power world-class engineering applications. HOOPS is an anagram for Hierarchy of Object-Oriented Picture System. We talk about how HOOPS is enabling the AR industry and his advice for handling massive data sets with web and mobile engineering applications.Nicola Steel and Jonathan discuss Jonathan’s career highlights including being part of a startup after college, being a lecturer at Harvard University, travelling the world and taking a major investment in Tech Soft 3D.  They also talk about his main challenges which include living in a small US city and overcoming the 2008/2009 Global Financial Crisis.Jonathan believes that the crucial characteristics of high performers are:⭐A desire and hunger to make a difference⭐A doer⭐Ability to learn and be teachable⭐Shared valuesJonathan’s values are integrity, hard work and kindness. His company values are be agile and responsive, have fun, build positive relationships, pursue excellence!
In this first episode of Season 4, Nicola Steel talks to Colin Goudie and Charles Connell. Colin is a serial co-founder of various tech startups including Userlot - Customer Success Management, Social Pinpoint and Dogeared. Charles is the other Co-Founder of Userlot - Customer Success Management and was also a Co-Founder at Social Pinpoint. They begin by talking about their backgrounds and purpose behind Userlot and Social Pinpoint as well as their core values which are be customer driven and get stuff done!Nicola asks what advice they would give to startups when they are being acquired based on Colin and Charles’ experience of the acquisition of Social Pinpoint by MySite Group. Their advice is to be friends with your competitors - listen to learn why this makes sense. They also believe that the secret to building high performing tech teams is to create a really good network and have your team fully understand what customer success is.And finally, I asked what advice would they give their 21 year old selves:⭐ “You got to love what you do and stick with it” – Colin⭐ “Work hard, take risks, enjoy the ride!” - Charles
Mary Callaghan, Senior Director of Product Management at Hitachi Energy, talks about her career and the secrets to her success.Mary was born in Dublin and was the youngest of 7 children! She visited Australia for a year of adventure and has been here ever since. One of the key highlights of her career was being awarded Global Product Manager of the year in 2019. She believes that the secrets to her success are:⭐ Having a strong foundation in her childhood and upbringing⭐ Being true to her core values and treating people equally⭐ Being respectful⭐ Learning to keep her ego in check⭐ Being open to change Mary discusses her experience as a woman in technology and how it has changed over time. She talks about the comprehensive programme at Hitachi Energy including the female talent development program where female participants are assigned mentors for professional and personal development. Mary’s team’s core values are:⭐Authenticity⭐Connection⭐Kindness⭐Harmony⭐Gratitude Mary finished the podcast with this final advice for listeners:⭐ “Every day is an opportunity to learn whether its technology, meeting new people, new habits.”⭐ “This is the gig, it’s not a dry run or practice. This is it.”⭐ “I believe that we are all responsible for our own happiness so keep it real.”⭐ “Everybody has challenges but its how you deal with the challenges, that defines you.”
Would you be bold enough to leave a small suburb north of Wellington, New Zealand, borrow some money from your mum to fly to San Francisco and then contact VPs of leading software companies to introduce yourself over a coffee?! This is the bold (and successful) move Evan Cummack made at the end of 2010.  He moved from a small team at NEC creating fingerprint identification technology for the New Zealand police department to then join Twilio as one of their early employees in 2011.  Evan is now the CEO of Fin, a company shaping the future of work which was founded by former Facebook VP Sam Lessin and Venmo Co-Founder Andrew Kortina.   In this latest episode of “The Spotlight Series – Don’t Just Survive, Thrive” podcast, Evan and I discuss a variety of topics including: ⭐ Transitioning from NEC Corporation to a tech start-up, Twilio, as one of their early employees ⭐ His recent experience of raising US $20 million capital for Fin in San Francisco⭐ Evan’s thoughts on the future of work⭐ His advice to aspiring entrepreneurs  We finish by talking about the secrets behind his success.  Evan explains that he was very attracted to the software industry when he was young and the tech industry has had unbelievable growth since then.  He didn’t have to go and teach himself the fundamentals as an adult.  Basically, he believes that it is really hard to have influence inside technology companies if you don’t understand technology at a fundamental level.   
“Saying yes to the weird things” has been one of the highlights of Eli Harrell’s career.  Eli explains that realising that the things we tend to shy away from because they are unknown or scary is really where the growth is.  Eli Harrell is the Co-Founder and Chief of Strategy at, a company which helps tech companies build high performing teams which create products with purpose.  In the latest episode of “The Spotlight Series – Don't Just Survive, Thrive”, I talk to Eli about growing up in the US as the eldest of 8 children who were all homeschooled .  Eli’s parents were both entrepreneurs and he worked in his dad’s business whilst growing up.  He is an advocate of self-directive learning and has a diverse range of experience.  His thirst for knowledge and experience led him to moving to the Philippines in 2014.  Eli is very values focused.  From a personal experience, he is constantly growing and learning with the purpose of helping people.  He is also always open to change.  Business for him is most rewarding  when the problem you are solving really matters to you.  Eli believes that you should never stop seeking to make your business better by constantly understanding your target market and really understanding their problems.  With regards to creating a great software product, you need constant clarity on your product road map.  In terms of leading remote teams, he says that having a  genuine awareness of how people are doing is even more important as is being creative in doing events to connect with each other.   Eli’s attributes the following to his success: learn how to build habits learn how to maintain energy learn how to improve yourself Be future- focused  Have openness to change  
“Don’t take life too seriously and make sure you have fun” is the advice Miriam van Heusden would tell her 16 year old self in the latest podcast episode of the “The Spotlight Series – Don’t Just Survive, Thrive”.Miriam is the founder of Maralytics, a software startup which has created a marketing performance program that provides accurate results for sales revenue and customer acquisition. Miriam has many years’ previous experience in the hospitality and travel industries. It was Miriam’s frustration of not being able to find a solution for her restaurant which would allow her to accurately analyse the results of her advertising spend that led her to create Maralytics. Miriam talks about her main challenges. She worked three jobs for the first few years to fund Maralytics and to keep her dream alive. Another challenge has been finding her ideal customers and providing a solution that they both want and need. Miriam’s end goal is to sell Maralytics and to be the next tech unicorn! She has lots planned over the next few years including various partnerships, officially launching her software, her book launch as well as travelling and exhibiting on the international stage when Australia’s borders open. 
“Time is a valuable commodity and taking too long to make any sort of decision comes at a really significant but invisible cost” are the wise words Yaniv Bernstein would tell himself if he could turn back time. In the latest podcast episode of “The Spotlight Series – Don’t Just Survive, Thrive”, Yaniv advises that you should act early, act quickly, be courageous and don’t look back! Yaniv Bernstein has extensive experience as a Software Engineering Manager working for Google twice both in Switzerland and then Sydney. Until recently, he was VP Engineering and then Chief Operating Officer at Airtasker. We talk about his time at Google and how the company has changed over time. Yaniv worked in different parts of the company including Google Search, YouTube and Google Maps. One of the highlights was working on a system for managing copyright in YouTube which detected copyrighted material before it went live on the site. Today, he feels that Google has somewhat lost its way with increasing distance between leadership and the people working on the ground. We discuss how the transition from working at Google to startups was a bit of shock. Having spent 10 years with Google, he was somewhat institutionalised.  Google has a reputation for having very high hiring standards. In a start-up, it was his job to make the team perform to the high level of Google whilst being involved in the entire interview process, hiring decisions, salary negotiations etc. We talk about his transition to COO at Airtasker where he was tasked with creating a high performance cross functional organisation spanning from engineering to customer support and HR. Yaniv’s advice to grow teams where individuals can really grow, thrive and deliver massive value is for individuals to really understand THE WHY. When he is growing high performance teams, Yaniv looks for the following:⭐ Intellectual curiosity – i.e. individuals who really need to understand and get to the bottom of things rather than blindly following instructions⭐ A great mindset⭐ Hiring for both technical talent and attitude is equally as important He keeps team members engaged and committed by giving them a sense of purpose so they really understand why they’re doing what they’re doing.  It is important to create an environment where there is genuine recognition for the value they provide. We also talk about his newsletter – People Engineering. His initial purpose for the publication was because very few people really understood what a COO actually was - it was a mysterious role!  It quickly developed to a broader discussion on leadership, organisational design and organisational purpose. 
“You can’t do the hours of a 28-year-old but the wisdom you have as a founder over 50 is the counterbalance” are the sage words from Vijay Solanki. Vijay is the co-founder of ParentalEQ, an app which helps parents manage their children’s emotional & social development.  Vijay has had a diverse career that traverses marketing, digital and innovation, delivering a succession of major marketing and digital transformations at a global scale with BP, Philips and Blackberry as well as being the launch marketing director at Shazam. With a background in Psychology, Vijay is obsessed by what people do and why they do it.  The traumatic loss of his mother in adulthood made him rethink about what to do with his life and his parenting style.  This became the purpose behind ParentalEQ.   Vijay was born in Kenya to Indian parents and spent most of his earlier years in Yorkshire.  His upbringing has really molded his core values which are:⭐Diversity ⭐Equality⭐Democracy Vijay is a recent cohort of the Activate programme with River City Labs.  He explains how RCL is a great place to learn and gets you into shape to present to investors. His advice is to find the investors you think best suit your style and also be very clear of what you want from them and your objectives. One of his main challenges as an early-stage start-up founder has been unlearning and relearning.  It is essential that you are coachable. Vijay will continue to create a more personalized service with ParentalEQ and grow the customer base in Australia and in the UK. His end goal is to impact one million families.  http://parentaleq.comVijay Solanki🦄 | LinkedIn
 “Be stubborn on the vision and flexible on the details…. the “why” is what drives you to keep fighting the good fight” is some key advice from Leanne Kemp. Leanne is the Founder and CEO of Everledger and until recently was Queensland Chief Entrepreneur.  Originally from Brisbane, Leanne describes herself as unemployable and a serial entrepreneur.  She is a self taught engineer who loves to solve problems and scale and grow companies.  She talks about how being an entrepreneur is like throwing yourself out of a plane (which she has done many times along with many other extreme sports!). Leanne talks about how she wanted to increase truth and transparency of supply chains and how she started with tracking the traceability of diamonds.  She is driven by sustainability, believes that all businesses should have a profit, loss and impact statement and that people and planet should be at the forefront of decision making. Leanne is a female founder and unconscious bias has actually been one of her superpowers!  She can code like the best of them and spends most of her time on a keyboard rather than with people.  Leanne’s values are really important to her and have driven the culture of Everledger as she has grown the company to over 100 people globally across 6 locations.  These values include:o   Be the trust. o   Be you, be united.o   Pack light, work right.o   Bring the future forwardLeanne stresses the importance of having aligned principles when attracting investors.  You can’t simply get rid of an investor! Leanne also talks about how she plans to innovate and disrupt the insurance industry.  We discuss her time as Queensland Chief Entrepreneur and how innovation and entrepreneurship can really create change. Leanne was talking to me from Seattle and the sound quality is not as good as I would have liked.  Nevertheless, it is an insightful, engaging and fun conversation! 
Adam Amos is Director of Robotic Systems, an engineering consultancy that specialises in accelerating the journey from initial idea to manufactured device.  Robotic Systems brings together electronics, software and hardware to turn customers’ practical experience into game changing new products.  Robotic Systems have also been ranked in the Deloitte Technology Fast 500.   
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