The latest candidate in our series of Q&As with influential women in the technology business in Canada is Trieste Reading, Director of Campaign Strategy, FrontFundr, an equity crowdfunding platform that provides retail investors the opportunity to invest in early-stage and growth companies.
Name: Trieste Reading
Job Title & Company: Director of Campaign Strategy, FrontFundr
Years in the Industry: 5 Years
The Quote That Most Inspires You: “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right!” – (Henry Ford)
Mindset is everything. If you want to achieve something great, you need to be the first person to believe in yourself wholeheartedly. It’s something that I struggle with and that I think many people struggle with, but this quote says it all.
What drew you to a career in the consumer and/or business technology industry?
I have always been an early adopter of technology. My role with FrontFundr began as a customer/investor. I couldn’t believe how exciting it was to invest like a ‘Dragon’ or a ‘Shark,’ so when I finished my Masters, I looked for the opportunity to invest in startups here.
After making my first investment on the platform, I later made my second investment in FrontFundr, when the company was fundraising before finding a role at the company that aligned with my background and interests.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to support historically underfunded founders while also increasing the financial awareness and education for everyday Canadians.
I also think that whether you’re in the technology industry or not, most jobs today are tech-enabled. Even before I was in the technology industry, I was finding ways to incorporate technology into companies’ business operations. Technology is an excellent tool for creating efficiencies with processes and for supporting complex problem-solving, and as a result, companies should be looking for ways to integrate technology into their operations.
Have you encountered any roadblocks along the way that were related to your gender?
I am very fortunate to work for FrontFundr where I feel supported by the leadership team to grow and advance.
However, throughout my education and my career so far, I have consistently found that you may not be taken as seriously due to your gender and age, which means that you often need to work twice as hard to gain the respect men often gain instantly.
I have also built a team within the industry that is over 50 per cent female. It’s important for me to find opportunities to uplift and support other women in tech by leveraging the platform that I have.
What unique characteristics or perspective do you feel you bring to your organization as a woman?
Leading with empathy is an incredibly important trait for building relationships with clients and leading a team. I believe empathy is something that women take more ownership of and value to a greater extent.
I work with companies that need funding every day. The livelihood of their business is on the line and the capital raise journey is not linear. There are ups and downs and being able to understand that perspective is important to navigate and provide founders with the support and encouragement needed to keep going.
Technology is historically a male-dominated industry, yet the use of tech is fully embraced by women, and many studies even suggest that females are the primary buyers of tech in the home. What do you feel the technology industry needs to attract more women, particularly into high-level positions?
The technology industry must encourage young girls to dream about being a CEO one day or becoming engineers. When young girls are taught that they can dream without limitations, it motivates them to work towards these leadership positions.
I work at the intersection of tech and finance, two historically male dominated industries. I am fortunate to have grown up with role models who demonstrated that you could be the boss at work. My mom has always been very passionate about her job and she’s led global teams. I believe then and still think now that I can achieve anything I work towards in my career.
It’s also important to have the proper building blocks within our educational systems to encourage women to enter STEM programs.
If you had to sum up what it is like being a woman in this male-dominated technology industry in just a few words, what would you say?
It’s really exciting. We need to work harder to be heard and recognized for our work in an already fast-paced industry, but it’s also equally rewarding. We get exposure to incredibly innovative technologies that can have a real impact while also finding ways to keep breaking barriers.
Are there women in the tech industry who inspire you?
I feel honoured to work with amazing female leaders and entrepreneurs in tech every day.
There are many incredible women at FrontFundr and within the industry who inspire me, and while there are too many to list, some of those leaders in tech are:
Libi Berenson, the CEO and Founder of Geenees. She went from being a very early team member at KOHO to creating a company whose mission is to do good through a social gifting platform that grants wishes for families in need.
Linda Biggs, who co-founded and leads Joni, a period care company with a mission-driven purpose, while also being a People Operations Manager at resource management company, Float.
There are also many leaders in tech who I don’t know personally but whose journey I am so impressed with:
Michele Romanow, the CEO and co-founder of Clearco, and the youngest Dragon on Dragon’s Den. Michele provides such incredible advice for upcoming leaders in tech, entrepreneurship, and finance.
Melanie Perkins, co-founder of Canva. Canva joined the Pledge 1% movement to donate time, money, equity, and resources to charity. The startup works with 60,000 schools today and 130,000 non-profits. Canva has also committed to plant one tree for each print order it services, a tally that’s reached two million to date.
What are some of the misconceptions/myths about women working in the technology space that you’d like to dispel?
That women have to be ruthless to make it to the top. If you’re kind to your co-workers, customers, and employees, they’ll remember that and want to find opportunities to continue working with you in the future.
Women are conditioned to believe that there are only so many positions available to women in leadership roles. These opportunities are NOT finite, and we need to be championing other women so we can succeed together.
The other misconception is that women are “too emotional” to lead organizations. Women are passionate and care about their business, their customers, and their communities, all in the right way. In my direct experience, working with nearly a hundred founders, women are consistently the most level-headed, practical entrepreneurs that I work with.
What’s one thing you wish was done differently in the industry, and why?
I wish the funding landscape was different. Female entrepreneurs are still severely underfunded. In 2019, only 2.8 per cent of venture capital funding went to women-led startups, and in 2020, that number fell to 2.3 per cent, Crunchbase figures show. And in many cases, when women-led businesses do receive an offer, it’s for ownership control of her business. Women shouldn’t have to sacrifice their decision-making ability for the funding they need to scale the company they built.
I like to say that with equity crowdfunding, women entrepreneurs don’t need to fight for a seat at the table; they get to sit at their own table and invite as many potential investors as they can think of to hear their pitch.
Are you optimistic for the future in general and for the industry?
Absolutely! Just the fact that we’re able to have these conversations shows the progress we are making. I am so impressed with the work that women in tech are doing to raise awareness for these issues and to improve the existing systems we have in place. Having women in leadership roles as part of the hiring team and part of the venture capital ecosystem are all strides towards a more equitable future.
I feel very grateful to work for the company that I do, in the role that I’m in, to continue contributing toward a more equitable ecosystem. Let’s bring equity back to private equity!