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International Women's Day: Q&A with Tracie Thompson

To celebrate International Women's Day on 8 March, we're shining a spotlight on some of our exceptional women founders and the innovative ways they're making a big difference in their respective fields.

We recently spoke with Tracie Thompson, Co-Founder and CEO of HackHunter, about how she came to start her company, the challenges facing women in emerging technology, and advice she'd pass along to women considering a career in the industry.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your story so far.

Hi, I'm Tracie, the CEO of HackHunter. I've been working in IT and security for most of my career, and before HackHunter, I was the COO of a security consulting and software company with over 200 customers, including Medibank, Centrelink, HostPlus, Village Roadshow, and Allianz Insurance.

HackHunter started in 2018 and in the first 12 months we did 3 accelerator programs – Startmate, CyRise, and SBE Australia – which really challenged me and kickstarted the startup journey.

My life revolves around HackHunter and my family, as I work with my daughter, and my co-founder is my husband, Mike. I feel very lucky to be able to combine work and family to that extent.

Can you tell us a bit about the company you founded, HackHunter, and what made you decide to launch it?

HackHunter locates WiFi threats with precision, to within centimeters.

I ran a security software and consulting company previously, along with Mike and a business partner. The company was sold in 2017 and our partner moved to the new owners, so Mike and I took some time to work out what to do next.

We knew from the previous company that WiFi is a security issue for most organisations – they don't know what WiFi is in their environment, and even if they do know, it's really hard to find it to check if it should be there or not.

Combining our security background with Mike's expertise in electronics and sensors, HackHunter was born.

What three words would you use to describe working at a startup, and why?

Challenging – I've never been so challenged in my life! I love learning how to do something completely new and then applying it in the context of HackHunter.

Inspirational – My co-workers are all experts in their fields and I'm so inspired by how quickly and creatively they can resolve an issue and the amazing, unique products they have invented and built. Plus, they are all really good humans (slight bias there as I'm related to some of them)! And the people I've met in startup land are all doing incredible things.

Limitless – It's taken some time, but I've realised that I'm the only one stopping myself from doing something. I put the limits there, no one else. If there are no limits, there's no excuse. I've found this incredible liberating.

What does your typical day look like?

No two days are the same, but I try to start each day with a morning walk to get into a good mindset and think about what I have to do that day.

On any day I could have a product demo, online program/grant application, bills to pay, sales leads and quotes to follow up, legal agreements to review, meetings with the team/resellers/investors/prospects/customers/partners, or conferences to attend, amongst other things.

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced launching your company?

Finding enough resources – $ to hire staff, staff to develop products quicker to reduce time to get more $, staff to make sales to increase $ to hire more staff, and around it goes.

The complexity of hardware development – the physical hardware, firmware, and software all need to be developed separately and then made to work nicely together. This takes a lot of time and resources. See above.

Do you notice a lack of women in emerging technology? If so, why do you think that's the case?

A lack of women has always been an issue in deep tech. I'm very used to being the only woman in the room and it really irritates me – surely we are beyond that now!

I think women haven't been encouraged or supported to get into emerging tech (or VC, management, boards...) and it starts from childhood. There is no reason for this to continue and it needs to change.

What advice would you give to women considering a career in the emerging technology industry? What do you wish you had known?

Stick with it if you have the support, it's really worthwhile to know that you are creating something new that will really help the world in some way.

It took me a long time to find what I now know I was meant to be doing. I wish I had known that this was even an option when I started my career.

At Stone & Chalk, we believe in supporting innovative women who are making a difference. That's why we've launched the Stone & Chalk IWD Scholarship, aimed at supporting a Melbourne-based startup whose founder identifies as a woman.

The 6-month scholarship will be geared towards helping take a woman-led startup to the next level, offering curated services to drive impact, growth, recognition, and investment, as well as 24/7 access to our start-of-the-art facilities in Melbourne.

For more information, visit here.

Filed under: founders, startup
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