Better Caring COO Jo-Ann Hicks: Together We Can Break The Glass Ceiling

By James Graham
on 9 May 2017

Jo-Ann Hicks wasn’t really looking to get back into full-time work quite as soon as she did after having her first child, son Riley.

The former head of fashion for eBay Australia & New Zealand was content to ease her way back into the workforce with three days a week as inventory strategy manager for The Iconic.

But then she met with the Sydney-based team at Better Caring, a ground-breaking new online platform where people can find and hire an aged care worker, or disability support worker.

“I knew that if I was going to give up that precious time with my son, the opportunity would have to have significant meaning to it,” Better Caring’s new chief operating officer tells Women Love Tech.

“But Better Caring ticks all the right boxes; it’s a chance to make a real difference, and it also allows me the chance to prioritise home life.”

Jo-Ann loves the enthusiasm and energy that drives a disruptive start-up like Better Caring, which was only launched in 2014 from co-founder Peter Scutt’s personal experience.

Peter and his family struggled to find the right support for his then 83-year-old mother and 91-year-old father, who were both determined to remain living at home.

Staying active in the community was important to Peter’s parents, but finding a skilled and affordable care worker who could connect with them socially was a challenge.

Peter teamed with co-founder Tony Charara and their two-way online marketplace connecting care givers and care recipients across Australia was born.

Jo-Ann, who runs a team of 20 at Better Caring, says the reaction on both sides of the caring equation has been incredibly encouraging.

“Anecdotally, the feedback has been very positive – we’re really meeting a need and making a positive difference in our customers’ lives,” she says.

“We’re attracting new people into that [caring] space and re-energising the industry.

“It’s also exciting to see the disability sector embracing what we’re doing too.”

Although the glass ceiling for women in tech is still to be shattered on a global scale, Jo-Ann says she’s had nothing but positive experiences, thanks to several influential female role models.

She’s now eager to repay the favour to those other women on their way up, both in her role at Better Caring and as a current board member for Ovarian Cancer Australia.

Here are a few gems Jo-Ann’s picked up along the way to help get your tech career kick-started too:

1. Just get into it!

Start getting experience working for a tech company, even if that means initially exploring non-tech roles. Just being exposed to the industry, and meeting more people, will widen your network and add to your experience. Don’t let fear hold you back from the wealth of opportunity that awaits in tech! A few years of good, solid tech experience will open many doors.

2. Educate yourself

Find an area that is of interest (e.g. coding, product management, digital marketing, design) and start learning. Even if it’s at a basic level, it will help you better understand how things fit together, whilst improving your confidence in communicating with tech colleagues. Think of it as similar to Accounting 101 – you don’t have to be the finance expert, but you should be able to read financial statements.

3. Find opportunities to get involved

Put your hand up for a tech project at work, and walk through doors as they open. Volunteer to help a not-for-profit organisation manage their online or digital marketing activities. Find ways to test new tools that are commonly used in tech companies such as Slack, Trello, Google Analytics.

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