Member Of The Month

Heidi Ireland: ‘One Of The Issues I Tackled Early On In My Career Was Finding My Voice In A Very Masculine Industry’.

The expert strategist shares how to drive change and progress ideas into something more.

By Becky Hansen

Member Of The Month

The expert strategist shares how to drive change and progress ideas into something more.

By Becky Hansen

Heidi Ireland is our December Member Of The Month. A talented business leader specialising in digital and marketing strategy, she heads up Industry Strategy for CarAdvice.com. Heidi has a formidable reputation and is kicking huge goals in the traditionally male-dominated industry.

The epitome of a self-starter, she’s creative, driven and knows how to hustle, hard. In her own words: “Focus, recover, repeat.” As a creative thinker and change management agent, Heidi thrives as Industry Strategy Director at CarAdvice.com as well as the founder of popular yoga app, YOGOJI.

Heidi joins us for a Q&A that will leave you feeling inspired and equipped with practical tips to take your ideas and pipe dreams to the next level.

What are you reading at the moment? Or if reading isn’t your jam, what are you listening to at the moment? Being the Director of Industry Strategy at CarAdvice.com – Australia’s largest publisher of premium automotive news and reviews – the majority of my time is spent consuming car content. To ensure I’m up to date across all things auto, I always have the latest episode of the CarAdvice podcast ready to go. *shameless plug*

I’m also currently curating my holiday reading list. I’ve just downloaded the book, ‘Why We Sleep’ by Matthew Walker. Goodness knows I’ll be doing a lot of it over the Christmas break.

Who is the most remarkable woman you’ve ever met and why? I would have to say my late Grandmother, Ailsa. Still to this day I live in awe at the grace with which she effortlessly transitioned between her dual roles of family matriarch and publican in far north Queensland. To borrow from Muhammed Ali, she’d float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.

What is a quote/motto you live by? I grew up with these four rules plastered on the wall at home.

  • Turn up on time
  • Say please and thank you
  • Do what you say
  • Finish what you start

What are the essential elements in your daily routine? I always start my day by making the bed (messy bed, messy head). When time permits, I squeeze in a walk around my favourite part of Sydney Harbour or a yoga class. Once at work, I tackle the hardest thing first. My day wraps up with updates to my favourite organisational tools – Trello and Evernote – ensuring I have a clear and achievable plan for the next day.

Why did you join Future Women? Like many of us, I’ve become heavily invested in the equality movement.  I’m a huge advocate for Australian-made everything – especially quality content. There are a few organisations in the Australian market pushing into this space, but there were none that I really connected with, until Future Women.

Images: Heidi Ireland (L), Instagram @yogoji_ (R)

Tell us more about your yoga app, YOGOJI. How did you progress it beyond just being an idea in your head? As soon as the idea for the app hit me, I spent two weeks stuck in my notebook defining and drawing how it would work. Once I had the minimum viable product, I met with a friend who makes large scale digital projects and we started next steps right away.

From conception to launch it was a 12-month project. There have been endless late nights, seemingly endless bills (I’ve had to reel in my ‘yoga pants budget’ big time) and loads of self-doubt. Luckily, I’m surrounded by inspiring friends and family. So, when uncertainty or hesitation starts to creep in, I just make a call and before you know it my figurative glass is once again half-full.

What was the biggest challenge you overcame when starting YOGOJI? At the point of launch, deciding that whilst not perfect, the product was good enough to go to market. As Reid Hoffman (founder of LinkedIn) once said, “If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”

What advice would you give to women who are trying to get a start-up off the ground, but also managing full-time work? I’ve always been someone who works best in bursts – Focus, recover, repeat. Focus time is three weeks of early mornings, late nights and weekends. Recovery time is one week of normal work hours, personal admin and catching up with friends and family. I find it really important to re-join society from time to time, if only for a moment. Be realistic about your timelines. When it’s your project, you control the deadlines. Try to shield yourself from other people’s expectations of how long something should or shouldn’t take.

Do you have any tips for FW community members on how to market their own start-ups? Clearly define the problem you’re solving, your key differentiator and your target audience – be really specific. Then write it down as succinctly as you can, put it on the wall, and be a slave to that. Don’t be wooed by trying to be everything to everyone. Don’t be afraid to lean on your networks. You’ll have the opportunity to pay the favour forward sooner than you think.   

When you’re surrounded by data and reports, how do you harness creativity and innovation in your work? Reporting generally happens at the same time each day, week or month. Ensure you carve out time in your schedule specifically for this and stick to the relevant deliverables and deadlines. When it comes to ideation, I also dedicate time to this process. Though, my best ideas often come when I’m not really focused on them – like going for a walk, in the shower, or on holidays.  This ensures I also build in enough breaks and downtime.

Throughout your career, when have you been most vulnerable? And how did you get through it? I injured my back badly in 2011. I got to the point where I needed to quit my job and focus on rehabilitation. Whilst this was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done, it was also one of the most liberating. I learned to prioritise my health above everything else. I also learned that my value isn’t defined by the hours spent at my desk. It is the way I think and go about problem solving that makes me an asset to an organisation.

What do you believe are the biggest challenges for women in the workplace? Female executives in the automotive industry are the minority. One of the issues I tackled early on in my career, and even when changing roles and workplaces, was finding my voice in a very masculine industry. I think this is still a challenge for women in the automotive industry, but things have definitely improved. The biggest obstacle I see today in correcting the gender imbalance is a lack of female mentors to help guide younger females along the way. I hope to play a role in remedying this in my career.

You have one piece of advice to give for young, ambitious women. What is it? I can’t speak to just one, so I’m going to break the rules. And that is my first… challenge the rules or the view that, “This is the way things have always been done”. Surround yourself with people that challenge you and make you better. Always trust your gut.

The future for women looks… Exciting. Whilst there is still a way to go, the wheels are in motion and we’re headed in the right direction.

We can lift each other up by… Constantly communicating and encouraging women of all ages to dream, take risks and back themselves to follow their instincts.

I’m most fulfilled when… The team is in a state of flow and we walk away from a project exceeding expectations.