5 Tech Leaders Whose Careers Started Outside The Industry

5 Tech Leaders Whose Careers Started Outside The Industry
Image: Purple Hive Project / Bring Me Home

This article is sponsored by The University of Melbourne.

Technology is embedded in just about every single industry. Facilitating progression and signalling a company’s ability to flex and move with the ever-changing demands of the modern world, it’s basically a requirement for businesses to consider digital transformation and technological innovation on some level.

Because of this, it’s basically a given that us as professionals need to keep this in mind to either flourish in our current career or in order to change it completely. If you love a nosy look into other people’s career stories, you’ve landed in the right place. Here are five people who transitioned into the tech industry.

Jane Kou, Founder of Bring Me Home

Jane Kou is a Melbourne-based innovator who, in 2018, founded the food waste app Bring Me Home. Built on the fact that one in three meals in Australia is wasted, the app has the simple yet ambitious mission to stop food from ending up in landfill. It’s clever in the way that makes you wonder why it didn’t exist sooner.

Bring Me Home looks and feels like any other food delivery app, and partners with local vendors in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to help them sell excess food in the afternoons and reduce the chance of leftovers being thrown out at the end of the day. Kou studied commerce, finance and marketing before completing a Masters of Commerce (Marketing) at Melbourne Business School before pivoting her business knowledge into the tech company she runs today. By upskilling with a postgraduate course designed to drive continual innovation, one can only assume she was better equipped to accelerate her new career path.

Michael Horvath, Founder Strava

For the uninitiated, Strava is one of the world’s most popular fitness apps. Specifically, it’s a running app that allows you to map and track your runs or bike rides, and it has a little social media element thrown in for bragging rights (sorry, motivation). Interestingly, the founder, Michael Horvath, didn’t strictly start out in the tech business, though he’s certainly doing well now that he’s arrived.

Before starting Strava, Horvath was a Professor in Finance and has a PhD in Economics and his resume reads like a laundry list of Ivy League colleges. Moral of the story? You can channel your skills into tech with a little bit of know-how (business and finance skills also don’t hurt either).

John Fazio, Founder of Nerd Street Gamers

In case you haven’t heard of John Fazio, let us do a quick introduction. After studying physics at college, Fazio quickly founded his first company, Jarvus Innovations, and after running it for close to 15 years he moved on to his newer venture, Nerd Street Gamers (NSG).

Founded in 2011, NSG started as a LAN party and tournament operator and has since evolved into a “gateway to esports”. Essentially, the company is ditching esports’ barrier to entry by building a national network of affordable gaming venues and launching competitions that are wide open to everyone. They also run camps for people who want to get into esports but your skills need a little more honing.

Melanie Perkins, Co-Founder of Canva

Melanie Perkins and the online design company Canva (which she co-founded with Cliff Obrecht and Cameron Adams) is a unicorn. Following a $15 billion (US) valuation in April 2021, it has officially become one of the fastest-growing software companies in the world. Interestingly, she didn’t start out with a clear path to entrepreneurship and tech — at least, according to her university major, a double bachelor of arts and commerce. Then, seven years after graduating, she launched Canva and it’s safe to say she now has an extremely firm foothold in the tech industry. A lesson to us all that the first degree we study at uni doesn’t have to define our entire careers, there are ways to pivot along the way and upskill through online courses to take you in the direction you want to be now.

B Honey

To state the obvious, B Honey isn’t a single person like the others on this list. A collaboration between some of the most innovative tech minds and the Australian dairy company Bega, the unexpected pivot that this iconic Australian brand has taken into saving the honey bees is commendable and downright interesting.

As we reported back in April 2020, Bega has launched Purple Hive Project, an initiative that’s utilising 360-degree cameras and AI to protect Aussie bees from the destructive Varroa mite. The tiny little killer can decimate an entire hive within one to three years, but Purple Hive Project’s solar-powered hives can detect if a bee enters the hive carrying a mite. This will then send an alert to the beekeepers who can then lock down that specific hive.

If all this has inspired you to make a change and transition into the tech industry or you’ve been inspired to kick start your own business idea, we suggest you check out The University of Melbourne’s online microcert, Design for Emerging Technologies where you’ll learn to design new interactive products for the latest trends of technological opportunities and how to push ideas into adventurous spaces enabled by emerging technologies.