Julie Trell is not afraid to break the mould. The Country Lead, Australia, for SheEO has been challenging and inverting norms throughout her career, making waves with her fresh perspective and innovative thinking. When she redesigned a previous job title to ‘Vice President of All Things Fun, Meaningful & Rewarding’, it was a powerful reinforcement of her values, which quickly became integral to the workplace culture around her.
Julie’s career has centred around building connections between people, programs and ecosystems. She describes herself as a ‘Human API’, capturing her ability to utilise her network to empower startups by spotting opportunities and acting as a catalyst for growth and development.
Q: ‘Human API’ is an intriguing job title. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Julie Trell (JT): I haven’t started my own company, but I have grown up with start-ups, including Salesforce, back in the day, and I continue to work with a lot of start-ups now. So a big part of my role — what I call my superpower — is connecting people, ecosystems and resources with relevant founders and start-ups in Australia.
I realised that having this network meant I could help founders and start-ups be successful by making introductions and connecting people that I know have gone through similar things. I’m not trying to be the solver; I try to be a thinking partner with founders so they can come up with their own solutions — kind of like Glenda the Good Witch. Dorothy had the answer, she had the shoes with her all the time, all she had to do was click. When I work with founders, they usually have the answer and I like to be that thinking partner, or a mirror, so they can come up with the solution on their own.
Q: You have had a lot of exposure to different people. What are the common themes that keep coming up in your conversations?
JT: I recognise that I am in an echo chamber, but currently I see an emphasis on the different experiences and backgrounds of the people around the table. There is an effort to balance out who is in the room, who is speaking and who is listening, and having a variation of expertise, background, and gender.
There are a lot of companies that try to put vanity metrics out and say ‘we’re going to hit X, Y and Z numbers’, but what really needs to happen is a mindset and behavioural change. I do see that happening — a lot of investors are trying to change the way we invest, and move away from the old traditional system that’s broken.
It’s definitely a work in progress, but I think people are really trying to step back and listen. I see people attempting to dismantle structural racism and inequities, and disrupt and recreate traditional systems. With the Black Lives Matter movement that’s been happening across the globe, I do believe people are starting to realise it’s not all a zero sum game. If I step away and let this person up, it’s not going to take me out of the game.
Q: What are some of the common pitfalls you see people fall into?
JT: The big one that comes up is ‘Founder Break Up’. When you’re starting a company and you’re working and growing, things can get hard and challenging. What do you do when you have founders that are moving at very different paces or directions and the relationship isn’t functioning any more?
I’ve helped coach founders on how to have that break up amicably, effectively, and not hurt the business. It involves a lot of improv and role playing to help them to have that hard conversation and learn from the process.
During these tough times, reaching out to others and making sure that you have a support system is key. There’s massive value in making sure you’re not in it alone. Having that network or a shoulder to lean on is really important.
Hear more about Julie Trell’s inspiring work in this episode of the Trailblazing Entrepreneurs podcast.