Meet Emma Stevens, Associate Director - Trade & Investment at Investment NSW

Emma Stevens

Emma is Associate Director – Trade & Investment at Investment NSW.

Emma has worked in Australia, Asia-Pacific, United Kingdom and Europe and her field of expertise is working with companies, startups and scale ups across many tech sectors including adtech, fintech and extends through to life sciences and advanced engineering.  

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I’m from Sydney (Eora), the capital city of the state of New South Wales (NSW) in Australia and have lived in the United Kingdom for the past four years where I’ve held a number of roles.

My career had mostly focused on marketing, but I then shifted into investment & trade promotion, starting in a role with the UK government. I’ve always loved tech – I worked in the tech, media & telecommunications sector at EY, and the financial services sector at both EY and Deloitte where we did a lot with fintechs, and I also worked at an adtech. While I’m not actually embedded in a tech role, I cover the tech portfolio in my role at Investment NSW where I work with the best & brightest businesses from NSW to bring them over to this side of the world, and UK companies who want to break into the Australian/APAC market (if this is you, don’t hesitate to get in touch!).
I’ve always loved helping people grow their businesses, so trade promotion and investment seemed an interesting opportunity, especially with the upcoming Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the UK and Australia which will help strengthen the already great relationship between the two nations.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I’d like to pretend I did, but no, I haven’t ever done much career planning! The best advice someone once gave me was to follow my curiosity and I’ve certainly been lucky in the fact that I have been able to do that. The world changes so quickly and roles that you might end up in may not exist when you’re first starting out, so it’s important to keep an open mind and pick up transferable skills along the way. As an example, until recently New South Wales hadn’t had a presence in the UK for 30 years, so my role didn’t even exist last year, let alone when I was starting out in my career!

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

There have been a lot of highlights along the way, but I’d probably say being in this role is one of my biggest achievements to date. If you had had told me that I’d get to work for my home State while living abroad, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. I feel incredibly privileged to be able to help both my original home of NSW and my adopted home of the UK drive industry, innovation, trade and tourism and I get to work with some incredible businesses who are driving the future of both economies.

Level Up Summit 2022

Don’t miss our Level Up Summit on 06 December, where we’re tackling the barriers for women in tech head on. Join us for keynotes, panels, Q&A’s & breakout sessions on finance, people management, negotiation, influencing skills, confidence building, building internal networks, maximising the power of mentorship, and much more. 

BUY YOUR TICKETS

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Seeking out effective mentors, whether through formal or informal channels, has always helped me. I’ve been very lucky in having some amazing managers and amazing teammates throughout my career, many of whom I still call friends today, who have always inspired me and pushed me to be better. These have been both women and men – I’ve been lucky to work with people from all over the world and all walks of life, and being open to hearing about their experiences and any advice they have to offer has helped me get to where I am today. I’m also going to sneak another one in because I think it’s equally as important; saying yes to things – not being afraid to give something new a try even though you may have never done it before. You never know what might follow from one small opportunity!

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career or progress their technology company?

To my earlier point, saying yes to things is important, as you never know what opportunities might present themselves. It’s important to be visible and build your networks, not just in tech but in all careers, and I think doing that in person is quite important, so whether that is going to networking events or spending some time with your team in person, it all helps deepen relationships and build a more effective network. I’d also say to seek out support from a range of sources – as an example, if you were looking to expand your company into the Australian/APAC markets, Investment New South Wales is here to support and can help you understand the sector in a market that you may not have had experience in before.

There are currently only 21 per cent of women working in tech, what would you do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

29 per cent of technology roles in Australia are held by women according to a recent report from the Australian Computer Society and, while slightly better than the UK’s 21 per cent, it’s still not as good as it should be. Encouraging more women & girls to study STEM subjects is a great first step, as is ensuring that those that are already in tech roles are visible and are sharing their experiences with the women who are yet to start their careers. Trade & investment promotion agencies like Investment NSW often run a range of programmes designed to help women in tech. One of which is the female founders 8-week programme run by Investment NSW that is open to NSW residents, but there are many similar opportunities run out of the UK by organisations such as Department for International Trade and Tech Nation. These programmes provide great learning opportunities and will hopefully empower more women to enter tech knowing that there is support available for them to grow their businesses.

What is NSW Australia doing to support women in tech?

We have a thriving tech sector in NSW and a great amount of interest in further improving it, including support to further women in tech. The NSW government recently announced, in the latest budget, $30.6 million to support women in small business and entrepreneurship, intending to close gaps across pay, opportunity and participation. There is also work being done to ensure women-led startups receive more venture capital in Australia too; receiving 5% of all venture capital, Australian women-led businesses are ahead of the global average at 3%, but that’s still clearly not high enough. It’s great to see the steps forward that are being taken both on the funding side, but also on the physical presence of the ecosystem. Sydney is home to some amazing tech companies, and now has Tech Central; six neighbourhoods in Sydney which are already home to some of Australia’s most exciting startups and innovative institutions, including women-founded Australian unicorn. It’s an exciting time to be in tech in New South Wales.