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Madeleine Clunies-Ross: Path to Startups

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“My key goal was to show companies I had the initiative and a hunger to learn. I have a law and communications degree so I needed a way to show technology companies I was ambitious and genuinely interested.”

Maddie Clunies-Ross works at an Australian tech startup, JigSpace as their Strategy and Operations Associate – a career path she would never have thought to end up in. Maddie studied Law and Communications at university but was never enthralled by what she was learning. Throughout her university years she never really knew what she wanted to pursue and when she got to her final year of university, she realised she didn’t have any experience in a role she really believed she wanted to go into.

With some influence from her Venture Capitalist sister, Maddie found herself interested in pursuing a career with a technology startup. She knew these roles were highly competitive so she needed a way to stand out as a candidate. However, in the back of her mind, Maddie thought “Why would a tech startup take on a law and communications student and consider her for a role when she had zero relevant experience?” She needed a way to showcase her ambitions and genuine interest. 

“I dabbled in acting, and for a period of time and thought this might be what I pursue. But because of this, I kind of missed the whole work experience thing. So I started looking around for the sorts of things I could do to gain experience during the winter break or one day a week during study, and that’s when I came across Forage.” 

While browsing the University of Technology Sydney careers page, Maddie came across Forage’s virtual experience programs. This was perfect for her as she was able to do it during her winter break, she didn’t have to go anywhere and she could credibly add it to her CV. Maddie browsed the Forage course catalogue and found one that suited her interests and learning needs – the CommBank Careers in Tech virtual experience program. 

“What I liked about this program is that it exposed me to different areas of what a tech career could look like. I hadn’t studied anything tech-related so gained insight into what UX and UI design was and even the inner working of coding! I liked that I didn’t need to have any pre-existing experience and while coding was hard because that wasn’t my background, I still got a great insight into all of the different facets of tech and how they fit together within an organisation.”

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The most helpful thing for Maddie was that she could reference this virtual experience during interviews, proving she had a general understanding of how the business of technology worked. “In one of my final interviews with Jigspace they asked me about the program and what I enjoyed and didn’t enjoy, so they could get a feel for how I could position myself within the company. This was really helpful as I could talk to my virtual experience.” 

Working in a Strategy and Operations role means she needs to understand everything across the board. “It was really intimidating starting this role at JigSpace, but what I learnt in the virtual experience gave me some confidence as it helped me understand what everyone was responsible for and how it makes the business run.”

For Maddie, Virtual Experience programs helped her make a career pivot from acting and law into the world of tech startups. “Forage helped me get experience and show initiative. I actually think university is going to become less relevant in the next 5 to 10 years just because online learning courses are so much more accessible. If you have done a bunch of little courses this probably gives you more experience and more insight into what it is you specifically want to.” 

Connect with Madeleine on LinkedIn.

Follow Forage on LinkedIn.

By Nicole McCallum