10 November 2022

Big-time inspiration lined up for Female Founders 2022 finale

| Dione David
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Hala Batainah

Chair of the Canberra Innovation Network board Hala Batainah will share her journey for the final event of the Females Founders series for 2022. Photo: Liv Cameron.

In 2020, with the pall of COVID-19 lockdowns hanging over the city, Canberra Innovation Hub (CBRIN) was troubled by some whispers in the community.

Isolation was compounding existing disparity in funding and networking opportunities for women entrepreneurs.

According to CBRIN board chair Hala Batainah, this was the basis of Female Founders – a series of panel discussions designed to empower women in innovation.

“Women were trying to launch start-ups, take care of kids, run businesses – all in isolation,” she said.

“We needed a community where they could come together for support, pose questions or ask for what they needed.

“Female Founders was that – a lot of amazing people coming together to pool resources and help each other grow.”

And growth there was.

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Beginning as a modestly-attended brains trust relegated by lockdown to the online space, Female Founders now runs in person at the CBRIN headquarters every second month and has drawn attendances in excess of 100.

The final session for 2022 is scheduled for 15 November.

“Female Founders, a celebration of change” is a fitting name for the fireside-style chat between CBRIN CEO Petr Adamek and Hala – a poster child for embracing change to pursue passions.

Originally from Jordan, in the 90s Hala fell in love with Canberra during what was meant to be a brief visit to her diplomat father.

“I had finished university in the US and had a job lined up and everything,” Hala laughs as she recalls her on-the-spot decision to “stay put”.

Petr Adamek

CBRIN CEO Petr Adamek. Photo: Liv Cameron.

With a computer sciences degree in her pocket, she took up with local start-up Select Computer Technology where she learned a lot about the ACT’s IT industry but, it turns out, had a ways to go in other areas.

“A headhunter once asked me what I wanted to do long term and I naively answered that I wanted to be a general manager of an IT company. I know now that it was a question about the characteristics of the role I wanted, not the title,” she said.

“He said, ‘You have the technical skills, the operational skills, the people skills but there’s one very critical thing you haven’t done – sales. In all the customer-facing roles you’ve had, you have never been at the pointy end’.”

At her next role with IBM subsidiary Lotus she made a point of saying ‘yes’ to every opportunity that came her way, absorbing the experiences like a sponge. One in particular planted the seed of her passion today.

“IBM saw management as a profession rather than something tacked onto your job and was very good at training and development for managers,” she says.

“One big thing they did was train their managers as coaches. I remember thinking – ‘I want to do this one day’.”

Petr Adamek, Hala Batainah

“Female Founders, a celebration of change” will be a fireside-style chat between Petr and Hala. Photo: Liv Cameron.

Hala moved on to Microsoft and founded consulting firm GIG Enterprises before taking on her role at CBRIN. Among other financial and voluntary undertakings, Hala’s three-year Women in IT and Communication patronship was all about elevating women and showing them possibilities.

Coming out of COVID-19, she also launched Humanosity, an executive coaching enterprise and the answer to her calling.

“Humanosity satisfies what I love most about coaching – mining the gold in people they haven’t yet discovered in themselves,” Hala says.

For a woman who has dedicated her career to helping Canberra grow through various business ventures, the role at CBRIN – supporting entrepreneurs and the innovation ecosystem – is a natural fit.

READ ALSO Women could be key to Canberra’s booming tech sector meeting growing workforce needs

Hala says given the per capita number of entrepreneurs and innovators in Canberra, the nation’s capital is “batting supremely well above its weight”.

And though she says CBRIN is on the right trajectory to fulfil its core purpose, she wants to see more diverse programs, more partners coming on board to drive local innovation and for CBRIN to play a bigger role in the start-up ecosystem through more physical spaces.

Aside from expanding the current headquarters, there’s talk of creating an “innovation hub” in the city.

“There are many hubs in the city catering to different people and areas of interest. What we’d love is a central place in the city where entrepreneurs can come and showcase their innovations,” Hala says.

“There are so many entrepreneurs in Canberra doing amazing things, but often there’s nowhere you can go to actually see it.

“These are the people supporting Canberra’s ambitions, the ones who will solve the problems we’re going to be facing. We have to give them the tools.”

Female Founders, a celebration of change is on Tuesday 15 November, from 12:15 pm to 1:30 pm at Canberra Innovation Network, Level 5, 1 Moore Street, Canberra City. Tickets are $16.42 and can be booked here.


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