Empowering and Encouraging Women in Finance: an interview with Orla Shields at https://getrentr.com/ who used her financial background to springboard her into a whole new career as a digital entrepreneur…
Orla, please tell us about what you do now…and your financial background…
I’m Co-founder and CEO at GetRentr. I’m responsible for driving the company’s vision, strategy and growth as we seek to provide interesting and unique ways to improve the rental experience and transform the way landlords and tenants interact with renting. GetRentr is the new way for landlords and tenants to connect and manage their properties on-the-go. With a few taps and swipes they can quickly resolve issues, find trusted tradesmen and stay up-to-date with important events and reminders.
How did you get into this? Did you attend university, and/or fall straight into a role or was it a more roundabout journey?
It was definitely a roundabout journey! I studied Business, Economics and Social studies and spent my early career training as a Chartered Accountant with Ernst and Young – there I learned how different banks and financial services companies work, managed big teams, worked under pressure and did my Chartered Accountancy exams. Truth be told, the accountant identity never sat that well with me, so after becoming a manager I left EY at the height of the Irish recession to work with the Irish Central Bank in recapitalising the Irish banks.
Like most great ideas, the idea for my company GetRentr was born out of a frustrating experience, well that, and my need to have an interesting job which makes a difference. After 2 years at the Central Bank I was lucky enough to work for the London Olympic Organising Committee and after that no ordinary job would do, so I decided I would create my own next life changing job opportunity and solve a big problem at the same time! I moved to London to work on London 2012. I had a particularly bad experience renting in that first year mostly in relation to my relationship with our estate agent and landlord and had a protracted debacle trying to get my deposit back. I felt frustrated and a little powerless in the situation. As I looked for my next career move post Olympics I started thinking about how it could be possible to revolutionise the whole rental experience and raise standards in the industry using technology to create something that had mutual benefits for both landlords and tenants! I took a job as a Commercial Director of a digital ad agency to learn more about tech and how I could start realising my business idea.
Can you explain what a typical day for you would be then?
A typical day involves getting up around 6am to cycle (road cycling is my major other obsession in life), I live in Camden and usually do an hour of laps of Regents Park before work a few days during the week. From there, I head to our office in Shoreditch. I usually do 30 minutes of emails before a 30 minute catch up with my businesses partner and CTO Alex on the technical side of the business. After that, every day can be so different. Because we are still so small, I generally have to roll up my sleeves and pitch in to do a bit of everything. At the moment we’re fundraising for our seed round so a lot of my time is spent meeting potential investors and pitching, as well as on business development for our B2B product. The wonderful (though sometimes annoying) thing is that every day is different!
What’s your experience from a woman’s point of view. Would you say it is a good job for a woman?
Hmmm, I don’t think it’s any different as a woman or a man to be honest. As women are said to be better multi-taskers, perhaps it is a better job for a woman! The area of Prop-tech is quite male dominated at the moment and I definitely feel ‘different’ on occasion when I attend some events. I always see myself as equal to men whether it’s during cycling training, negotiating contracts or pitching my business. There are definitely challenges to being a female entrepreneur, for example just 6% of global Venture Capital partners are women and studies have shown that female Venture Capitalists are 2.5 times more likely to fund female-led businesses than male VCs but you can’t let that stop you trying to achieve what you need to. You just have to see yourself as one of the people improving these statistics!
What would your advice be to someone thinking of entering this profession?
Anyone can be an entrepreneur if they believe in what they are doing but you have to really want to do it and not be afraid of both hard work and the many ups and downs. My best tip is to surround yourself with clever and experienced mentors who can help guide and support you when you need it – so much is trial and error and asking lots of questions!
What’s your best financial advice for any woman?
Definitely take an interest in the financial side of things, it’s not that hard and most things can be googled these days – knowledge is power!