Female Founder Talk: A Chat with Nikita Fernandes

Name: Nikita Fernandes
Startup Founded: Career Futures
Monash Status: Monash Alumni - Bachelor of Biomedical Science

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m Nikita, I’m 24. I graduated from Biomedical Science in Nov 2015. While I enjoy learning about human physiology, I realised my values, interests and innate skills didn’t align with the “classic” graduate pathways. This lead to the most confusing and stressful years of my life.

I ended up working in a full-time IT job, which also allowed me to spend 3 months travelling until I finally mustered up the bravery (and frustration) to make some changes in early 2017.

Why did you start a startup?

I felt frustrated about two things. Firstly, I was working in a job that I was passionate about and that wasn’t most of my abilities, and secondly, that this scenario was a [sadly] accepted ’norm’ in society.

My journey was born from a need for change for myself and for others in my position.

The startup I founded was a solution to help people discover their skills, interests and overall ’career-identity’ and then find jobs that aligned with them.

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a female founder?

Lack of guidance.

Lack of role models or mentors.

Defying social expectations.

Self-doubt.

Fear of failure.

How have you managed to get over them?

Actively seeking guidance from people that have relevant experience with the challenges and emotions I’m facing.

This is in the form of building a support network that I can reach out to for personal advice, as well as constantly consuming new resources (articles, blog posts, podcasts, Instagram stories, etc).

As a startup founder, have you experienced self-doubt?

Yes. For me, self-doubt comes from fear of failure or fear of judgement.

You only doubt yourself when you believe there’s a chance you might fail.

After years of sitting on ideas and not taking action, I realised that self-doubt turned into self-sabotage.

I needed to put things into perspective. I realised how privileged I was to be in a position to fail at something that I care about working on. In the scheme of things, one failure or ever one hundred didn’t matter. The worst thing that could happen is a loss of some money and time. Even then, I’d learn something valuable.

Most importantly, whatever happens, it would be a *heck of a lot* better than being controlled by fear and living with regret.

If so, how have you overcome it?

It’s a forever ongoing process. Every time I feel self-doubt I try to understand why and then do something practical to combat it.

e.g. “Others know way more than me on this topic”.

Firstly, I’d understand why I’m comparing myself to others and if knowledge about the topic is even necessary for what I’m trying to achieve.

If so, the practical step is to start researching and talking to experts.

I’ve noticed that my self-doubt periods have become shorter and shorter.

When I first started, I was crippled into years of inaction. It slow transitioned to months, then weeks, then days and now hours and sometimes minutes!

It’s the same with getting over a failure. With each set back you learn how to bounce back quicker. I take practical steps to make the process as efficient as possible.

How has the low female representation in the startup community affected you?

I’ve never felt like I can’t do something because I’m female. However, I did feel the lack of relatable role models.

I feel this makes me more persistent. I want to show other young, maybe first-generation Australian, females like me that it's possible to love your work and live life on your own terms.

What was your experience like applying for the accelerator?

Daunting. Doubtful. Surprised. More surprised. Nervous wreck.

In that sequence (according to each stage).

In the end, I was mind-blown to be accepted and so thankful that I got past the self-doubt at the beginning.

What did you get out of the program?

I felt the program was transformative. I achieved so much personal and professional growth; unparalleled to any other time in my life.

The best part was building a support network of incredible founders and investors and receiving their mentorship. What I learnt isn’t just applicable to business and startups, but also life advice on how to be a better person and a better founder.

What one piece of advice do you have for the female founders out there thinking about applying to the accelerator?

Make a conscious effort to encourage yourself like you would encourage your best friend. Every. Single. Day.

You’ll be amazed at how much you learn, grow and achieve if you just take your own advice to “go get it, girl”.


If you're a female founder and feel ready to take the next step, here's what you can do:

1 - Forward this article to any female founders you know.
2 - Apply for the 2019 Generator Accelerator! Find out more information below:


THE DETAILS:

What you get: $10k-20k funding, mentoring & co-working.
Program dates:
June 25 to September 19, 2019.
Applications close:
Midnight, Sunday May 5th 2019.
Who can apply?
At least 10% of your startup equity has to be with a Monash staff, student or alumni.

What've you got to lose? 👉 APPLY NOW