Nyree McKenzie, proving everyone wrong

Welcome to Building Women. The place where we celebrate and learn from trailblazing women who are building innovative businesses and careers. This is a space to understand the power of overcoming obstacles. Because overcoming adversity is what ultimately builds success.

Every month I will be asking a new interviewee what they have overcome to build the life that they have now.

Today I’m delighted to be talking to Nyree McKenzie

This one’s a story of success that builds on rejection. A tale of an audacious entrepreneur who has never let naysayers weaken her resolve to succeed.

Her early life may seem like an epic series of failures. At school, she repeated her final year. Then, she didn’t get a good enough score to secure a spot in communications studies. Accepted into Pop Music Composition, she dropped out before the end of the first semester.

Throughout her life, she’s been told that she was too small to be treated seriously, her voice lacked authority and conviction, and finally, that she would never make it in the tech world. Instead of slipping into self-pity and despair, she turned others’ disapproval into a powerful motivation that gave her the drive to move forward. She outdid her critics, achieving places in Harvard and MIT, joining the Royal Australian Air Force Specialist Reserves, and sweeping top industry awards for her accomplishments as the CEO of Bidhive, an end-to-end bid management platform.

Perhaps Nyree developed her remarkable resilience back in her childhood years. Petrified by the threat of recession looming over her family when she was a teenager, she resolved to build self-reliance that would allow her to stand up to every challenge. Despite other obstacles getting in her way, such as her aversion to networking or obsession with speed (she considers it a vice), Nyree’s belief in her purpose has remained unwavering and led her to become the fearless and successful entrepreneur she is today.

Here are 10 takeaways I have learned from Nyree:

  1. Plot the path to your success

“I think from a very early age, I’ve always envisaged the endpoint, always thought about what was always going to be my future goal. I imagined myself retired and looking back on what I did. And so I think very purposely, I built that career capital from the very beginning, I had my mental plan and a roadmap.”

2. Pay your own fun, and pay your own bills

“I remember my mom saying to me very early on, Nyree, I don’t want you ever to have to rely on a man financially. And, that really stuck with me because I think she was so dependent on my father.”

3. Growth is not linear

“When you have your end goal in mind, you don’t always have a clear roadmap to get there. It might be a bit of a chequered pathway to get to your goal. Sometimes you might actually have a segway moment that opens a new door, and you might jump a few hurdles sooner.”

4. Opportunities do not come labeled as ‘opportunity’

“I worked on the launch of the world’s first digital printer. I worked on a LOTE (Languages other than English) multimedia program, which had a really interesting animation. And then I got seconded by an agency which my co-founder Aaron was a director, and I did the stakeholder consultation and all the wireframing for the Queensland Government’s very first online services directory. I guess I’ve always been interested in pioneering things and trying to figure out how to lead or how to do something new, as opposed to following.”

5. Don’t settle for less

“[When I was consulting] I was winning work with local companies, but I wanted global companies. And that is why I then deliberately positioned myself to work for those more complex end of town. Yes, I crazily went and joined the Royal Australian Air Force as a reserve to learn how to talk with defense personnel. So I could go into a defense organization and understand all the acronyms and get some credibility.”

6. Elicit ideas from your buyers

“I got a scholarship from QUT to attend a Harvard Business School executive education program on how to lead professional services firms. And when I was over there, I started to walk the floor and ask anyone and everyone three questions. ‘Have you heard of bidding?’, ‘How do you bid?’ and ‘What tools do you use?’ What better way to get market validation than to do your primary market research with professional services people in the room who are from huge companies?”

7. …and let them mature

“I came home and obsessively wrote wireframes and researched until the cows came home, and I got really excited about it. And then, very quickly, I put it in a bottom drawer because I just didn’t know how to commercialize it. It wasn’t until 2016 when I dusted it off again, and then I had another crack at it, looked around the market, and still couldn’t find a competitor.”

8. Do things your way

“Networking is a little bit like six-minute dating. It doesn’t feel very genuine. There’s so much pressure on startups to go from $zero to a $million in the first 12 months, you know the talk, “you’re smashing, you’re killing it!” And whoever has got the most bravado often gets the first check from the investors. And that isn’t me. It has been noted that this is very much a female trait that we don’t beat our chests enough. But I don’t want to be not genuine. I don’t like playing games. I’d rather get a fast ‘no’ or take my time and find the right strategic partner.”

9. Search for the silver lining

“COVID has been awesome for networking for introverts. Because with the meetups, you’re working with a local pool. And if you’re going overseas on a trade mission, for example, that’s not open to everybody. It’s cost-prohibitive, or you have family obligations. Whereas with COVID, I’ve found the ability to reach out directly to people being so much easier. And because no boardroom lunches are happening, no major meetups, no pub culture, people are available, and they will take the call, and they’ll give genuine one on one time. And it’s quality time.”

10. Know your limitations

“I think that the desire to go faster and faster is an obstacle because you can see the end product. But every day is so busy. It’s almost like you go in slow motion, and then you just like to get there because: “I want to be there”. We’re so excited about what we’re doing, but we’re only human. Yet we don’t want to be human.”

Liked Nyree’s story? Here are the stories of other women forging their own paths. https://www.shinex.io/building-women

Nyree McKenzie

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