Why Rob Haggett ditched the London music industry, and how he found himself co-founding a women’s healthtech startup

Caia co-founder Rob Haggett

Caia co-founder and COO Rob Haggett.

Now that women’s health week has drawn to a close, I wanted to share my reflections on why a middle-aged man who started his career working in the UK music industry ended up co-founding a femme-tech startup.

I was recently challenged to answer this question by a friend.

Initially, I was kind of stumped, but on reflection, three things stood out.

1. Aligning to my values was essential

My career started in London one cold morning in April when I got the call to say I was ‘in’.

I’d been offered a position as an assistant at EMI Music at the iconic Abbey Road and Olympic Studios. I thought I was set. I lived and breathed music and had landed a job to work alongside some of my idols.

And to be fair, the first five years were fantastic.

I learnt a lot, met interesting people, spent my Friday nights working till 4am while my mates were down the pub (OK, that part wasn’t so great).

Yet, as time progressed, the world of the music industry started to get me down.

What started as a passion became a job. And that job became just a reason to make money.

I started to feel pretty lost, but when I sat down and did some hard thinking (I seem to do a lot of that), I realised that while it started out fun and exciting, it wasn’t the career that aligned with the values that were now important to me in my life.

So like all responsible adults, I packed up my flat in London and headed to Sydney via South America.

En route, I visited a friend of the family who lived in Rio de Janeiro.

She kindly agreed to put me up and show me around town. She was a social worker, working with communities in the favelas that cascade the many hills of the city.

One day she took me on a walk through the streets of an area she’d been working. This turned out to be a massive eye-opener for someone who grew up in a middle-class family in south London. I’d never seen the reality of how disadvantaged people live their lives firsthand.

So, on the plane to Sydney, I started to reevaluate what was actually important to me. That moment was pivotal and led me to spend the next nine years of my life focusing on work that was not only meaningful to me, but also helped others.

After some volunteering and working stints in Sydney, I was given the opportunity to spend six months with an international development not-for-profit working in social impact measurement in the microfinance sector, where the majority of clients are women.

Six months turned into four years, and I was fortunate enough to manage and contribute to programs around the world, from Nepal, Indonesia and Cambodia, to the Philippines and the South Pacific.

Our work focused on supporting better health, wellbeing and educational outcomes for women and their families.

The more I saw, heard, read and learnt, the more I realised I wanted to be a part of contributing to addressing the huge inequalities that exist between men and women around the world today.

And not just overseas, but also right here in Australia.

According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, in 2018:

  • Women, on average, spent 64% of their working week performing unpaid care work (almost twice that of men);
  • The national gender ‘pay gap’ was 15.3% and has remained stuck between 15% and 19% for the past two decades; and
  • One-in-two mothers reported experiencing workplace discrimination as a result of their pregnancy, parental leave or on return to work.

Reading statistics like this instils a sense of social justice in me. A need to do something about it.

It’s important for me to contribute towards the solution.

Why? Because I believe it is the right thing to do.

And because if we do, it doesn’t just make things better for women, it makes things better for all of us.

2. The opportunity to work alongside great people who share a vision to do great things

After some time working in consulting, I finally made the decision to take the plunge and start my own business.

I joined the inaugural Antler program in Sydney. My aim was to create something that not only aligned with my values, but also gave me the chance to contribute to shifting the dial around issues that were important to me.

Meeting my co-founder Cortina McCurry was a moment in my life where two people aligned around a passion and a vision to do something better. And through our collaboration and collective experience, Caia was born.

Starting Caia has been one of the hardest yet one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my life and I deeply believe in what we’re doing. When you are building a company that is centred around purpose, you find there are amazing people out there that want to rally around and support you.

Once you start the conversation, it’s never just yourself.

There are many others in the same city, in the same country and around the world who have a shared alignment of passion who are willing to give their time, expertise and contribute towards helping us build something that’s important, and that really helps.

3. To contribute towards making things a little bit better

As I write this, I realise how cliche it sounds, but after 20 years of working, what’s become important to me is doing some good with my time.

I’m proud to be using the skills I’ve developed over the years to be building a company, which I hope will help shift the dial on improving outcomes for women.

If Caia can be a voice that helps contribute towards destigmatising issues around women’s health or helps support companies retain female representation in the workplace and advance gender equity then not a second has been wasted.

I deeply believe with Caia we’re building something special.

By leveraging intelligent technology, we have the opportunity to drive real innovation and bring about better outcomes not just for women but for the benefit of all of us.

And that’s worth getting out of bed for!

This article was first published on LinkedIn and has been republished with permission.

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