THE BLOG
04/17/2014 08:44 am ET Updated Jun 17, 2014

Women in Business Q&A: Nikki Parker, Regional Director North America & Oceania at Freelancer.com

Nikki Parker is responsible for marketing and communications at Freelancer.com across North America, Australia and New Zealand. Nikki leads a team of communications and marketing experts who work with business, partners and the media to grow Freelancer across these regions. Nikki is a company media spokesperson and represents Freelancer as a speaker at industry events globally.

Before joining Freelancer, Nikki worked as a media advisor and manager of stakeholder relations at the National Broadband Network (NBN Co), Australia's government owned national open access data network project, mandated to provide high speed broadband to 100% of the country through a mixture of fibre, fixed wireless and satellite technologies. During her time at NBN Co, Nikki worked with businesses across a diverse range of industries as well as local, state and federal government to capitalise on the rollout of the national network infrastructure project.

Nikki holds a degree in International Studies, majoring in Sociology, from the University of Sydney.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

I have been very fortunate from a young age to have had strong, passionate women guide me through my personal life, education and in my career. I have always been someone that pushes the status quo, looks for new ways to make a difference and tackles any challenge with enthusiasm. I believe it's important to have someone who is present in your life to challenge your thought process and continuously push you to excel but keep you on a productive path.

Growing up, I was the adventurous one, the loud one, the mischievous one. I was the girl who would argue at length with her history teacher purely because I wanted to play the Devil's Advocate. For many girls, this type of wilful behaviour would have been squashed however, during my many trips to the principal's office, I was taught to argue my points with purpose, train my intelligence to find solutions and most importantly, recognise that I could do anything I put my mind to. Because I had such a strong and influencing personality, I realised early on how important it was to lead by example and I have been mindful of the way I conduct myself in my personal and professional life ever since.

Disclaimer! I don't encourage misbehaving in school/ the workforce just to hunt out a good argument to practice your debating techniques!

How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Freelancer.com?

Prior to Freelancer.com, I was working at the National Broadband Network, Australia's government initiative to connect every home, school and business in the country to high speed broadband. In my role, I travelled around Australia meeting with government officials, educators and business owners, explaining to them the benefits of broadband. Essentially translating engineer speak into layman's terms and working with them to adopt strategies to connect with a world of online opportunities. A huge challenge facing small businesses globally is a lack of understanding of how they can grow and develop their businesses online and what resources are available to them.

I often had business owners lament to me that access to broadband would be great, however the only developer available to build their website was going to charge $20,000 and this was simply unaffordable for them. I did my own research and came across Freelancer.com and found it to be a fast, efficient and cost-effective way for a business in a small country town or a start up to tap into a global labour pool, grow their business and remain competitive in an online world. After months of espousing the benefits of online outsourcing through Freelancer, I moved across to join the company and I have not looked back.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Freelancer.com?

Freelancer.com was started in 2009 and has achieved incredible growth since inception. From the day Matt, our CEO and founder, created the company, he had a global focus. At the time the "online outsourcing" industry was primarily focused on connecting America with India, Freelancer.com saw that there was a much larger skilled labor pool available. As a result, this very young start up literally took on the world.

In my opinion, this global vision is what makes Freelancer.com the leader in its field. At the same time, it creates a number of challenges we need to overcome. I manage our global communications team which has the mammoth task of educating the world on this new online revolution that is completely transforming the way SMEs, start ups and entrepreneurs work. Our industry is at a tipping point. If you had asked someone in the late 1990's whether they had bought anything online from sites like eBay or Amazon, they would have probably looked at you like you were mad. Now it is commonplace. Online outsourcing is at the same junction point and will continue to become an integrated strategy in any savvy business. My team is playing a vital role in educating the business world of this shift. As a small team, he have to use cost-effective, innovative and engaging ways to let the world know about the benefits of Freelancer.com. This is a key challenge, yet it is also what makes my job so fulfilling.

As for highlights, only a couple of weeks after joining the company, I was informed that we were taking the company public on the Australian Securities Exchange. This turned into a whirlwind ride of working late nights, long hours and weekends; however, I loved every minute of it. I was incredibly proud to stand alongside my colleagues as our CEO Matt Barrie rang the bell at the ASX after having one of the biggest openings in history on that particular exchange.

How is Freelancer.com making a real difference for entrepreneurs?

Freelancer.com is literally opening up a world of opportunities for entrepreneurs - who can now start up a business off the back of a credit card. It has never been easier to build or grow a business by connecting with more than 10.5 million skilled professionals from all around the world. Additionally, Freelancer is opening up ways for marginalised groups around the world to find work and earn an income. Just this week, I have been emailing a young woman from Pakistan who, thanks to Freelancer.com, has been able find work and live independently, in spite of strong opposition from her society. This element of my job is truly uplifting.

There are 7.1 billion people in the world; however, what is amazing is that there are only 2.7 billion people currently connected to the internet. The remaining 4.4 billion people yet to connect come predominantly from the developing world. As they come online, they will be able to use the internet to learn new skills, work on Freelancer.com and ultimately increase their standard of living, which is a key motivator for people's online behaviour. It is our long term mission here at Freelancer to beneficially change one billion people's lives on the planet by giving them a job sourced through our marketplace. Freelancer is a powerful tool for entrepreneurs from around the world to connect, collaborate and get work done.

How can female business owners use technology to their advantage?

The potential of technology has transformed the way we do business and is in particular opening up new markets for female entrepreneurs and business owners to excel within. I believe female entrepreneurship is on the rise; however, the number of women who are studying or going into a career in technology is not following suit. With the boom in tech companies and the incredible success of the Facebooks, Googles and the Apples of the world, it has never been a better time for female business owners to embrace technology and skill up.

With online universities like Coursera & Udacity, it has never been easier for female business owners to learn new technical skills. Using sites like Freelancer.com, taking a business online with a dynamic website, building an eCommerce function or designing an app are just some ways female business owners can start to adopt technology into their business.

Social media is also an incredibly powerful tool and can be a wonderful platform for women to not only build up their business but also their personal brand and sphere of influence.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

Managing a team scattered across 4 continents is challenging and often means working around the clock! No matter what time I work as long as it is "within business hours" somewhere in the world! Whilst work on the weekends is sometimes inevitable, I make sure I find a solid chunk of time each week to dedicate to myself. I love to be active and I will often plan outdoor activities that take me out of the city. I do not have children yet and I admire women who have even more elements to balance than I do but make it work with their career. I consider myself exceptionally lucky to be riding the incredible roller coaster that is Freelancer.com, and I am enjoying throwing myself into my role and relishing managing a rapidly growing global team.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?

There are many challenges that women face in the workplace, and these issues have been widely published and debated. In my opinion, it is essential that these challenges must not be used as an excuse for failure. We need to not go into a company or a situation two steps behind because we assume there are going to be barriers or challenges. I think that women need to have more self-belief, passion and conviction in their capabilities and really reach for the top, if that is where they want to be. There are many shining examples of truly successful women in start-ups, tech companies and corporates alike. True visionaries get to the top based upon their ability and incredible hard work. There will always be challenges along the way, this is inevitable, but I look forward to the enormous satisfaction and self-fulfilment of overcoming them and succeeding despite them.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?

Having female mentors in both my personal and professional life has been invaluable to me and I believe I would not be the leader I am today without the influence of these incredible women. The first mentor I must give credit to is my mother. She grew up in the Mid-West before leaving it all behind to forge a life in California. She is one of the wisest women I have ever met. In business and in life, we are always learning and having a mentor means you are never without guidance during the tough lessons. I strongly encourage every woman, no matter what stage of your career you are at, to seek out a mentor.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

While there is a growing pool to pick from, there are two women that immediately spring to mind. Firstly, Sara Blakely, the incredible entrepreneur that started the multi-billion dollar business Spanx. Sara saw an opportunity to develop a new product of shape wear and undergarments for women and with incredible perseverance, managed to turn her company into what it is today. I love the story of her taking the buyer for Niemen Marcus into the change rooms to physically show her the power of Spanx in her 10 minute sales pitch!

The second female leader I admire is the formidable Sheryl Sandberg. Her advocacy for women in business is all the more powerful because she leads by example. She truly illustrates how women can use both their IQ and their EQ to make it all the way to the top.

What are your hopes for the future of Freelancer.com?

We are on the cusp of a global revolution in the way we do work. Increasingly, work will be carried out online and the significance of the cloud will continuously evolve and develop. What this means is that work can be carried out anywhere, on any device, in any time zone and by anyone, literally opening up a world of opportunities for businesses. It is inevitable that a global online marketplace for services will emerge that will be the similar size and scale as the current global marketplaces for products, such as eBay or Alibaba. I believe Freelancer will be that marketplace. With more than 10.5 million members, we are shaping up to be the place the world wants to get work done.