An interview with Kate Pollard, Co-Founder of Circle In
Circle In is an employee benefits platform that inspires parents, caregivers, HR professionals, and managers to take real action. Since its start in 2017, Circle In has been growing quickly, with over 60 companies now using their platform to support parents in the workplace. And as the company matures, Circle In Co-founder Kate Pollard knows that proper Product Practices are what will lead her team to success.
We sat down with Kate to learn more about Circle In and her thoughts on Product Management throughout the company’s growth.
Why did you start Circle In?
“All good start-ups generally start with a good story. My co-founder, Jodi Geddes and I, started Circle In because of our own personal experience. We both had 18 years of corporate experience. Our careers were both at an all-time high and it wasn’t until we went off and had kids ourselves that we realised it was actually very challenging returning to the workplace.
Being away from work for up to 12 months with our first child was actually a very confronting experience. The worst part of returning from parental leave was that we’d lost our confidence. We felt disconnected and that we weren’t valued by our workplace. All of those things can be avoided if you have the right support in place, and your workplace helps you manage those key transitions, such as going on parental leave, returning to work and life as a working parent. It was essentially our own experience that ignited the fire. We wanted to make sure that other parents weren’t going to have a similar experience to us.
Initially, we launched with a free consumer website in late 2017, with a heap of practical tools and resources that parents could access to better manage their parental leave experience with their manager. This was incredibly insightful as we learnt a lot about what parents and caregivers needed and wanted. About six months later we built our first corporate platform which we launched with Medibank and L’Oreal. Since then we’ve grown our business globally and now have over 60 companies using the Circle In platform.”
And what problems are Circle In trying to solve for its customers?
“At our core, we’re about building a better working world for families and caregivers. We’re helping transform the way organisations support parents and caregivers. New parents can feel really disengaged, lose their career momentum, and even worse, they can go on to leave their organisation. The problem is that there’s a real business cost to having to continually recruit new people. It’s so important that workplaces are very inclusive, and that they provide the right support for parents and to make sure they have the same opportunities as everyone else at work. As we emerge from the pandemic, the stress and challenges that parents face have really come to light. More workplaces are realising that in order to retain and attract the best talent, they need to invest in programs that are specialised for parents and that genuinely help them better balance their responsibilities of work and caregiving.
With up to 90% of a working population becoming a parent at some point, the big question many employers are asking is ‘can they afford not to look after their parents and caregivers?
Essentially Circle In is an employee experience tool that really helps improve employee retention, engagement and performance in organisations. With over 60 companies on board, the results are incredible and clearly demonstrate the impact. Our user feedback shows that 80% feel more positive towards their workplace as a result of the support they’ve received, and 73% are more inclined to recommend their organisation as a great place for families and caregivers to work.”
What was the trigger for you to hire your first Product Manager?
“I think the real trigger for us was the maturity of the business and that product is at the centre of everything we do. As we scale, we needed to make sure we had someone who was anticipating and helping us navigate to that future state. It’s so important to invest in the key product disciplines that will help us shape our product direction. Bringing that deep understanding of the customer’s needs into our Development process is going to help us drive our product and take it to the next level.”
What are the challenges of being a Founder and working with a Product Manager?
“I think as founders, you’re intimately involved in the product and the vision. It’s important to hold onto that vision but also to empower your product team to take that vision and bring it to life through the product experience. As a founder, there’s so much in your head, so it’s important to take the time to download and share.
The other thing is being patient. As a founder, you’re very driven, and you have a clear idea in your mind of where you want to take things. But we need to be patient and give the team the time to develop a proper Product practice. It also takes time to test things and instill an experimentation mindset. As founders we need to accept that although we want to get things done quickly, we need to have the right balance between moving fast and the proper evidence to support what we are doing. It’s all about getting that right balance between discovery, experimentation and delivery. And that’s why we need awesome Product people at Circle In.”
As we closed off the interview, Kate was keen to encourage the Product community to join her team on their mission to support parents and caregivers globally so no one needs to experience difficulties juggling a career and family responsibilities.
If you are interested in joining the growing Product culture at Circle In, check out their current Product roles today.