Rebecca Morley catches up with last year’s BikeBiz Woman of the Year finalists to talk about their experiences in the cycle trade. Today, we hear from Irene McAleese, co-founder and CSO at cycling technology company See.Sense
This piece first appeared in the April edition of BikeBiz magazine – get your free subscription here
My husband Philip was a cycle commuter who wanted to improve his own safety while riding a bike, and using his electronics and software background, he invented an intelligent bike light to improve his safety. Although we both had successful corporate careers we’d always thought about starting our own business, so when we had such great initial interest for Philip’s invention, we decided to take the risk and try to bring this innovation to life.
It was something I felt passionate about, because cycling is good for our planet on so many different levels and I was keen to see how I could help. Starting a business with my husband has its challenges, but has worked out well. We both have completely different skill sets so we don’t step on each other’s toes too much – I lead strategy, marketing and growth of our data projects side of the business. Philip is deep into the tech!
It was in 2014 and we had recently delivered our very first batch of lights to our customers. Coming home one day, I was exhausted after such a busy day. But then someone cycled past me, with one of our lights! Seeing our bike lights ‘out in the wild’ that day was the most exciting thing ever, and it still gives me a buzz.
On a personal level, it was back in 2016 when I pitched as the only woman in a highly competitive event for the BT Infinity Awards. I developed the vision of how cycling data from our lights could be used to transform cities for cycling. I am very proud of that moment as it was a turning point for our business as it began our pivot from hardware company to a data company, and led to the innovative work we do today where cities around the world are using our data insights to improve cycling safety and conditions for cycling.
On the whole, my experience has been very positive, although I am acutely aware that the industry on the whole is not as representative of women as it could be. This is a reason I put myself forward to become a board member of Cycling Industries Europe for a period of two years, becoming the only woman on the board.
At See.Sense, we have close to 50% representation of women, across various levels and areas of the business – technology, data as well as marketing and design, which I’m very proud of. It’s well known that high performing businesses are diverse, I believe that it is critical to bring women’s voices to the table, it is so important to have diverse views when it comes to designing products or solving problems.
It was great to see the Velo-City conference highlight the first ‘all women panel’ which was put together by the Women’s Cycling Network. I’m proud to be an ambassador for this network which provides support to each other and also helps media find women speakers on cycling topics.
This is important because it helps to create visibility of the many excellent women in cycling, who can be a role model for others. Other things that can be done are for the cycling industry to work towards attracting more women.
Finally, I believe that the work cities and other organisations are doing to make cycling more inclusive enables more people to cycle, and helps to get more women cycling. With more women cycling, more women may ultimately feel welcome and attracted to work in the cycling industry.
Put yourself forward
This industry is set for exponential growth and change, so there has never been a better time to enter this industry and to help influence its trajectory. And if you want to work in an industry that has a positive impact in the world, cycling has to be at the top of the list!
The cycling industry has a lovely network of people, so ensure you take the time to network and build relationships. Put yourself forward and keep learning.