Meet Tina May Swinkels , Co Founder Twofiftysix and Institute of Code – A Woman on the Move!
Tell us about how you chose your career/business and what your responsibilities include?
As a kid I was never satisfied by the status quo, I always wanted to know WHY we did things a certain way, and find opportunities where there was better, more efficient or more effective way.
As an adult I would often drive past businesses thinking that business could be thriving if they just did this or that. I felt like I had the skills and drive to solve client problems now, and didn’t want to wait until I finished my degree. 2 years into my commerce degree, and after an internship in Strategic Consulting with Deloitte I co founded a creative agency twofiftysix.
I woke up every day excited to go to work and satisfied when I went to sleep, and clients were obviously happy with the work because referrals kept flowing in. As I recognised the demand for website development among my clients, and experimented briefly with outsourcing and website builders, I taught myself to code.
At twofiftysix I meet with clients and help them understand their needs, whether it’s to attract new clients, boost profitability, or increase their existing customer’s purchase frequency. Then we develop a marketing strategy for them, which often includes branding and logo design and web development.
In 2014 I travelled for 7 months from the southern tip of South America all the way up through 15 countries to Canada, and my marketing and coding skills gave me the ability to work along the way… I was able to stay for a month in a 5 star report in Peru, learn to dive in the caribbean, and do a yoga retreat in a jungle lodge in Panama among others.
Inspired by the opportunities that abound for anyone with coding skills, and the challenge of teaching myself to code I recently launched a new venture, Institute of Code to empower others with these same skills. I wanted to learn from past mistakes and challenge myself, so from the date I thought of the business, I launched it in 30 days.
Tell us about the company you work for or own?
Twofiftysix is a creative agency based in Melbourne Australia but with clients around the world. While we have a suite of services including marketing consultancy, branding and web development are our main focus.
Institute of Code runs 10 day immersive retreats to teach people to code on a tropical island. The bootcamp style course can take someone from zero technical experience to building and maintaining beautiful responsive websites, and will create a portfolio of 2-3 websites during the retreat. Being an all inclusive retreat, you have nothing to worry about from the minute you step off the plane, with accommodation in a luxury pool villa, all meals prepared by an in-house chef, massages and more included in the cost of the course.
What are some of the most fulfilling projects you have been involved with so far (include your non-profit/volunteer work here)?
I worked with an incredible non-profit called ‘Dream Camps’ after meeting the founder on our travels. Dream camps runs inspirational once in a lifetime camps for kids who had generally had a really tough life. It inspires them to believe in themselves and their future, and really changes the lives of the kids, their family and their friends.
Are there any people in your field you would like to meet and/or work with and have not yet had the opportunity?
There are so many talented women in this field, but if I had to pick just one it told be Janine Allis, founder of boost juice. Collaboration with others in the field is something I would certainly like to do more of in the future and pool the collective talent.
What are some of your favorite ways to network?
Working while backpacking through South and Central America certainly opened my eyes to what constitutes a ‘networking’ opportunity. I think just being genuinely interested in the people you meet often leads to connections in the most unlikely places.
I’ve also really enjoyed Female Founder events that I discovered through meetup.com
Do you have a mentor – if so how did you choose one another? If not, is this something you think would benefit your career and is there anyone you would like to have as a mentor?
I think having a mentor would be hugely beneficial, and would love to find someone who has experienced failure, rejection, and self-doubt only to bounce back and thrive.
What have you learned from your mentor? What do you hope to learn?
I think that a good mentor can teach you things that you haven’t realised you need to learn.
What’s been the most surprising thing that has happened to you so far in your career?
I think each year brings with it new opportunities and surprises.
When I didn’t get offered a grad position at Deloitte immediately after my internship, I was devastated.. now I look back and I’m just so grateful.
What do you do for fun/relaxation?
I work hard, but I really value and priorities my time away from work and am lucky as an entrepreneur that I have a lot of freedom in the days and hours I work. I often hit the beach near my office for a run or yoga session, love to cook and host dinner parties with friends, and travel is obviously a big passion of mine — I’ve lived in USA & Australia, and travelled to 34 countries and 48 states of America.
Any parting advice for someone who would like to follow in your footsteps?
The biggest thing preventing you from becoming an entrepreneur is your own self doubts. Believe in yourself, get up when you get knocked down, and never stop learning and trying to improve. You’ve got this!
What’s the best way for the readers of WE Magazine for Women to connect with you ?