The Gen Y Series: Anna Robson

Anna Robson is the Co-Founder and CEO of Refugee Talent, an online platform that matches refugees with employers. The idea was born after Anna witnessed first hand the waste of human potential whilst working for Save the Children at Nauru Detention Centre and later met her co-founder, Nirary Dacho, a Syrian refugee, at a Techfugees Hackathon where they had the same idea to help refugees who were struggling to find work.

 How did the idea for Refugee Talent come about?

I met my co-founder Nirary Dacho at the Techfugees Hackathon. We had the same idea to come up with a solution for the problem of refugees struggling to find suitable employment. Nirary is a Syrian refugee who arrived to Australia just over a year ago. He has a Masters in Web Science and applied for over 100 jobs in Australia through the normal channels. He personally has faced this employment problem and was looking to create a solution. For me, I had previously worked on Nauru for Save the Children and what I experienced deeply impacted me. Not only in terms of the human suffering I saw but that many people locked up were also very highly skilled and it was such a waste of human potential. When Nirary and I met we both realised refugees needed to be directly connected with businesses to find employment as the current system didn’t work and was a waste of people’s skills and experience they bring to Australia. For the business they are missing out on, this hidden talent! So we built Refugee Talent – an online platform matching refugees with employers.

What persuaded you to quit your job? and make it a reality?

I was an uber driver when I started Refugee Talent so it was easier to start while I had flexible hours.  We kept building it and once it started getting busier and we found ourselves needing to work full time, I stopped ubering and devoted myself full time to Refugee Talent.

How did you overcome the fear of failure?

We just really believed in our idea and the power of technology to connect refugees with companies so felt it was a disservice if we didn’t at least try to make it happen. That fear of failure didn’t matter because we knew we just had to give it a go.

How did you fund the idea?

Nirary and I self-funded the idea whilst working full time in other jobs until we got to the point where we needed to work full time on the business. Luckily I had met an investor while ubering who believed in our idea and helped us to raise some seed funding a few months after we went full time on Refugee Talent.

Tell us what a typical day involves?

A typical day involves several meetings with companies, phone calls to businesses or our talent and many coffees! 

What excites you most about working in social enterprise?

What excites me most is the social impact you can have. Helping someone, who has previously struggled to find employment in their field, find suitable job opportunities and change their life. That is exciting to me! 

What’s the big dream for Refugee Talent?

To be the number one place for a refugee to find a job and for a business to find highly skilled diverse talent.

How will you get there?

Continue growing Refugee Talent in every state in Australia. We have been mainly operating in Sydney and Melbourne in our first year. Being a tech platform, we already are set up to be global from day one but we will look to really push and expand further into all other states in Australia next year. 

How can people get involved with what you're doing? 

Your company can sign up with us and hire some of our highly skilled talent!

What advice would you give to people who might also want to start a social enterprise?

Find something you are passionate about, find a co-founder if you can as it’s great to share the journey with someone and create a sustainable business model around it.

What keeps you up at night?

Thinking about our expansion nationally and wanting to help as many refugees as possible find a position that suits their skills as fast as we can.  

One thing you wish you had learnt five years ago?

I wish I had learnt about social enterprise and the startup world earlier as it’s great to be a part of. People are willing to collaborate, share resources, connect you with people and help out where they can when they can see you have a social mission.

What have been your biggest challenges to date (in your career and personally)?

Working on Nauru and seeing so many people suffer and being powerless to stop this. Now back in Australia I am trying to make sure that the waste of human potential doesn’t happen where I can do something more about it.

How have you dealt with these?

Having amazing colleagues who all supported each other and cared about other human beings no matter where you are from was what really kept us all going on Nauru. This Nauru experience has driven me to make a difference where I can with Refugee Talent. My co-founder Nirary is an inspiration and also is great to share with the day to day challenges of running a business.

If you had to pick one, what's the one problem you most wish you could solve? 

Refugee employment of course.

Best book you’ve ever read: In order to live by Yeonmi Park
Your bucket list holiday destination: South Africa
Favourite sport (to play): Rugby