Ask Bongo

Caroline Thompson leads business development of Ask Bongo, Australia’s largest SMS information service. After graduating from the University of New South Wales, she entered the Australian business scene, working in executive-level positions until switching gears to an entrepreneurial position.

What do you do for work?

My title is business development manager for Ask Bongo. That really means I unearth the information and consumer needs that help my company grow. It’s my duty to learn what our customers need and give it to them on a quick turnaround.

Why did you choose to pursue a career in the field in which you currently work?

I have always loved creating something special, developing it, honing it and helping people. That is what successful businesses do – identify a genuine need and fill it.

In what way does your professional role make it possible for you to have a positive impact on others?

As a female entrepreneur in a field largely led by men, app development and IT, I live an example everyday of what to do professionally. I have made sure to discuss my mistakes, as well as, my successes. I learned more from my mistakes and I think I can help young female businesswomen and entrepreneurs more by talking about what I did wrong than what I did right. Everyone sees the things I am doing right just by seeing Ask Bongo’s growth. It is the missteps I made in the past that can help other women avoid the same pitfalls.

What is it that you enjoy most about living in Bondi Beach, Australia?

Aside from the gorgeous view of living right on the beach, learning new things. I just took up kite surfing when I moved to Bondi. I jumped in and bought all the equipment I needed, and took lessons.

What do you do for recreation?

Well, the kite surfing is new. My other hobbies include travel and reading. Those combine well.

If you could travel anywhere outside of Australia, where would you go and why?

Well, you’ll think I am stealing from Bongo, but he really borrows from me. I really enjoyed California, USA. Santa Monica is gorgeous and fun to explore. In the future, I want to explore the UK, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada. I enjoy experiencing different cultures, their fashions, food, and traditions.

Aussie rules football, cricket, rugby or something else?

Rugby because it is athletic, and rough and tumble.

Is there an Australian you admire or who has had a profound influence on you personally or professionally? Explain.

In both aspects, I remain impressed by Jodie Fox, who co-founded Shoes of Prey and Nicolette Maury, the managing director of Intuit Australia. Fox became the first college graduate in her family and established her business following the advice of her dad who told her repeatedly that she could be anything she wanted. Maury advocates self-awareness and authenticity. She practices what she preaches. Maury doesn’t copy others. She discovers herself and puts that out there. They both provide great examples for other women to follow, not to copy as Maury points out, but to draw from for inspiration.

What advice would you give to a first-time visitor to Australia?

Explore every inch you can. Really dig into this country. Don’t visit the opera house and other famous attractions and call it done. Hike the outback. Find a tiny beach that locals love and spend a day or two there. Avoid the corporate restaurants. Ask around to find out the favorite hole-in-the-wall. Try our beers. Don’t try to pet a grown kangaroo.

What is the funniest or strangest question a tourist has ever asked you about Australia?

Does everyone sound like Crocodile Dundee? And, no. Just like all the other countries, accents vary depending on the region and one’s schooling. You hear a very different accent from a Sydney-reared private schooler than from an indigenous gentleman who lived in the outback their entire life.

Thank you for speaking with me today.

You’re welcome. Thank you for the chance to talk about women in business, especially.