Published in Business + Growth -

Taking time out at
Pause Fest 2019.

Picture the physical incarnation of a Venn diagram spanning technology, business, and creativity—now add a crowd of people wearing lanyards. Boom. You’re practically at Pause Fest.

In its seventh year running, Pause Fest is one of Melbourne’s best-regarded events on the conference roster. This year’s line-up featured some heavy hitting speakers from the likes of Amazon, NASA and YouTube alongside national and local industry bodies.

This year, Richie and Mel took some time out of our Melbourne office to tune into a few of the sessions Pause had on offer.

Taking it all in at Deakin Edge, Pause’s main stage.

Richie – Thursday 7 Feb

A quick scan of the schedule on my way into the city, and I selected three sessions I definitely wanted to check out. The rest of the time was set aside for dedicated freestyle wandering.

Here’s what I saw, heard and thought.

The limits of human space exploration: Separating fact from fiction.

  • Jocelyn Dunn 
    Human Performance Engineer at NASA.

As a bit of a stargazer myself, one of the biggest draw cards on the line-up for this year’s festival was the session presented by NASA.

Representing the iconic US space agency was Jocelyn Dunn, a likeable and entertaining presenter, and self-professed ‘space guinea pig’.

Jocelyn has spent the last two and a half years working for NASA, in what seems like one massive experiment. Her role doesn’t come with a job description, she spends her days getting thrown into different scenarios to see what happens. The results of her exploits are put to use as research for real life space exploration projects.

Jocelyn’s talk centered around the disconnect between the space that we see in the movies—through films like Gravity, The Martian, and Interstellar—and the reality she knows to be true.

Here’s a few of Jocelyn’s debunks for you.

Deep space habitats.

In the movies: Trips to Mars are undertaken in beautiful space ships with cavernous interiors.

In reality: To combat surface resistance, travelling to Mars would mean placing six people in a vehicle the size of an SUV for eight months.

Wardrobe realities.

In the movies: Our space heroes slip gracefully in and out of their space suits with ease and take off their helmets to reveal a perfect blow-dried bouffant.

In reality: Space suits are hugely uncomfortable, they take 45 mins to put on and require 2.5 hours of pre-breathing to acclimatise. As a result, you get clammy, sweaty, helmet hair!

Deep space urine.

In the movies: It’s all daring space walks, intergalactic heroics, and zero gravity love stories.

In reality: Because you can’t just nip out to the loo in space, all astronauts wear MAGs (maximum absorbency garments). These are adult nappies with extra absorbent material to soak up urine and feces. Not so romantic.

The most interesting part of Jocelyn’s presentation was when she recounted the eight months she spent as part of a team on ‘fake Mars’, a large purpose-built dome atop a deserted Hawaiian mountain.

The purpose of the experience was to simulate what it’d be like for humans to spend prolonged periods of time living on the red planet—with a focus on the social and psychological effects that come with these difficult conditions.

The results of the experiment helped NASA learn how they might structure a team, what mix of personalities the crew should have and how to manage scarce resources including water—with each person only getting to shower for two minutes a week for the whole eight months!

Need a break before the next panel?  Take a moment to pause.

The Sidekicker growth story.

You know the story: Five-year-old gymnastics protégée dreams of winning gold at the Olympics, suffers a career ending injury, launches her own tech start-up at 22 and turns it into ANZ’s leading on-demand staffing platform.

If someone hasn’t already started writing up Jacqui Bull’s life for Australia’s next biopic, then they should.

This engaging account of the highs and lows of life in the start-up space is delivered to a captivated crowd over at the ‘Growth Stage’.

Jacqui starts at the very beginning, recollecting her early life pursuing what she considered at the time to be her only career path—professional gymnastics.

Back then, every waking moment was spent mastering techniques and perfecting routines. The lessons she learnt as a child underpin her presentation, and throughout the session she continually references them in flashbacks, complete with cute pics of mini Jacqui doing handstands in the 90s.

Here are the three main lessons she imparted:

1. There is no such thing as an overnight success.

Because of the meteoric rise of companies like Uber and Airbnb, there seems to be a widely held belief that you can found a tech start-up one day and complete a lucrative exit strategy a few months later.

Jacqui shares a reality that’s worlds apart from the overnight success story. Growing Sidekicker (a platform that connects people looking for staff with people looking for work) took years of hard graft. She was staying in hostels, doing loads of the jobs herself and bribing her little brother to do them too.

They were turned down by multiple investors until, eventually, the company got enough runs on the board to get the attention of online job listings monolith Seek, who would go on to become a major investor.

2. Pick your partners well.

Although her presentation was a personal account, Jacqui did make numerous references to her co-founder and business partner Tom Amos.

From quitting their jobs to pitching poolside to millionaires, it’s clear the relationship between the two business partners has been a big part of their success so far.

3. Leave your ego at the door.

Jacqui’s parting words of wisdom take aim at the self-proclaimed rock stars of the startup world. Her advice? If you’re too big for your boots, or too precious to get your hands dirty, you’re due for a rude awakening.

Sidekicker has scaled its team based on a ‘no bullshit’ approach to business, hiring on values and mindsets rather than more traditional markers of skills and experience.

Overall, it was an inspiring 30 minutes from someone who put everything on the line and has come out smiling.

Breakout areas for conversations: online and off.

The speakeasy: A dynamic space for dangerous conversation.

  • Mykel Dixon  and The Pausables.

So, this was a new one for me.

Following on from a previous talk, I decided to just stay in my seat and see what the next scheduled event was all about. Was it a talk? A panel presentation?

Audience members become performers: mic at the ready.

Nope, it was kind of like a live musical, improvised jam session, and interlude all at once. A freestyling foray involving a live band, MC, and a whole load of audience members literally plucked from their seats to be back up dancers, stand in musicians, and open mic enthusiasts.

I have never experienced anything like it, I doubt I ever will, and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute.

The aftermath of a spontaneous jam session and interlude combined.

Cannabusiness: From taboo to transformation

The last talk of the day I saw was a presentation about cannabis—surely the scheduled time of 4:20 was not a coincidence!

The session started with a short intro video.

We see a guy dressed as an astronaut carefully loading and then smoking a large glass bong, before sinking back into the couch for what appears to be a prolonged Netflix session. All of it set to the soundtrack of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The point of the video was to set the scene, to frame cannabis as a taboo—the domain of the dope smoking loser, crashed out on his couch, chomping on a bowl of breakfast cereal a la Cheech and Chong.

R/GA’s Drew Klonsky took us through the origins of this long held public perception. We’re shown old anti-marijuana propaganda posters featuring startling warning messages, including my personal favourite: ‘If you smoke it, you will kill people.’

Drew then flips the lens to look at how much things have changed since then.

We’re shown the slick new $3 million ‘Forget Stoner’ campaign for MedMen, the largest marijuana retailer in South California often described as the ‘Apple Store of cannabis’.

The campaign attempts to throw off the shackles of taboo once and for all and is, according to Drew, yet another significant step in the global commercialisation of cannabis.

For the next 15 minutes Drew brings us up to speed on the latest developments of the cannabusiness industry.

We learn about The Stanley Brothers and their famous THC infused health and wellness products that helped a 6-year old girl go from over 300 seizures a week to two or three per month.

We hear about how big political players including John Boehner, former speaker of the House of Representatives, has gone from being staunchly opposed to cannabis legalisation, to now acting a lobbyist for cannabis based companies and an advocate for federal decriminalisation.

Finally, we look at Australia where investment in the industry has continued to grow. We hear about the recent news that a five-hectare site near Melbourne Airport will house a state-of-the-art medical marijuana facility operated by ASX-listed medicinal cannabis grower Cann Group.

Drew’s content was well structured, extensive, and a real eye opener.

Next up, Richard Adamson takes the mic to give us a personal account of the part he’s played in moving cannabis from pot-culture to pop-culture.

Richard is the founder of Sydney-based brewery Young Henry’s, a client of R/GA’s, hence their joint appearance at PauseFest.

Like many other alcohol brands, Young Henry’s became interested in what opportunities there were to use cannabis and cannabis-based products. It’s a pretty natural fit, given that hops, one of the main ingredients of beer, has similar organoleptic properties to cannabis.

Following a period of extensive experimentation, Richard reveals that he and his team managed to produce a Hemp IPA.

The pair on cannabusiness takes the stage at 4:20pm.

Ironically, given the title of his presentation, mainstream bottle shops wouldn’t stock Richard’s new beer because—yep, you guessed it—it’s too taboo!

A really enjoyable talk from some very knowledgeable people and a great way to end the day.

Live demos on how to use the new Adobe prototyping software in the Tech Garden.

Mel – Friday 8 Feb

Being a first-time attendee, I was excited to check out Pause Fest 2019. First thing Friday morning, and coffee in hand, I found a seat at the front—ready to soak up the goodness Pause had on offer.

Here’s some of the ideas, stories, and tips I picked up on during the day.

The volatility of ideas and the damnation of humanity.

Teleportation and drone sex. It’s one way to kick off a morning.

Troy started his presentation 9.30am sharp. The first 30 minutes of Troy’s presentation consisted of pitches for future startups that sound ridiculous—but may be possible within the not too distant future.

Troy kicking off his presentation on the main stage.

I’ll take you through a couple of my favourites:


What is the travel industry’s focus? Make the travel experience better. Introducing: Teleportly! Teleportation achieved through temporal displacement and translational invariance.

How would this work?

In a brief summary:

  1. You arrive at a Teleportly™ hotel, check in and get escorted to your room.
  2. Teleportly™ inserts the Fluidtard™ into your side which would induce a coma like state.
  3. From there, you would be loaded into a Funcophagus™ which is essentially a coffin that monitors your organs.
  4. Your Funcophagus™ is loaded onto a OmegaPort™plane that transports you to your desired destination.
  5. From there, you are taken to a Teleportly™ hotel and placed in a room identical to the one you went to ‘sleep’ in.
  6. You’ve probably secreted bodily fluids, so you’re discreetly showered, dressed and woken up in an identical room you fell asleep in.

There you have it, teleportation!

Drone Sex.

In an effort to thwart the decline of intimacy in our online world, people desperate for contact have turned technology.

Drorn \drorn\noun;

A subcategory of pornography involving the graphic depiction of sexual interaction between two or more civilian UAVs (unmarried aerial vehicles).

How would this work?

  1. Calling: the male drone calls a mate through a high frequency tone.
  2. Presenting: upon detecting a male’s calling signal, the female drone moves into a flight pattern of presentation prominently displaying its data port.
  3. Mounting: When contact is made, the drone tries to align their flight pattern and mount. This results in catastrophic collisions on average 20% of the time…
  4. Coupling: relying on protocol, a data transfer occurs.
  5. Disengaging: operators must carefully monitor their devices energy levels to ensure safe recovery. Drone return to their points of origin.

Troy spent the last five minutes of his presentation explaining how all these startups relate to how we use technology today.

We trust technology as a reliable source of truth. Could we imagine spending time in a stranger’s car or home a la Uber or Airbnb ten years ago?

While some of the ideas above still raise plenty of questions and doubt as to their utility, we’ve all made the leap to do things we otherwise wouldn’t—just because an app tells us to.

Sound magic: Pause behind the scenes.

Designing for trust at Airbnb.

  • Julia Khusainova 
    Experience Design Manager at Airbnb.

As a designer, I admit I was most excited to hear Julia speak.

She kicked things off with a slide that showcased a simple statement: Humans naturally want to connect.

Getting the low down from Julia in a Q&A session.

One of the many design teams at Airbnb is the Trust Team. This team oversees all design aspects of the site, to make sure they come together to make Airbnb a trustworthy platform to use for all their users.

For Airbnb, their human community groups consist of hosts, guests and Airbnb. They want all these groups to feel a sense of trust while interacting with the Airbnb platform.

What is trust? The ability to rely on someone for something for any number of reasons, such as their experience or expertise.

Trust can be established in many ways. Airbnb establishes this by following a set of principles:

  • Each user type has one Airbnb account that correctly represents them.
  • The account information hierarchy is clear.
  • A user understands what’s public and private.

Sounds like a great set of principles, but how do you apply them to a UX platform? You make sure that there is:

  • Clear definition of an account.
  • Account creation steps.
  • Verification requirements.
  • Permissions management.
  • Public profile and reputation.
  • A UI Framework.

These are just some of the ways to facilitate a collaborative trusting environment through design. If a platform is trusted, people are more likely to use it.

Julia wrapped up her talk by asking the audience:

How do the designs we create influence the world around us?

Design decisions we come up with have ramifications in the world around us. How do we make this a positive thing?

As designers, this is something we should focus on. Creating tools and online platforms which create trust and facilitate it.

The open mic: Pause creates opportunities for new ideas, conversations, and ways to collaborate.

Beyond sad faces: How tech is driving humanitarian change.

Catalpa International is a people-focused design and technology organisation that is designing a more equitable world. They work with communities around the globe to create change through design and technology.

Tanushree’s talk was centered around how tech drives change in aid and development, and how it doesn’t.

How can design drive humanitarian change? Tanushree takes the stage.

We are humans, and part of being human is that we are wired to look for negative news. And there’s a lot. But how do we locate the positive?

From her personal experience, Tanushree outlined the reality of participating in the aid and development sector, or what reality should be:

  • Participatory development
  • Collaboration
  • Local leadership
  • Innovation

How do we, as designers, contribute to this?

Well, more than half the world’s population is now online. If we use online platforms to create a place for connection, access to services, democratisation of information, education and employment then we are headed in the right direction.

How does Catalpa International contribute to this?

One example Tanushree shared was the creation of a platform that improves the likelihood of pregnant women delivering with a skilled birth attendant in Timor-Leste.

They did this by building relationships to make childbirth safer. Liga Inan, which means ‘connecting mothers’, is a platform that facilitates two-way communication between pregmant women, family members and health providers.

40,000 women have registered, and 2 million messages have been sent with information on maternal and child health. When a woman enrolls, they are two times more likely to deliver their baby at a health facility and are five times more likely to attend follow-up care.

We need to commit to collaboration. Designing with local expertise means things actually meet people’s needs. While she was discussing this point, this was the slide that was on the screen:

Collaboration is the only way we can get real. Check yo self.

When you’re there and see a place first hand, you can collaborate with the community to find out what their priorities are.

By working with them side by side, you can create a larger impact for a community who knows exactly what their needs are.

This is a brilliant way to use design for good.


There’s topic takeaways, and there’s takeaways.

That wraps up this year’s Pause recap, we hope you’ve found some food for thought in some of the eclectic topics covered at this year’s event.

We’re certainly looking forward to seeing what next year has to offer, and we hope to see you there!