Women of Web3 Changemakers: Cathy Hackl

NEAR Foundation
October 31, 2023

“I have always said that I’m not the typical face you see representing technology, and that’s why it’s essential for everyone to know that the future is for all,” says Cathy Hackl, a leading authority in emerging tech and co-founder of Journey, a consultancy that advises companies, brands, cities and governments about gaming, AR, AI, spatial computing, metaverse, web3, and virtual world strategies.

Hackl is one of the 10 finalists of the 2023 Women in Web3 Changemakers List, an annual competition designed to champion women pushing boundaries in the space. Hackl, along with nine other outstanding candidates, are showing the industry the change women are bringing about during the advent of the Open Web. 

Hackl was selected not only for her work advising companies like Nike, Walmart, Louis Vuitton, and Clinique on navigating emerging digital spaces and technologies, but her tireless work as an educator.

She has taught at IE Business School and SDA Bocconi School of Management, two of the world’s leading business schools, and spoke at Ivy League universities across America. Hackl is one of the world’s leading female tech trailblazers that is constantly evolving and helping build a more inclusive future.

But Hackl’s journey to becoming one of the world’s foremost leaders on emerging technologies nearly didn’t happen. 

A chance encounter 

Hackl started her career working in live video and live streaming in silicon valley. But it wasn’t until a chance encounter with VR that led her career in a completely new direction. 

“I was invited to an event where there were some VR demos. I had the opportunity to try on a VR headset for the first time and experienced what it would be like to be in a solitary confinement cell in virtual reality. Within a few minutes, I felt claustrophobic and I took the device off, but something had changed. It felt like I was able to fully turn on my humanity dial again. I also knew I had seen something important, maybe it was part of the future of storytelling or maybe it was the future of business, but I was sure of one thing: this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”

Soon after that moment, Hackl left the video production space and went all in on AR and VR. Stints at companies like HTC and its VIVE VR project led Hackl to landing her dream job at Magic Leap, the American technology company specialising in augmented reality. 

It was here that technologist Neal Stephenson and Chief Futurist at Magic Leap first coined the term “Metaverse”. But for Hackl, it wasn’t to be. When the pandemic struck she was among many that were laid off as the company contracted. 

“I had to ask myself: what do I do now? This led me to Amazon Web Services, where I worked on several projects including large scale simulations and learned a lot about cloud computing.”

During the Covid years, Hackl had been writing a lot about the Metaverse after she was first exposed to it at Magic Leap, helping her to connect to companies looking to explore the space.  

“I eventually got the courage to leave AWS and launch off on my own. In 2021 I founded my own consulting firm. In just 10 months my company was acquired by Journey, where I am currently the co-founder and I lead the company’s virtual, gaming, and Metaverse studio.”

Since then, Hackl has become one of the main proponents of metaverse technology, especially for women. 

The future is female 

According to research by McKinsey, women are spending more time in the proto-metaverse than men are and are more likely to spearhead and implement metaverse initiatives. 

However, just as in the tech sector as a whole, women represent a minority in the metaverse economy. Both the entrepreneurial capital and the CEO roles in the metaverse space remain disproportionately reserved for men.

“The research shows that women are more likely than men to engage in hybrid use cases in the metaverse, traversing both physical and digital worlds to participate in gaming, fitness, education, live events, and shopping via AR/VR technologies,” says Hackl. 

“By contrast, men use the metaverse to participate in purely digital experiences such as gaming, trading nonfungible tokens (NFTs), and attending social events.”

For Hackl, bringing women into technology results in more creative solutions and has more significant potential for innovations that meet women’s needs and promote gender equality. But their lack of inclusion comes with massive costs. 

“Suppose women cannot access the Internet and do not feel safe online. In that case, they cannot develop the necessary digital skills to engage in digital spaces, which diminishes their opportunities to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) related fields. By 2050, 75% of jobs will be connected to STEM areas. Yet today, women hold just 22% of positions in artificial intelligence”

But Hackl feels the Web3 world is ready for change. “My message is always to be bold, speak your mind, and settle for more. The world needs your essence, work, art, creativity, femininity, intuition, and heart to make the Web3 industry. There will always be obstacles, but there is a vast community to mentor, support and stand by you to continue exploring, building, and creating in the Web3 industry.”

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