Kylie Uvodich quickly wondered if she’d made a mistake after joining SafetyCulture in 2017, she said.
“When I first came over [to SafetyCulture], I thought, ‘What the hell am I getting myself into? I’ll sit here and learn some things for a couple months, and then I’ll get on to my next thing,’” Uvodich recalled. “I remember telling my mom I shouldn’t have taken this job.”
More than five years later, Uvodich now leads the burgeoning tech company’s global office in Kansas City as the General Manager of the Americas.
“To go through waves, and turbulence, and all the growing pains of a business like this, and to see it through to the other side means a lot to me,” Uvodich said. “I also think it goes to show that no matter what age you’re at in life — I’m obviously a pretty young person to be in this role — that, potentially, your merit matters more than your experience.”
SatefyCulture provides frontline workers with the “world’s largest workplace operations platform,” allowing them to identify and report safety issues in the workplace using a mobile-first platform.
The SafetyCulture app — recently renamed from iAuditor — is industry-agnostic, Uvodich said. The issues flagged by frontline workers get passed up the chain of command, so that CEOs and managers have access to data and insights from employees in real-time.
While SafetyCulture certainly wants decision makers to make use of the data, the app is designed with frontline workers in mind, Uvodich said, noting that approach is part of what sets the company apart — and still appeals to her today.
“I think one thing that I was really attracted to and continue to be attracted to while I’m here is the fact that we build products for the frontline,” Uvodich said. “ A lot of companies — and a lot of products — are built for your CEO or your manager who’s looking at information, making their decisions.”
That intentional emphasis on building the platform with the user in mind has helped the app see such successful user uptake — SafetyCulture powers more than 600 million safety checks annually, she emphasized.
“A lot of people are downloading our products on their own,” Uvodich said. “No one’s selling to them. No one’s trying to convince them to use our products. It just simply is easy and it makes their lives better.”
‘I wish we could bottle up your culture’
Uvodich’s rise at SafetyCulture mirrors the company’s meteoric growth achieved during the past several years.
At the time she was hired, Uvodich was the seventh employee in the Kansas City “office” — which was then located in the Plexpod Westport Commons coworking space — and the 77th employee worldwide.
Today, the company employs about 100 people in its Crossroads office, and more than 700 total across the globe, with no plans to slow down anytime soon.
SafetyCulture’s main headquarters is in Sydney, Australia. The company also has global offices in Manila, Philippines; Manchester, England; and Townsville, Australia.
Uvodich, an Overland Park native, appreciates the unique opportunity to grow her tech career for a global organization while staying close to home.
“Doing this in Kansas City is very rare,” she said. “It’s really rare to have a tech company that is valued at $2 billion. That’s a really hard thing to find.”
After graduating from the University of Nebraska in 2014 and deciding that her original plan of attending law school wasn’t the best fit, Uvodich “stumbled my way into tech,” she said, landing a job at mySidewalk that summer.
She considered moving to coastal tech hubs like San Francisco and New York, but ultimately chose to remain in her hometown, which she described as having “that big city feel with a small town twist.”
“It would have been really easy after school to go to a bigger city, but I knew that Kansas City was a place that I wanted to call home for at least a portion of my life,” Uvodich said. “It almost seems like the perfect equation of all the things you could want.”
Now, Uvodich enjoys playing a part of “all the growth that’s happening in Kansas City” as she leads SafetyCulture’s team.
“We have people fly in from all over the globe and they always leave saying the same thing, which is, ‘You guys have something special in Kansas City,’” Uvodich said. “We’ve had people coming from Australia say, ‘I wish we could bottle up your culture.’”
Room to grow
Moving forward, Uvodich is tasked with leading SafetyCulture’s expansion into Latin American markets, in addition to strengthening the company’s position in the United States.
“We’ve already got some pretty decent traction in that region, but we’ve got a small team focused on that,” she said. “We have lots of room to grow. Obviously, also continuing to grow this region — so many people don’t know our name yet.”
SafetyCulture will also look for other tech companies and startups with which to partner and integrate, and potentially acquire, Uvodich added, especially as the future of work moves more toward automation.
Uvodich won’t be daunted by the prospect of a new challenge, saying that she believes discomfort is necessary for growth.
“I’m probably more uncomfortable in this role than I’ve been in a really long time, which I think is good,” she said.
She’s more accustomed to making others feel welcomed and valued, though, having helped to start a group at SafetyCulture that meets monthly to ensure that the company stays committed to hiring, retaining, and promoting diverse talent.
“I have a really strong passion for that,” Uvodich said. “When I started, I was the second female in the office, and when we were about 12 or 13 employees, a group of us got together and said, ‘We’ve got to make [diversity] a focus.’”
Uvodich said that although the group’s initial focus was on elevating women in tech, it has since expanded to include all types of diversity, including race, ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation.
Now, 75 percent of the leadership team in the Kansas City office is female, as is 47 percent of the overall staff, Uvodich said, with a goal of reaching a true 50-50 split.
“We’re not quite there yet. We’ll get there,” she said. “But [we’re] just having that intentionality and setting metrics and making sure that your bosses, and their bosses, and the CEO know that’s what we’re after. When you put that out into the world, you’re holding yourself accountable to a goal.”
The former soccer player’s most immediate goal, however, is simply to build on the work she’s been doing, and to enjoy doing so for a company, and in a city, that she loves.
“Just the culture of helping people, having a mission, doing it with fantastic people and incredible talent,” Uvodich said. “It means so much to be in Kansas City being able to have this opportunity.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.