ANZ & SheStarts in SF

Written by Lana Weal on the 20th of July, 2018

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ANZ is a proud sponsor of SheStarts and this is a guest post by Leigh Gibson, a technology leader at ANZ

Our SheStarts cohort were lucky enough to have Leigh join them during the San Francisco part of their recent delegation to the USA. These are some of the top inspirational quotes and thought provoking ideas that Leigh gathered during the trip.

Using Agile Startup Thinking to Solve Big Problems 

I’ve been working with the SheStarts cohort 2 founders as both a mentor and advisor since December 2017 when they were selected for the accelerator program.

In addition to having large scale tech lead experience, I also have my own startup founder story. Over four years, I created and maintained a retail platform to spotlight independent Australian fashion designers.

So while I’m now a technology leader at ANZ (which hires approx 46,000 employees), I know first-hand the need for hustle, pivots, and priortisation. 

I’ve had diverse roles at ANZ since joining in 2014. First, I led the team who built ANZ’s mobile payments platform – the one that supports ApplePay, SamsungPay, GooglePay, Garmin and Fitbit.

Then earlier in 2018 I was working as an Engineering Chapter Lead, until recently I took on the role of technology leader for ANZ’s Internet Banking and ATM tribe. I provide technology direction and leadership for Internet Banking and ATMs, which process approx. $33 billion of combined transactions every month.

I enjoy working with a tribe of ambitious problem solvers and I’m proud that my team at ANZ has participated in a proof of concept activity with the SheStarts startup, Pioneera, with the aim to reduce workplace stress.

Making a Global Impact

The difference between SheStarts and other accelerators is that its focused on female founders – who have an idea that can both scale globally and also have a positive impact.

At the end of their six month accelerator program, the SheStarts team traveled with the founders to New York and San Francisco to demonstrate to the founders what scale really looks like. The main purpose of the USA Delegation is to show the founders the potential of their business and facilitate introductions with a variety of innovative women, investors and industry leaders.

I joined the cohort for a week in San Francisco. It was a quick week jammed packed with meetings that covered a range of perspectives of the startup ecosystem. It was fascinating. I took a lot of photos and wrote lots of notes!

Always Pitching, Always Learning

Most meetings started with each founder giving a 30 second pitch which evolved through the week. I found this pitch process encouraging as many of the people we met with were stunned at the caliber of our founder’s ideas.

There was plenty of advice given and it often varied – but the experience of having so many impressive business people provide supportive and constructive feedback was powerful.

It showed me (and the founders) that these female founders have credible ideas and solutions can be finessed and adapted, without any shame or embarrassment of not having it right the first time.

10 Top Lessons & Quotes

Here are my top lessons and favourite 10 quotes I collected on Advice for Founders, Hiring and Mindset & Leadership from our meetings in San Francisco:

Advice for Founders

Key lessons: Focus on your problem without being attached to your current solution, know your value and listen to feedback.

1. “Fall in love with the problem, not the tech.” – Doris Tang, Senior Technical Program Manager, X at Google

2. “Never undersell yourself or your business. The better communicator with more charisma can win the pitch over the better solution.” – Vera Shokina, Managing Director at Silicon Valley Bank

3. “Listen to your customers relentlessly. Listen to your employees relentlessly.” – Todd Nightingale, General Manager at Cisco Meraki


Key lessons: Your experience doesn’t equal your potential, value your workplace culture and create that workplace culture intentionally.

4. “When hiring, raw talent trumps education and experience. People are more complex than tech.” – Meg Bear, Senior Vice President at Juvo

5. “A company’s culture is a product of the founders. Your first 10 hires are really important. You need diversity in the first 5 people.” – Melissa Sandgren, Diversity Strategy Lead at AirBnB

6. “Consider ‘Culture Add’ when recruiting. How will this individual enrich us? What can they teach us? It’s not about whether you like them.” – Marta Pinilla Aguilar, Senior Recruiter at Box

Mindset & Leadership

Key lessons: Being a leader means being yourself, listening to your team and being comfortable having uncomfortable conversations.

7. “Leadership is one of the most difficult roles. Be vulnerable with your team. If you made a mistake, own it. Your team will love that.” – Stefanie Stephens, Customer Success at Juvo  

8. “Choose a small number of values that you really care about and reinforce with your teams daily.” – Todd Nightingale, CEO Cisco Meraki

9. “Ask the questions you feel uncomfortable asking. Don’t be afraid… Get really comfortable with being uncomfortable. If we haven’t had frothy conversation, we’re not growing or evolving.” – Lisa Haugh, VP of People & Culture at Juvo 

(I particularly liked this quote from Lisa about ‘frothy’ conversations – she was referring to having respectful conversations where ideas are challenged because that’s where growth happens!)

10. “The best way to value work is to say: Thank You!” – Laura Williams, Civic Engagement City Programs at LinkedIn


We’d like to extend a massive thank you to Leigh Gibson from ANZ for sharing her key insights with us. Leigh is an inspiring leader and a great role model, especially for women in engineering and tech. 

We have more insights to share from the USA – so keep a look out for more inspiration in the coming weeks.