Times of failure produce biggest learning for start-ups

She was the first female technology officer of a U.S. presidential campaign and spearheaded product developments at Google, Facebook and Eventbrite. But it was a personal health crisis that inspired Stephanie Hannon’s mission to use technology for social good.

Now the recently appointed chief product officer of Strava, the tracker app used by tens of millions of athletes to upload and share their activities, will be in Australia as part of the City of Sydney’s visiting entrepreneur program.

The Silicon Valley executive will share her personal journey, professional insights and ideas for using technology to tackle global problems at a series of workshops, seminars and talks from 4 June to 8 June. The events are part of the City’s program to bring international entrepreneurs to Sydney to share their expertise with the growing local tech start-up community

“I want young engineers, designers and product managers to know their talents are needed in government, non-profits, education, environment and advocacy organisations,” Ms Hannon said. “From bringing Google Maps to Africa and the Middle East and creating a global open data standard to building technology for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, the best periods in my career have been when my work was for public good.”

She says it was a “quest to lose weight for major surgery” in 2014 that dramatically altered her career. “While hiking, losing weight and doing triathlons felt good, I also began to sleep longer, was more emotionally resilient and happier,” she recalled. “I want to help people live active, healthy and long lives.”

The one-time software engineer who led the Sydney-based venture to build the defunct Google Wave will share her failures as well as global successes.

“Times of failure are often the times of highest learning and personal development,” Hannon said. “Learning to talk about failures transparently and not defensively has helped me extensively in my career. I’ve become a better product manager through trying to build risky innovative ideas, even if they didn’t work.”

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the visiting entrepreneur program, created in partnership with the NSW Government, was providing invaluable advice and guidance for Sydney’s start-ups.

“We established this program to give local start-up founders access to people who have successfully launched global businesses,” the Lord Mayor said. “Stephanie Hannon has boldly taken on one of our biggest challenges and successfully navigated the many obstacles along the way.”

The Lord Mayor added, “We need that kind of big, visionary and practical thinking to solve the biggest challenges of our time, and I hope her example inspires many ambitious new projects here in Sydney.”

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