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🦩 Rainmaker & Entrepreneur Spotlight: Lisa Pettigrew


F60 Interview
CRO Syndicate

1. Tell us a little bit about your background.

Originally from Australia, I grew up near the beach 🏖️ in Sydney. I had the good fortune to live and work across Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Western Europe, and Asia building teams and growing businesses. I’ve been in the US for over 10 years and feel like DC is my home. Australia is now like a “holiday home” where I visit mum, brother, sister, and many friends and former colleagues. I've been super passionate in my former corporate roles in large companies about helping people with disabilities. Many of us under-employ people with disabilities, be it neurodiverse individuals, different physical abilities, or other challenges. Why would we want to limit or miss out on this talented segment of the population?

2. What made you decide to live in DC?

At one of my former employers, I was promoted to a global role. 🌍 It's hard to do a global role from my home base of Australia. The company was keen for me to “move closer to things” without dictating where I should move. I always loved DC, as a policy and politics nerd and current affairs junkie, and our company HQ was nearby in Virginia. I figured it would be interesting to work out of a global HQ having spent a lot of time all through Asia and Australia. In DC, it feels like I'm in the center of the universe. Love DC and the people. So many smart people move here.

3. Why did you decide to start your own business?

 Ever since moving to the US, I caught the entrepreneurial bug. It's part of what I love about the US — the risk-taking and support you get for taking a leap and building a business. Also, the pandemic gave us all the time to reflect. And last year in our post-pandemic phase, I thought, if not now, when? So, I launched CRO Syndicate.

4. What was the most challenging time(s) in your business or career and how did you overcome it?

I’ve always taken the attitude that any problem is “overcomable”. I’ll share an example from when I was starting my career in the early 90s. I loved economics and assumed I would always go into investment banking, but when I was interviewing, I realized it wasn’t really for me. Friends in my university classes mentioned I would be a good fit for management consulting. I was more stressed than I should have been at that age about making the wrong choice. 

My lesson is: even if you do make a mistake, rather than stressing about it, try to work out how to “course correct.” And see everything as a learning opportunity. 🤔

5. What are you most proud of accomplishing as a female?

 Last year, in addition to starting my business, CRO Syndicate, I also founded the Australian Women in DC (AWDC) Forum. This is a nonprofit networking forum — it’s not just for women and not just for Australians.

We seem to be filling a gap that brings together different industries and perspectives — business, government, investment, nonprofit, policy — having interesting conversations, celebrating women's leadership, and doing some socializing as well as making the most of being in this fabulous city. There has been so much enthusiasm and volunteering support. It’s been rewarding to get it off the ground. Also, recognize that you get to a stage in your career where you have something to give back to others. I’m enjoying learning as much from my younger colleagues, if not more, as they learn from me. It's great to be invigorating the connectivity of young and older women – and facilitating multigenerational connections. 


6. What advice would you give to a fellow woman entrepreneur just starting?

Think big, be ready to start small, then scale fast. For women especially, think big and be shameless about your ambitions for yourself and your business.

7. If you could write a letter to your future self, what is something you like to tell yourself in 10 years? 

Moisturize every day, get at least 7 hours of sleep 😴, and keep up the Pilates!

8. Name a female leader you admire (dead or alive). 

I spent a lot of years in healthcare and so a role model for me is Florence Nightingale. She was a famous nurse and an absolute innovator. She created the precursor to what we now think of as digital patient records, she redesigned wards to provide better care to more patients. My favorite quote from her, was when she was asked “What’s the secret to your success?” She replied, “I’ve never given nor accepted an excuse.” This is a big testament to her integrity and leadership. 💪

9. What excites you the most about the future?
 
💻 Excited about the growth of AI, and tech in general. Of course, we need to manage the risks. But our lives are so much better with the advancements of technology and the scientific developments that help us all to live better lives. I have great optimism in humanity that we can harness the good and manage the bad. 

10. What would shock most people to learn about you? 

I like to go to bed at 9 pm as often as I can, although I don’t get the chance as much as I’d like. It’s the ultimate luxury. 🛌🏻

11. What book or podcast are you reading or listening to? 

I’m a big reader 📖 and I love all the book launches we have in DC. Right now I'm getting into Burn Book by Kara Swisher all about the growth of the tech moguls of Silicon Valley by the fabulous no-holds-barred journo. I’m also reading Revealing Secrets: The Unofficial History of Australian Signals Intelligence by Clare Birgin & John Blaxland. And also Millionaires Factory which is about the growth of Macquarie Bank which originated in Australia and is now a global empire. 

12. Your favorite food or restaurant in DC: 

Philippe Chow at the Wharf because I love Asian food and culture. 😋

13. Your favorite DC spot to visit: 

The Wharf where I live. 

14. Your superpower is "inspiring people to do more than they thought possible for themselves."

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