Big visions and aspirational goals inspire me. At Silicon Graphics, our technology was part of many big-ticket endeavors like the landing of NASA’s Mars Pathfinder. At Facebook, it is the company’s mission of giving people the power to share to make the world more open and connected that drives me to come in to work each day and give my very best.
When we started building Facebook India, a key goal was to build an organization that would ‘Be Open’, ‘Move Fast’, ‘Focus on Impact’, ‘Be Bold’ and ‘Build Social Impact’, all of which are part of Facebook’s global values. Many cautioned me that, for example, building an ‘open’ culture was not a realistic goal given India’s cultural hierarchy. However, we knew that building the right culture was paramount to achieving our ambitious goals in India. We invested in the art and science of building culture. Continuing with the example of the ‘Be Open’ goal, we spent time with each employee discussing what ‘being open’ meant to Indians. We decided to build the skills needed for people to have crucial conversations. Leaders at Facebook were at the forefront, talking about their mistakes and areas of opportunities they were working on in team meetings, over email, and in company wide All-Hands. We created intentional safe spaces for people to have hard conversations. Leaders also publicly acknowledged people who gave them critical input that helped them be better leaders. We fostered a ‘leadership by all’ culture, where it was not about what the managers do or not do, but a sense of ownership by all. And judging by the amount of constructive input I receive directly, I know we succeeded! This is also reflected in metrics like the amount of peer feedback shared directly during our regular performance summary cycles, the norm of asking the elephant-in-the-room questions and the high bar set for accountability. If we didn’t have the overarching vision of ‘building an organization that reflects our global values’, we would not have had the fire in our belly, the persistence and determination to get there and continue to consistently better ourselves.
Today, one of our key goals is to help our clients leverage the consumer transition to digital and mobile. Quoting Andy Grove: ‘Market share is won and lost in periods of transition.’ As an industry, we are currently in the midst of a massive shift in how people consume content. For instance, in 2013, for the first time ever in the US, digital overtook TV as the medium where most content was consumed. The last time such a transition happened was in the 1950s when TV overtook radio. When it comes to marketing, companies need to be where consumers are, not were they were. As a company, Facebook went through a massive transformation to become a mobile-first company. Our ability to be at the center of this industry shift driven by changing consumer preferences and technology advancements, and play a pivotal role in helping our clients grow their business is enormously exciting and drives me each day.
People inspire me. I was once asked what type of recognition meant the most to me. I thought about the promotions, the awards and the opportunities offered to me over the years but, in the end, it boiled down to one thing—people. When people who have worked with me or reported to me over the years reach out to ask for counsel during critical junctures—both personal and professional—I appreciate the trust they place in that outreach and feel a deep sense of satisfaction that I was able to gain that trust in the time we worked together; that they still reached out after more than a decade of having worked together. As leaders, the impact we are able to make on people and families as we lead the organization through its ups and downs is hugely gratifying.
Last, but certainly not the least, people inspire me by the impact I see them making every day. I leave each calibration session during our regular performance review cycle feeling extremely proud, especially when I hear about the kind of impact that people who are right out of school and working their first job are making! They, more than anyone else in the organization, set the bar for me in terms of how high I need to aim.
My family and friends inspire me. I am blessed to have a circle of family and friends who routinely believe in me, more than I sometimes believe in myself. When I tell my mother about a presentation I am worried about, her answer is always, ‘Oh, you will be awesome.’ When we were faced with the decision of moving from Bangaluru to Hyderabad for the Facebook opportunity just as Dev started his real estate business in Bangaluru, we talked about it for a long time. I told him that this wasn’t about my career versus his. It was important to make it work for both of us. We considered several options, including him continuing his work in Bangaluru and me moving to Hyderabad and one of us commuting over holidays. In the end, however, Dev said, ‘I can tell how much this role means to you. Let’s just make the move and we’ll figure the rest out.’ When you have that kind of support behind you, it is a huge responsibility to do the best one can and make it all worthwhile.