Interview Tag: Transparency

Alain Benzaken; CTO

Alain Benzaken; CTO

Video Highlights

00:31 -- Priceline Early On

02:01 -- Buddy Media Sold to Salesforce For $800M

03:13 -- What Leadership Is All About

05:51 -- The Super Bowl Challenge

08:27 -- Obstacles Of Scale & Growth

11:50 -- No More Excuses

Tweetables

#Scaling a #company, #hiring the #right #people #Insights @alainbenzaken [Click to Tweet]

#techcoast what is the #bestcoast for #tech @alainbenzaken [Click to Tweet]

the #first #startups to be #valued at 1 #billion #Insights @priceline @alainbenzaken [Click to Tweet]

the #acquisition of #buddymedia and @salesforce #Insights @alainbenzaken [Click to Tweet]

The #science of #transparency #noexcuses #Insights @alainbenzaken [Click to Tweet]

#Achieving #faster with #mentors, being #proactive, #open & #communicating #Insights @alainbenzaken [Click to Tweet]

Alain Benzaken: I think in terms of my career, I’ve been involved in a lot of very successful internet startups. From early in my career, I worked at Priceline. It was really the early days of Priceline.

Alain Benzaken: Priceline was one of three companies that came out of the dot com boom. They were valued over a billion dollars.

Alain Benzaken: I was there very early on, I helped build a lot of core systems and since then, they’ve become, I think, the most successful stock on the New York stock exchange because they just had incredible growth.

Alain Benzaken: We had a lot of challenges early on. It was a crazy dot com boom, we went through craziness. The stock actually went from 160 to 2, so we’re sort of all in a very, very compressed time period. But it was actually, we really built a core product that has stood the stand of time.

Alain Benzaken: So I think that was probably my biggest success early on. Since then, I have also been involved in a bunch of different startups in the New York area, on East Coast.

Alain Benzaken: And the East Coast is a little different than the West Coast. It’s a lot more about the number, it’s not so much about let’s create some cool product and we’ll see if we can eventually monetize it.

Alain Benzaken: So it’s always been a little more challenging to find success stories even in New York area because if you see, it’s much more concerned about actually making money and exiting, and so forth.

Alain Benzaken: So in terms of that, I’ve always been very focused on interesting business models. So I’ve also worked at Buddy Media. I helped that company grow and eventually sold to Salesforce for 800 million dollars, one of the bigger New York city exits.

Alain Benzaken: I helped, at a slightly earlier stage, food52 raised their first angel round, so they’re doing great now. A big success story as well.

Alain Benzaken: And I was at TheLadders, we had a huge success story for a while. We’re doubling in size, we’re getting close to a hundred million in revenue.

Alain Benzaken: So on all these I think I’ve had a pattern of, maybe it’s picking the right companies to choose early on, to know when to come in and seek opportunity because I think a lot of that is important as well.

Alain Benzaken: As a technologist, you kind of have a choice a lot of times of what areas to get into so it’s not just a matter of, executing is important but also you can choose them upfront which of the ones you think have a potential opportunity.

Alain Benzaken: And I’ve made my share of mistakes as well but I think overall, I feel like in my my career, I’ve had some pretty good success stories.

Alain Benzaken: So everyone think leadership is about inspiring people and getting them to achieve more and there’s a large part of that. At the base level, to me, leadership is about influence, about using your influence, knowing how to use influence on maybe it’s one person, even in a lot of way it’s yourself as well.

Alain Benzaken: You need to sort of master that first and then you can apply to other people, and then to a larger group. And it’s really about knowing what the levers are and it’s almost different in every situation.

Alain Benzaken: Every company I’ve been at has been slightly different and every time I come in to a new situation, I try to remember, “Don’t fight like the last war.” And it’s very hard because you remember what you did wrong the last time, you’re like, “I’m not going to do that again.” But it’s always slightly different.

Alain Benzaken: And so, in terms of leading people, the basic things about you need to make decisions quickly. I think it’s important. Giving people the freedom to fail is important.

Alain Benzaken: Just giving them an environment where you want them to excel and to achieve as much as possible and I think that, if you can inspire people that way and really play to their strengths, which again is influence, which is really about understanding people and getting them to achieve more than they even think they can achieve.

Alain Benzaken: You know, I really don’t look at people as part of these are millennials or these are baby boomers, whatever. People are people, they all have the same needs and same sort of value systems that they have created in their heads, and so forth.

Alain Benzaken: So I think understanding them at a more elemental level than just part of generation, I’ve never really subscribed to a theory that I should treat them differently because they’re a part of a generation.

Alain Benzaken: I really try to look at people individually. Yes, there are some Gen X people that do have certain tendencies but in the end, I think it goes deeper than that. I think more understanding, like I said, what they want to achieve in their career and how to help them succeed.

Alain Benzaken: Some people want to succeed because they’re competitive, some people want to succeed they want to prove it to their parents, who knows. Some people wants to succeed because people most people want to succeed.

Alain Benzaken: So you just have to understand people at a more elemental level than just part of a generation. So I’ve never really had challenges so much on that. I’ve tried to say current.

Alain Benzaken: In this industry, it’s a very young industry so it’s important to stay current with the trends and so forth. So I feel like I need to adapt more to that than anything else and that’s kind of what I work on more than anything.

Alain Benzaken: So I’ve had challenges in a bunch of different companies. I always call the biggest challenges as the Super Bowl challenges because literally, a couple of companies this happened to, I had to keep a site up during the Super Bowl. When they were advertising our company in the Super Bowl and literally we would have Super Bowl traffic coming to our website.

Alain Benzaken: And so, those are really hard challenges because you can manage scale and growth at a steady level but when you get these incredible spikes of traffic, that’s when it becomes a challenge. That’s usually when your systems break down because it’s hard to test for and it’s hard to anticipate.

Alain Benzaken: And so I had that a couple times and we had to plan for months ahead of time. One was at TheLadders when we did a commercial and we really got to keep the site up and Taco Bell was down for, like, 6 days.

Alain Benzaken: And the other was by the Buddy Media when we had huge spikes we had brand advertisers advertising on Super Bowl, go to our Facebook page, and we were hosting the page.

Alain Benzaken: And so, those are the challenges. So I call those the Super Bowl challenges and they’ve happened a bunch of times. But in the long run, I’ll tell you that in terms of the scale and growth, again and again, the challenge has always been more on the people side.

Alain Benzaken: If you hire really, really good technologists who know architecture and know how to build things correctly and you challenge them and you make sure they build it correctly…

Alain Benzaken: The technology is like math. And so, if you do the math and you know this is where we are, this is where we need to be, and this is the scale we’re going to hit, you could usually solve the problem.

Alain Benzaken: But people are not math and so handling the growth of people and managing everything that goes on when your company is doubling in size, at Priceline, we’re doubling every month.

Alain Benzaken: So just handling that growth and hiring people who can manage maybe one person now, maybe ten people within three months, and then becoming a VP in a year. And so, you got to really, really get the right people in the right position and that’s more of a challenge overall, I think.

Alain Benzaken: And it’s the biggest challenge in technology in general where technology managers are hard to find. Really good technology managers are hard to find so that’s probably been more of a challenge on the scaling side than the technology itself.

Alain Benzaken: I think in the West Coast they’re much more open to fail fast and move on. On East Coast, they’re still, even today, is a “Let’s push it through, let’s make it happen.” And I’m like, “Either we’re going to make it or we’re not going to make it, and let’s find out earlier and let’s move on.”

Alain Benzaken: So what I learned was a couple of things from now on, I will say, is one: executive teams matter incredibly. And I’ve been on some very successful ones and it’s just easy. The success comes quickly and if things don’t work, you change into that.

Alain Benzaken: And two, that was also a problem of timing as well. I think there’s recently an article about startups, what’s the biggest indicator of success or failure in startups.

Alain Benzaken: And it turns out timing is important. If you get in too early, even before Priceline I was at Prodigy, which was one of the first online services. This was pre-internet.

Alain Benzaken: We were way too early and then AOL came and had, not necessarily better service but they had better marketing and eventually beat us. So that’s probably a bunch of learnings I’ve had over the years: timing, executive team, and your points of marketing.

Alain Benzaken: I had a really good mentor when I was at Priceline, he was an executive who’s CTO. It’s very hard in technology to sort of stay in touch with the code and stand the code while also managing and understanding the business side of stuff.

Alain Benzaken: Because when you’re in the code and you see the challenge, it’s easy. But when you stop coding, it becomes a little hard and you don’t know exactly what’s going on, you’re really relying on your team to give you the information that you need because you kind of start to lose touch with the technology.

Alain Benzaken: So it’s important to have a sense, and this is what he was really good at and that’s what I learned more than anything else from him, a sense of where to know where the soft spots are in any sort of project or any big endeavor that you’re working on with your team.

Alain Benzaken: It was a skill that, I won’t say it’s black science but it was a skill that he had where he would like, “I bring the big project plan on that, everything is good.” And he’d be like, “How are you going to do this one thing?”

Alain Benzaken: It would always be the one thing that was like, “God damn it, I don’t really know how I’m going to do that.” And that’s a skill that I’ve worked really hard at achieving.

Alain Benzaken: Some of the stuff, you know it’s going to get done, you know it’s going to get done but in any project and any situation, there’s always one thing that they don’t want to tell you is the part they haven’t quite figured out yet.

Alain Benzaken: And so, that’s a skill that you learn over time and I’ve been lucky enough to work with some important mentors. And I’ve seen that in different areas, not just in technology, I saw it in finance. Same thing at Priceline we had a guy that would point at rooms of spreadsheets and would point point at one number and go, “How are you going to get to that number?” And make people squirm every time. It was unbelievable, I never saw anything like it.

Alain Benzaken: And that’s a skill you gain over time, that’s experience. So that’s important to me. I think mentorship in general is important because it helps you achieve faster, basically.

Alain Benzaken: Working with someone who’s already been there, who’s already done that. As you know, we do triathlon training and having mentors in sports, actually growing up, although I was a pretty good athlete but I didn’t train very effectively. And I was okay, I was average.

Alain Benzaken: But I really learned the importance of mentors in terms of getting you to where you need to be faster. And it’s really just like a shortcut and so when you have them, you have to take advantage of them.

Alain Benzaken: So it’s a great importance so I try to be a mentor to my technology leaders as well but I’m still learning from a lot about this.

Alain Benzaken: I’m having this situation now in my current company where every day we have a status report on how things are going. And every day, I hear an excuse about why things didn’t work exactly the way they should have.

Alain Benzaken: And the excuses are all good and it hit me this morning, I don’t actually want to hear an excuse ever again because an excuse is really a reason for not doing something earlier. So at the end of the day, something didn’t work and the next they’ll say is, “Well it didn’t work because X, Y, and Z happened.” And that’s just not valid. You have to be much more proactive, you have to communicate upfront about what the problems are and then we’ll resolve them.

Alain Benzaken: I always tell my team, for example, “I just want to hear the bad news.” That’s my management mantra number one. As long as you tell me the bad news, I won’t get upset, we’ll deal with the problem, and we’ll move on.

Alain Benzaken: That’s just screwing up every day, that’s a whole other story. We’ll deal with that but as long as I hear the bad news, I can do something about it. That’s the reason I’m here.

Alain Benzaken: But don’t come to me three weeks late and say, “Hey, Alain something screwed up last week and I didn’t tell you about it.” And you might have a good excuse about why it happened but I don’t want to hear about it.

Alain Benzaken: So the executive level, it’s really about being open, transparent. Communicating is really number one thing and working well together. And if things don’t go well in your area, I want to hear about it and I can help you, and so forth.

Alain Benzaken: There’s just so many, so many unbelievable new technologies that are coming up in all the areas. The internet is one thing and sort of like the groundwork but that’s easy stuff.

Alain Benzaken: I’m currently working actually in the garment industry which is still running in backwoods mode and some of the technologies that we can apply there and some of the things we could do would just be some, which is still unbelievable. Basically to be able to design your own clothes and print them right there, just simple stuff like that.

Alain Benzaken: But there’s just so many new technologies coming up. It’s kind of exponential. The way technology works is it kind of grows but then it grows on top of stuff that’s been invented before and so we’re still reaching the early stages of the exponential current and what can be done.

Alain Benzaken: So I think in biology, there’s some unbelievable stuff going on, obviously in tech. So I’m excited, it’s all fun.

Alain Benzaken: It’s important for me to be an example to my kids, to be successful at that level. I mean, I’m very, very competitive. I like doing it in sports, I like doing it in any situation I’m in. But in the end, I have a very close family. I want to be successful and I want them to be successful.

Alain Benzaken: So I don’t know if it’s a driving cause, I think it’s more that you enjoy life as well and have a good time and laugh. It’s funny. I don’t live life with a super, super important cause sort of hanging out there. I’m a little more day to day and enjoy things.

Aditi Javeri Gokhale; Board Member, GM, CMO

Aditi Javeri Gokhale; Board Member, GM, CMO

Video Highlights

00:28 -- Biggest Success

02:22 -- Education in the US

04:45 -- First Year at MIT

06:21 -- Failures & Learning

07:40 -- Aspects of a Leader

11:06 -- Opportunities on the Board

12:59 -- Work/Life Balance

Tweetables

What it takes to a #trailblazing #leader with Aditi Javeri Gokhale #CMO #Insights [Click To Tweet]

#Eyes to the #sky feet to the ground how to be a #powerful grounded #CMO #Insights [Click To Tweet]

The #first #big aspect of a #leader is #trust and its #foundation #Insights [Click To Tweet]

#Creating #leadership #skills with #vision and #empathy #Insights [Click To Tweet]

The #key to #managing your #team and #driving #results [Click To Tweet]

Aditi Javeri Gokhale: If look back and I sort of think about my career journey very early on, the first challenge I was given was to run membership rewards which as you know is one of the best loyalty programs in our financial services space.  Developing that revenue model, cost models for membership rewards we actually grew the revenue double digit without knowing a whole lot around marketing and loyalty marketing. It was probably my first big success, I’m talking many, many years ago. So that was probably one of the first ones.

Aditi Javeri Gokhale: The second one was building up the whole digital platform for NutriSystem from soup to nuts everything.  Really doing it in less than a year and as you know Weight Watchers it took about eight years for them to develop a product which was probably not as complicated as New Me I think was probably my biggest success.

Aditi Javeri Gokhale: I think the first thing that I’m most proud of was getting to go to MIT. I was 16 at that point, didn’t quite know what I was signing up for- absolute risk taker, took my first flight to Boston so I hadn’t actually taken an international flight ever in my life. But the whole application process with MIT as you probably know you’re required to do an interview. Your grades have to be stellar of course, but the fact that I aimed high so to speak was the only Indian after five years to get admitted on a four year scholarship. I think that was one of the biggest achievements at that point.

Aditi Javeri Gokhale: I came to this country with 200 bucks in my pocket and you know did my undergrad in three instead of four years I think was probably something that I’m really proud of so that was one.  My mom worked right beside the United States Education Foundation and my mom’s office used to have amazing food in the cafeteria. So anytime I had a holiday I would try to go to her office just to eat the free food, that’s what happened.

Aditi Javeri Gokhale: As I was passing by I saw the U.S. flag and I saw this United States Education Foundation and I said, okay let me check what this is. I walk in and there’s a guidance counsellor there and I kept talking to her and I talked to her about what I’ve done, and what I want to do, and my grades. She said, “You know what you got a really good shot at some of the top universities.”

Aditi Javeri Gokhale: We looked at about five schools I asked for the application, I didn’t want my parents to spend because they didn’t know about it so I actually asked for a fee waiver so that my entire application was for free, and that’s how I applied to MIT.  A big thing in our family was about education so all the women in our family are highly educated.

Aditi Javeri Gokhale: My grandma is the first woman in Asia to start an all women’s music institute so music and education were two major sort of themes in my family. All of the women are educated in our family, all of them have careers. So while growing up my mom always worked so while growing up I always saw women treated equally with men.

Aditi Javeri Gokhale: I’m from one of those families, okay we were middle class family but education was pretty big so when I talked to dad about my MIT part of it, I was more concerned because again youngest in the family, boarding a flight and coming to the U.S., I didn’t know how dad was going to react. Amazingly his first reaction was why didn’t you just tell me about this upfront right. He’s like who am I to stop you and for him MIT was like the bible, it is where most engineers aspire to go.

Aditi Javeri Gokhale: So his daughter getting into this full four year scholarship so my parents had to pay 500 bucks a year, that was it. It was pretty amazing for him. He’s been most encouraging and somebody that I look up to. His one mantra in life has always been to me, eye on the sky feet to the ground.  Be a humble person but always aim high.

Aditi Javeri Gokhale: My first year at MIT was incredibly challenging. We’re talking about, I’m not going to age myself, but we’re talking about less than 20{f7a32599756963b989bde631f1a44401cc789db6f847c3735c9e8f651be632a4} of the class being female.  Now I think it’s much more evenly split and we’re talking about the top half percent of the nation in this. We’re talking about the smartest kids on the planet all in one class.

Aditi Javeri Gokhale: It wasn’t just the work, it was the accent, it was the food, it was the winters in Boston. I lived in a tropical country where we basically spoke with an English accent because the British ruled with us for many years. It was even the style of education where it wasn’t written, you actually had to think and it was very applied which was very different for me.

Aditi Javeri Gokhale: Interestingly MIT recognizes that, because a large percentage of the class is international so your first year is pass/fail. You don’t get any grades in your first year so I was glad that was the case because my first semester was really very tough on, very tough. I had plenty of moments where I called my dad and I said, this is not the place for me and I think I got to pack my bags and come back. Just missing family, not having family in the United States. It was incredibly challenging but as I think back now and as I talk to my son about this stuff, that was what gave me the basic foundation to say anything is possible.

Aditi Javeri Gokhale: I’m a big believer of having failures in life all throughout your career journey. I think it’s a very humbling experience, I think it’s something that really helps you learn and push your thinking. I’ve had quite a few failures and I’m not going to lie about it. I’ve had failures around product launches but what you do is you learn, you test, you refine, you iterate.  That’s sort of what you go about it.

Aditi Javeri Gokhale: But I think the one that comes to mind early on has been around talent and hiring the wrong talent.  Early on in my career especially when I was getting into the sort of GM roles which you know, they hired me to sort of turn businesses around and I was very impatient to hire people very quickly. That probably has been my biggest learning is to take your time, do the job yourself but hire the right talent because your team is what makes you successful.

Aditi Javeri Gokhale: I think a few mis-hires have helped me sort of take a step back as I think about every role of mine and what my team needs to be.  That hiring the right talent makes a huge difference in the team success, and the business success, and your personal success.  I think when it comes to good leaders and I’m always constantly trying to make myself a better person in the same way, the first big aspect of a good leader is trust and building trust.

Aditi Javeri Gokhale: When you have trust you allow your team to start thinking creatively, to start thinking out of the box, to start taking risks. Making sure your team feels like you have their back I think building that trust is a big thing.  I think a good leader articulates a vision, even if it’s the initial vision very clearly.

Aditi Javeri Gokhale: So somebody who has a very good vision of where the business needs to be I think a good leader has great empathy, again you need empathy because it’s not just about business results and succeeding in steamrolling people- it’s about doing it as a team. I think empathy is a big deal that I look at in leaders.

Aditi Javeri Gokhale: This fire in your belly to succeed, I think I’m looking for that in a leader and most good leaders have that. I see this as an incredible opportunity, if you think about four generations or if you think about how the world is getting to be much more global and so well connected just given the space that I’m in which is the digital space, I see this as an incredible time.  If you think about the kind of products that you want to develop or technology that you want to develop, the customer always comes first right.

Aditi Javeri Gokhale: If you think about the workforce that has sort of four different perspectives, getting feedback from your employee base as a starting point and figuring out whether you’re doing the right thing is incredible right. I’ve had the opportunity to work across four different generations, the feedback you get, the experience you get, the insights you get I think is not a challenge it’s actually an opportunity to make sure that you succeed in whatever you do.  I don’t really see that as a challenge.

Aditi Javeri Gokhale: Of course as a leader I think 80{f7a32599756963b989bde631f1a44401cc789db6f847c3735c9e8f651be632a4} of your job as a leader is to manage people and to make sure that you manage them well. To me that means with these different generational ideas and the diverse workforce that you have, motivations are very different now.  Certain people get motivated by money, the new generation may not necessarily get motivated by money they may get motivated by social causes.  You never know.

Aditi Javeri Gokhale: Understanding what motivates your employee force, listening to them and making sure that you motivate them and inspire them, I think that’s a big aspect of being a good leader. As I think about technology and as I think about my expertise and the next 10, 15 years I feel that we’re in an incredible time.  I’m super excited about the future and here’s why. From a digital perspective I think that we’re seeing a complete paradigm shift going on.

Aditi Javeri Gokhale: If you think about technology, and innovation and what’s going on I mean you and I  have spoken about this, 99{f7a32599756963b989bde631f1a44401cc789db6f847c3735c9e8f651be632a4} of my household runs digitally. I have very rarely gone to a bricks and mortar store, everything in my household. But if you think about the industries where there’s still tremendous opportunity, financial services just general banking, education, healthcare. I mean there’s so much to be done from a technology perspective that’s the part that excites me about the future.

Aditi Javeri Gokhale: I’ve had the opportunity to be asked to be on really incredible boards for many years now, for two or three years at least.  I didn’t want to jump into being a board member until I felt like I had enough time coming back to the work life balance that I had, enough time to contribute as a board member to be a C level executive and then to be a mom. I felt like that was the time that happened about a year ago I got a call to be on the board of an incredible company called Churchill Downs.

Aditi Javeri Gokhale: Churchill Downs is a publicly traded company, it’s about two and a half billion in market cap and they’re known for organizing the Kentucky Derby which is the second largest watched sports event after the Super Bowl. So when I was asked to be on the board my first reaction was, well I don’t know nothing about horse racing why me?  But that’s exactly why they wanted me to be on the board because Churchill Downs acquired a video and mobile gaming company called Big Fish for 800 million dollars. They were looking for a digital expert.

Aditi Javeri Gokhale: Half of their customer base is female and they didn’t have any representation of a digital expert and a female on the board. To me that felt like a great combination because A, I have the customer perspective I bring to the table. I have the digital perspective and it’s one of those amazing 140 year institutions so I accepted the offer and it’s been fun.

Aditi Javeri Gokhale: I think coming back to it needs to be right for you. You don’t want to just say you’re on the board, it needs to work for you based on what’s going on in your life and you want to make sure you’re contributing to it. I’m the youngest board member, I’m the only female board member and at least from what I’ve heard so far I bring a very unique perspective to how they want to sort of shift their business model and I think that’s great.

Aditi Javeri Gokhale: I think it’s a constant sort of recognition that you’ve got two aspects to your life and this means not just for women but for men too, is that you got a family life and you’ve got a professional life. I’m not one of those women who, I love my job and I love working and I love succeeding but I want to be known as a mom and a wife.

Aditi Javeri Gokhale: I think work-life balance is sort of what works for you the best. In most of my jobs the lines have been very blurry between my personal and professional life, but that’s just me as a person. As a leader I’m a very open person, I’m very transparent, everybody knows what’s going on in my life. My calendar, everybody has access to it. They know when I have to go to school, when I have a doctor’s appointment I have nothing to hide.

Aditi Javeri Gokhale: That makes it easy on me because again I’m trying to juggle two things. It’s a constant recognition that you got to do well on both sides of the equation and balancing it out, and having great support. Having a wonderful husband who is extremely supportive of my travel schedule, or my board meetings, or what have you. And you build out a support system, having an incredible network of stay at home moms as my friends who recognize and are very supportive of it.

Aditi Javeri Gokhale: I didn’t know this, there have been a few rules I’ve got similar feedback from my team members and I think I’m glad they said this. They say I’m extremely empathetic but I drive hard for results.  I have this passion to succeed but I sort of get the team together to go with me versus just doing it by myself so I think that’s good, I want to be remembered that way. On the personal front you know, just to be known as a wonderful mom, daughter and wife.

Balancing The Board Room, Operational Leadership & Family Life with Aditi Javeri Gokhale

Balancing The Board Room, Operational Leadership & Family Life with Aditi Javeri Gokhale

Video Highlights

00:33 -- Opportunities on the Board

02:26 -- Work & Life Balance

Tweetables

#Choosing the right #board based on your #leadership #experiences @ChurchillDowns [Click To Tweet]

#Balancing the #boardroom and #family #life [Click To Tweet]

The #key to #managing your #team and #driving #results [Click To Tweet]

Aditi Javeri Gokhale: I’ve had the opportunity to be asked to be on really incredible boards for many years now, for two or three years at least.  I didn’t want to jump into being a board member until I felt like I had enough time coming back to the work life balance that I had, enough time to contribute as a board member to be a C level executive and then to be a mom. I felt like that was the time that happened about a year ago I got a call to be on the board of an incredible company called Churchill Downs.

Aditi Javeri Gokhale: Churchill Downs is a publicly traded company, it’s about two and a half billion in market cap and they’re known for organizing the Kentucky Derby which is the second largest watched sports event after the Super Bowl. So when I was asked to be on the board my first reaction was, well I don’t know nothing about horse racing why me?  But that’s exactly why they wanted me to be on the board because Churchill Downs acquired a video and mobile gaming company called Big Fish for 800 million dollars. They were looking for a digital expert.

Aditi Javeri Gokhale: Half of their customer base is female and they didn’t have any representation of a digital expert and a female on the board. To me that felt like a great combination because A, I have the customer perspective I bring to the table. I have the digital perspective and it’s one of those amazing 140 year institutions so I accepted the offer and it’s been fun.

Aditi Javeri Gokhale: I think coming back to it needs to be right for you. You don’t want to just say you’re on the board, it needs to work for you based on what’s going on in your life and you want to make sure you’re contributing to it. I’m the youngest board member, I’m the only female board member and at least from what I’ve heard so far I bring a very unique perspective to how they want to sort of shift their business model and I think that’s great.

Aditi Javeri Gokhale: I think it’s a constant sort of recognition that you’ve got two aspects to your life and this means not just for women but for men too, is that you got a family life and you’ve got a professional life. I’m not one of those women who, I love my job and I love working and I love succeeding but I want to be known as a mom and a wife.

Aditi Javeri Gokhale: I think work-life balance is sort of what works for you the best. In most of my jobs the lines have been very blurry between my personal and professional life, but that’s just me as a person. As a leader I’m a very open person, I’m very transparent, everybody knows what’s going on in my life. My calendar, everybody has access to it. They know when I have to go to school, when I have a doctor’s appointment I have nothing to hide.

Aditi Javeri Gokhale: That makes it easy on me because again I’m trying to juggle two things. It’s a constant recognition that you got to do well on both sides of the equation and balancing it out, and having great support. Having a wonderful husband who is extremely supportive of my travel schedule, or my board meetings, or what have you. And you build out a support system, having an incredible network of stay at home moms as my friends who recognize and are very supportive of it.

Aditi Javeri Gokhale: I didn’t know this, there have been a few rules I’ve got similar feedback from my team members and I think I’m glad they said this. They say I’m extremely empathetic but I drive hard for results.  I have this passion to succeed but I sort of get the team together to go with me versus just doing it by myself so I think that’s good, I want to be remembered that way. On the personal front you know, just to be known as a wonderful mom, daughter and wife.