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% 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% 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% 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.