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.