Lead(H)er: Matisha Ladiwala, General Manager and Vice President of Product at InsightSquared
When Matisha Ladiwala enters a new role at a company, she asks herself one important question: How can I provide value here?
Ladiwala, who is now the General Manager and Vice President of Product for InsightSquared, has worked everywhere from small startups with fewer than 20 employees to IBM, which had well over half a million while she worked there.
“I think that was a useful experience because it's a completely different set of skills that you get when working at companies of different sizes,” Ladiwala said. “My sweet spot is between 200 to 1,000 employees. That’s where I have, in the past, come in and be able to add value and make a difference.”
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in commerce from a university in India, Ladiwala began exploring various types of companies with different sizes and goals, focusing her own career path primarily on analytics and operations and taking the time to get an MBA from Boston University.
Throughout that career, Ladiwala has left her mark. She helped develop and communicate IBM’s business intelligence strategy to end users, led Sophos’ global rollout of Salesforce for more than 10,000 partner users within a year, and scaled key areas of both Constant Contact and Mautic, a marketing automation company.
“I think at every one of these, I've been able to change a process or implement a system or start a new project,” Ladiwala said. “Some of them have worked out, and then for some of them, we circle back and say ‘It’s not a good idea, but I’m glad we tested this.’ Hopefully it’s helped make an impact at companies, but I think it’s helped me grow a lot, too.”
The ability to try and fail and try again has spurred Ladiwala to continually take on new roles throughout her career. She had never held the same role twice, choosing instead to try out everything from database analysis to marketing and sales operations to business intelligence. By using her previous skill sets while learning a new one in each role, Ladiwala has been able to get a clearer idea of how she can provide the best results each time.
“I've always had the opportunity to volunteer or be selected to do projects that are outside of my core responsibilities,” she said. “That has given me the chance to learn another set of skills … such as figuring out how to make the most of the limited resources that you may have or figuring out how to know influence other people on other teams to help you when it's not part of their day job, either.”
InsightSquared marks her second role in product, and the startup’s goals and ability to make a difference in business intelligence drew her back in for this second round of product-focused work.
The company provides reporting and analytics for sales and marketing leaders at companies. What makes it different from competitors, Ladiwala said, is its dedication to ensuring that clients fully understand the data they’re receiving and get all of the information they need from it.
“I believe that our solution is one that gives you the advanced analytics, but in a way that a business user can consume so that they can do their job better so that they can be better sales and marketing people,” Ladiwala said. “This company is helping provide value to sales and marketing leaders by equipping them with the insight that they need to make better decisions. And I'm aligned with that value.”
Rapid Fire Questions
What do you like to do in your free time?
I like to I like to be outdoors – I like to bicycle and play tennis. I also like to cook and feed people. I like to drink nice wine. All the fine things in life!
How do you typically handle stress?
I think it’s extreme exercise. One of my favorite things to do is go to SoulCycle. It’s something of a fad, and unfortunately I’ve been sucked into it, but it’s a great stress reliever. On days that I’m extra stressed, I’ll make time soon after work or early in the morning. It just helps me disconnect and destress.
How many cups of coffee do you drink in a day?
Just one. I have a little Nespresso machine at home, and I make myself a little cappuccino every morning.
What is one of your favorite spots in the Boston area?
In the summer, one of the things I love to do is just ride my bicycle along the Charles River and go sit and take a little picnic. The water has a really calming effect, so it’s another form of release for me.
What would you consider one of your greatest accomplishments?
I grew up in India, and I was there until after college. I did internships there, and one of the things that really bothered me was that I never saw women in any kind of leadership positions. One of the goals that I set for myself was to become a senior level leader, so I wanted to get to VP before I turned 40. I did, so just from a personal perspective, that was a good achievement for me.
Is this where you saw yourself 10 years ago?
I set this goal for myself, and the path to get to it was potentially different than what I had anticipated – I guess you can’t really plan that far ahead. But I knew the end goal was to get here and made it happened.
I had imagined that it would be in the technology space. I didn't know what I would specifically be doing, but I didn’t sit back and say “I'm going to be head of product at a technology company before I'm 40.” It wasn’t that specific.
What’s your advice for recent college graduates?
The first thing is, make the right choices. When you pick a role, don’t pick it for the perks. Pick it for how much closer it gets you to the next role you want. So if, for example, you want to be a product manager, pick the role not because they have free beer or a ping pong table, pick it so that it gives you the skills to get to that next role. I think people often get lost in what are the benefits of this role – it pays me a little bit more or they have free lunch or what have you, but really, it's about does it get you closer to what your career goals are?
The second piece is around attitude. I have two things that I always keep in mind from an attitude perspective. The first is, get stuff done. It’s not about showing up at work and just putting in hours. You actually need to make sure that you’re delivering results. You’re delivering value. You’re moving the business forward and getting it done. The second one is, you have to care. Take interest in what you do, stay the extra time, and show that you care about more than yourself so that you care about the company. I think those two things together are a winning recipe for being promoted, getting to the next level, and being successful.
The other piece of advice I would add in is, remember that people matter. At the end of the day, we’re all in the people business. The network that you have, learning those what people’s skills are, that’s what’s going to take you to the next level. You can’t underplay the importance of that. Grow your network, don’t burn bridges, and learn the people side. We did a survey one time that looked at people being promoted, and we asked the leaders making those promotions whether they’d pick the person that’s the smartest or the person that’s better liked and can work better with the team. You have to have some basic amount of smarts, but the answer was, they’d pick the person that’s better liked. So remember, we’re always in the people business.
Images courtesy of Matisha Ladiwala and InsightSquared