Twenty years ago, Radhika Venkatraman received invaluable advice that served as a catalyst for her successful career trajectory and leadership style. At the time, she was working at Verizon, where she became the CIO of its Network and Technology organization. After that, she went on to become CIO at Credit Suisse’s investment bank and a CIO-in-residence here at Insight Partners.
Back then, Venkatraman found herself drawn to only the most challenging problems. She was less interested in ones that didn’t challenge her and did not exert herself to enable co-workers who were focused on those other problems.
“I would almost always be willing to work on only the super hard problems with the super smart people,” she recalled in an interview with Insight IGNITE exec Elizabeth van den Berg.
While her superiors admired her problem-solving skills and passion, her disinterest in other projects often manifested as condescension.
Words of wisdom that changed her outlook
A mentor recognized this and offered some words of wisdom that changed her outlook: “They told me, ‘You cannot reach the mountain and stand there by yourself, Radhika – you’ve got to make sure your team comes with you. You’re not accomplishing anything alone on top of that hill.’”
This advice was a wake-up call to how she could be more successful by embracing a collaborative approach to working across teams and projects. Venkatraman took this on board and quickly realized there was so much she could learn from her colleagues. Uplifting her teammates, she found, could reap far greater rewards than working alone.
“You cannot reach the mountain and stand there by yourself”
This simple advice turned her into a better coworker and leader and has enabled her to succeed in various roles at Verizon and Credit Suisse – and now as a board member at Brightspeed and an advisor at Insight Partners’ portfolio companies Quantum Metric and Writer.
Now, she has cultivated a leadership ethos around broad collaboration, and her genuine interest in her colleagues and teams translates into satisfied workers, more significant opportunities, and more cohesive organizations.
“Today, people always tell me, ‘You’re excellent at selling the value of your team,’” she said. Good leaders “can inspire people to go to places where people wouldn’t normally go,” she said, by showing genuine interest and appreciation. “It cannot be that you provide a vision and ask people to march up some hill: You’ve got to be with them every step of the way.” By being the biggest cheerleader for her team, she can accomplish what she couldn’t have imagined when she first provided her vision.
Her advice for career growth
Venkatraman also shared three pieces of advice for people looking to grow in their careers:
1. Keep pushing your boundaries.
Get comfortable being uncomfortable because all your opportunities will not come from sitting in place. Keep doing things you don’t think you can, and you will become more comfortable doing them.
2. Support others without expectations.
Deposit your network credits. In other words, go and help people unconditionally without expecting anything in return. You will be surprised at how much the same people, or some other people, will return to you (with interest) over your lifetime.
3. Maintain your network.
It’s all about relationships. We’re all building products for humans. We rarely do things for pets and dogs or nonexistent creatures on Mars. Mostly, we’re building products for people, and people buy from people they know and trust. People do business with people they know and trust. People enjoy being with people they know and trust. And so, it’s all about your relationships and networks.