March is Women’s History Month, a time to celebrate women’s contributions and achievements in different fields and spheres of life.
Ad tech is still a mostly male industry, but there are more conversations than ever around critical issues to the empowerment of women at work, including opening doors and access for women early in their careers so they can progress to C-suite; supporting women to choose and stay with STEM careers; and helping women achieve a work-life balance.
This month at Cadent, we’re profiling women who are leaders in their departments, asking about their career journeys, approaches to growth and mentorship, and their philosophies on leading others.
Akhila Gourishetty, Product Manager-DSP, Cadent, started her career in medicine and later took a leap of faith into the tech space. These days, she applies her background in medicine to solving problems on Cadent’s Product team, collaborating cross-functionally to understand user and business requirements for the DSP and how to scale the product.
“Using empathy to understand the voice of the customer is very similar to understanding the voice of a patient,” she says, adding, “I want to be able to understand problems without applying any stereotypes and bias, no matter the seniority, age, gender or background of a person, which is similar to how healthcare works.”
Read a Q&A with Akhila below.
The following conversation has been lightly edited and condensed.
Can you talk about your career transition from medicine to being part of a Product org?
Coming from a non-traditional background for tech, I want to be able to give others the same kind of open-minded, inclusive approach I’ve benefited from. My formal education in medicine doesn’t translate one-to-one, but I’ve found those experiences inform my perspective.
That’s also why I love working as part of a Product org. Having the opportunity to learn from those around you and synthesize a solution from all of these disparate sources of data reminds me of diagnosis in some ways. The fact it exists in a more ambiguous environment in a rapidly changing industry makes it all the more fun.
Since I joined five months ago, I’ve been very supported with a great manager and a great engineering counterpart. I feel comfortable asking questions and saying, “Hey, can you answer this question for me?” My manager is very open to suggestions and vice versa for me.
What’s your approach to leadership at Cadent?
I’m very democratic in my approach. I like to encourage and empower the people I work with as stakeholders. Every single person is capable of offering a unique and valuable perspective on what we’re building and how to build it. I like to learn from other people in the room so I can concentrate on finding the most relevant piece of the puzzle we’re solving, and create space for us to collectively understand the “why” and the “how.”
Are there any resources you have found valuable to building your career?
What I’ve found most valuable is being able to learn about other industries, and how everyone else is building their own processes. There’s so much to learn, create, and share.
What advice do you have for women starting their careers?
Young women starting out in their careers should try to understand where they’d like to be in the future and work backwards to find out exactly what they need to do to get there. Life can be overwhelming and it’s sometimes helpful to take a step back and start setting small, achievable goals. Accept your shortcomings, learn from them, and seek out feedback. Read a lot, surround yourself with people smarter than you, and take the time to really invest in yourself. Stepping into new opportunities will be difficult to adjust to at first, however these lead to the greatest growth. It’s always OK to say “Hey, I didn’t quite understand this,” or “Let me repeat what we just discussed.”
How have you found your voice in meetings where many or all people are men?
I was hesitant to speak up when I first started but I’m grateful to the leaders at Cadent who’ve built an environment that feels safe and have encouraged me to speak up. I suppose it started off by me offering a new perspective they hadn’t thought of before, or maybe posing a challenging question. From there, I’ve been finding that introducing a different way to frame things, or asking thoughtful questions is a very meaningful way to contribute. Speaking from a position of curiosity has not only helped me grow but also understand different perspectives.
Life can be overwhelming and it’s sometimes helpful to take a step back and start setting small, achievable goals. Accept your shortcomings, learn from them, and seek out feedback. “
Can we talk about feedback – do you enjoy getting thoughtful criticism?
I love getting feedback. It allows me to reevaluate my approach and implement new strategies to my problem solving toolkit.
When I have to give feedback to someone else, I try to balance the positives and negatives. The positive feedback builds confidence and helps you appreciate what has been done correctly, and the negative feedback helps to align expectations and facilitate improvement.