Open culture. I believe an open culture promotes accountability, responsibility and honesty. I like to have open discussions about both successes and challenges in the workplace, motivating my team and keeping them involved. My team knows that I’ll always be open and honest about our work and the challenges that inevitably come with it.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Geeta Gupta-Fisker, co-founder, president & CFO of Fisker Inc. — an advanced e-mobility and automotive technology company founded in 2016 with the mission to develop world-class, emotionally-compelling vehicles featuring the most forward-thinking automotive technologies in existence. Geeta’s leadership is rooted in a passion for financial engineering and deal structuring. With 20 years of experience in technology as a scientist and in finance as an investment professional with a strong background in equity and structured debt finance. Dr. Fisker began her career as an academic at University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, earning a doctorate 2001 and a postdoctoral fellowship in biotechnology in 2004. Drawn to technology spinoffs, business and finance — Geeta co-founded her first startup, “Purely Proteins” during her time as a Ph.D student. After a brief internship with Amadeus Capital in Cambridge, Geeta joined Lloyds Banking Group where she expanded her foundations in bank finance. In 2007, just months before the start of financial crisis, Geeta was recruited by a London-based family office, Consensus Business Group (CBG), to lead investments in technology, biotechnology, cleantech and homeland security. From 2007–2011, Geeta supported the principals at CBG in navigating through the financial crisis and managing a portfolio of investments and divestments that ranged from equity, structured debt, innovative finance, asset backed securities and financial engineering. In 2012, Geeta began consulting family foundations and organizations on investments and divestments, in addition to starting her entrepreneurial journey managing the Fisker family business and investment portfolio. Fast forward to today and Dr. Fisker shares the mission of “making the impossible, possible” with her business partner and husband, Henrik Fisker. Fisker Inc.’s world class and disruptive scientific, technological and design developments in the automotive industry are pushing the globe toward mass market vehicle electrification.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I grew up in a typical middle business family in India, where my father worked all hours of the day. He was working from the moment I woke up, to the moment I went to bed. Our family dinners were like board meetings — talking about accounting, business and potential opportunities. I always had a knack for numbers and loved solving problems. Even when I did my Ph.D. in biotechnology, I would sit on my research bench and dream of starting a business or playing an integral role in a business. While I was doing my Ph.D., I co-founded a small biotech start-up to pursue my entrepreneurial bug. There on my passion for entrepreneurship grew. I co-founded Fisker Inc. with Henrik (Fisker), acknowledging we both have unique talents and skills that complement each other — that will ultimately help the company flourish. I have had the opportunity to truly capitalize on my knowledge and experiences, but also network and channel my energy into creating a company I am proud of. I love the challenge, freedom of mind and creativity.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Since Henrik and I founded Fisker Inc., there have been countless interesting stories What I find most interesting is the constant learning and evolution of our path to success. When we started Fisker Inc., we did not know how the future would pan out, but we believed in ourselves. Along the way, we have learnt new things about each other and found ways to successfully navigate the path the success. I think that’s the beauty of it all and the most interesting part of our story.
Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We have lots of exciting projects in the works! Our mission stems from our passion to redefine the automotive industry with the most emotionally stirring all-electric vehicles (with the world-famous design touches that Henrik and the Fisker name are known for globally). Vehicles that feature the latest in future-forward technologies that change the industry and push forward our vision of a more sustainable future and a cleaner world. This is highlighted by the vehicle we just unveiled: an affordable all-electric luxury SUV that will launch within the next two years — with a starting price of below $40,000 U.S. This will be followed up by additional affordable models, as well as our ultimate flagship (we call it a “halo”) vehicle, the Fisker EMotion luxury electric sedan, which is a low-volume, super luxury vehicle that features the very best in emerging technology.
Vehicles, battery technology and even the design of autonomous shuttles. The future of mobility is where we’re aiming to make a world impact.
Ok, lets jump to the main part of our interview. According to this study cited in Forbes, more than half of the US workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high?
Happiness in the workplace is a complicated topic. When I was younger, I recognized there would be parts of my journey I maybe less passionate about — but would nonetheless prove to be an integral step to long-term success. And I knew I’d have to take those steps to grow my skills and abilities. That said, I think if we can find a balanced path that places importance on what motivates people this day-in-age, so that day-to-day mundane tasks take on more meaning and we can control our happiness at the workplace. Instead of working for a salary to pay bills, we can shift our mindset to working towards happiness. Happiness is usually linked to success, feeling valued, progress and making a difference.
Based on your experience or research, how do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and wellbeing?
Employees are the largest stakeholders in a company. A company without a happy workforce will ultimately fail.
Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture? Can you give a personal story or example for each?
1. Stay fit and promote the culture of health and fitness. Employees want to see their leaders happy, healthy and energetic.
2. Promote innovative thinking, recognize and reward those actions. I recently suggested to our team that we recognize and reward the most innovative ideas with special experiences.
3. Eat with your employees. Sharing a meal creates an emotional and friendly bond where you can get to know each other at a human level. I arrange a meal with my team at least once a month.
4. Open culture. I believe an open culture promotes accountability, responsibility and honesty. I like to have open discussions about both successes and challenges in the workplace, motivating my team and keeping them involved. My team knows that I’ll always be open and honest about our work and the challenges that inevitably come with it.
5. Share good and bad news. I make sure to keep my employees informed. This promotes transparency and lets the team know they’re are an integral and valued part of the company — through the good news and bad news.
It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but it seems like we have to “change the culture regarding work culture”. What can we do as a society to make a broader change in the US workforce’s work culture?
The word “change” is scary. Change means something new, and we don’t necessarily know if that change is for better or worse. If we invest time and energy into motivating people, keeping people excited and committed to doing their absolute best, the workforce will breed a positive environment. Once a company establishes that recipe, there is no stopping a great culture. Happiness and success go hand-in-hand — and a culture that focuses on those things can’t go wrong.
How would you describe your leadership or management style? Can you give us a few examples?
I thrive on motivating my team. I love inspiring people and helping them realize their full potential: that they’re capable of so much more than they realize. When I see my team working together with a solution-oriented attitude, I feel inspired. The energy is contagious and drives an undeniable sense of innovation throughout the office.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My husband and business partner, Henrik, is my biggest support system. He’s always dreaming up new ideas and innovations with a contagious energy that brings the best out of people, including me! Every day he teaches me how I can reciprocate that energy and bring out the best in others. I was always hungry to learn and was very fortunate to find mentors during every stage of my life and every person has had a different impact on my successes. I don’t think I will ever stop seeking support and mentors. We are always evolving and learning.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I’ve had to navigate and overcome challenges from gender to ethnic bias throughout every step of my career. Because of these experiences, I’ve developed a deep passion and commitment for contributing to causes that help people overcome their challenges — in addition to supporting a healthy, sustainable and better future. I’m always seeking new ways to dedicate time and energy to causes that affect women, children, education, economic development, healthcare and sustainability. From 2008–2011, I was a charter member of TiE-UK, an organization that supports entrepreneurship and economic development. From 2010–2011, I was a donor and fundraising volunteer for Pratham UK, supporting education for children and literacy for adults in India. Fast forward to now: I’m involved in the Rape Foundation, Highway Patrol, Salvation Army and, most recently, Sharefest, where I help support programs for the disadvantaged.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Brace for impact. This path ain’t for the faint-hearted.” I can attribute all my successes in life to persistence. There have been so many times that I’ve been told “no,” but despite rejection, I never gave up. Persistence is key to success.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger!
I would promote women in education and business — and especially women taking risks in their lives to further their aspirations. Women are generally classified as risk averse, and I believe that women who take more risks ultimately bring out new capabilities and ideas they thought they never had.
Thank you for all of these great insights!
About the author:
Chaya Weiner is the Director of branding and photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator. TLI is a thought leadership program that helps leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field. Please click HERE to learn more about Thought Leader Incubator.