Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Kady Srinivasan, a marketing executive with 20+ years of experience growing and scaling the world’s largest B2B and B2C consumer brands. Kady combines deep expertise in Performance Marketing with Brand Building to achieve transformational growth for companies ranging from startups to Fortune 500 companies. Most recently, she was part of the team that helped Dropbox go through a successful IPO.
She brings a strong track record of creating, leading, and influencing to deliver P&L results cross global, and highly entrepreneurial environments in diverse consumer audiences in global consumer internet, enterprise, video game, entertainment, and consumer products industries.
Kady has a software engineering background along with an MBA from University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. After her MBA, she worked with big CPG and retail companies to drive growth through pricing and promotion strategies. Subsequently she joined Ubisoft as Head of User Acquisition, Monetization and Analytics as part of the leadership team to drive the Social games business. After leaving Ubisoft she joined Betable, an early stage startup as VP of Marketing where she saw 4x user growth and helped bring products to market. She then joined EA as Head of Growth where she oversaw the deployment and commercialization of blockbuster mobile games such as Starwars: Galaxy of Heroes and Simcity. She then joined Dropbox to head the digital marketing function driving revenue and user growth for the consumer and SMB businesses.
Most recently she joined Owlet Baby Care as CMO and is excited to use her diverse background in spreading their mission of providing parents the right information at the right time.
Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Istarted my career as a software engineer, but I had always been interested in business. It’s a good thing, too, because I actually failed at being a software engineer. I took my business interest and went to business school, hoping to do something in the field. I didn’t really know what it would be, but I knew I didn’t want anything to do with marketing. I thought it was just a bunch of fluff that didn’t have any concrete objectives tied to it.
Once I completed by MBA, I ended up consulting for consumer-packaged goods and retail companies. What I realized from those experiences is that I have a love for data and that I could use those objective principles in marketing. So I pursued a path of becoming an analytically-focused marketer. This really excited me when I took on performance and growth marketing. I was able to drive business growth focused on numbers. But then I realized something: data was only half of the story. I finally understood that I needed to add story-telling mixed with emotion to the marketing I was doing. I knew branding was the key lever that could help connect a consumer with a product. This is what drove me to be a CMO. I wanted to be the person who helps consumers transform their lives by using products that I market to them.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I am commuting from San Francisco to work as CMO of Owlet Baby Care, a baby tech company, located in Lehi, Utah. I had no idea the transformation that would take place over me personally once I took the position. After hearing the customer stories and seeing the products coming to market, I knew I needed to be part of their mission. Owlet’s products become the voice of the baby, helping parents take action when their baby needs immediate attention. And being a mother myself, I realized I had dodged a huge bullet because I didn’t have all of this information when my baby was born. I want to help other parents now and I’m certain that working for Owlet will be the most impactful work I ever do. It’s much bigger than any one person.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I was fresh out of MBA school, expecting my name to be on the cover of the Wall Street Journal, I worked for a consulting company to help companies that were struggling to become profitable. As one of my first assignments, I was required to walk around the city of San Francisco taking pictures of manhole covers to be used as part of a larger campaign between two telecom companies. As I roamed the streets of San Francisco for three days, I encountered some interesting things. A dog followed me, a homeless man wouldn’t leave me alone and a police officer questioned me for suspicious behavior. This was not at all what I envisioned my job being after I graduated. I had never been so mortified, but I learned a great lesson throughout that project: humility. It’s a defining characteristic of good leaders and something everyone should learn.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
When I got introduced to Owlet, I knew this was the company that would solve the problems I had encountered as a new mom. And this was the kind of product company I have always wanted to work for — a company with a strong vision, a clarity of purpose and mission, a problem that desperately needs solving and truly amazing founders that have created a culture and legacy that will live beyond themselves.
When I was pregnant with my son, I had a harrowing experience that required me to rush to the hospital. I was immediately hooked up to a big noisy machine and monitored constantly. But, when I heard my son’s heartbeat, beating strongly and clearly, I felt an incredible sense of peace and relief. When I got home though, the anxiety and fear spiked again and I found myself wishing I could be permanently hooked up to a heart rate monitor that would let me know my baby was ok. Fast forward 7 years later and I had a chance to meet Kurt Workman who had founded a company called Owlet. From the very beginning, Kurt’s story blew me away. Kurt talked of his family and the very real fear that he and his wife faced with their childrens’ health. Unlike most of us though, Kurt had decided to do something about it and along with his friends had started a company to monitor babies with new health sensing technology. Listening to Kurt’s vision of how Owlet could help millions of families truly inspired and connected me to a solution that I never knew existed or could exist.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I’m working on a category-creating, first-of-its-kind product called the Owlet Band. It’s the world’s first pregnancy monitor used to track an unborn baby’s heartbeat, count their kicks and even provide the mother information about her sleep position. As a mom going through pregnancy, you feel like you’re an afterthought because everyone is so focused on the baby. This is the first product on the market taking care of the mother’s needs by giving her peace of mind, reducing her anxiety and helping her better enjoy her pregnancy.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
I’ve had the honor of mentoring and coaching some amazing women throughout my career. They are all incredible, but all have the same thing in common: lack of confidence. They question whether or not they are qualified for a job and beat themselves up over little things. These thoughts become toxic and create what’s called the “imposter syndrome,” an obsessive amount of self-doubt and fear. It’s interesting because men rarely fall into this trap and typically don’t second guess themselves. I think that’s the programming women need to escape, otherwise they will never succeed.
For example, my son is 7 and my niece is 6 ½ years old. One day, my son said, “Do you want to see how I play soccer? I’m really awesome at it.” We watched him play and he’s okay, but not awesome. Then my niece was asked to show off some new dance moves. She completely held back, saying she wasn’t good enough, although she’s an excellent dancer.
The best advice I can give is to find strong female mentors to discuss what you’re doing to hold yourself back in your career and then find a solution to overcome it. Have a support network with other women, where you can share, give advice and provide feedback. It’s about finding your voice. You don’t have to be like everyone else.
Books I recommend are: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking written by Susan Cain and How Remarkable Women Lead: The Breakthrough Model for Work and Life by Joanna Barsh.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
I recommend keeping the culture you created when your team was small. It really shouldn’t matter how large it is as long as you scale up the culture as you scale up the organization. At Dropbox, I started with a team of 10 that increased to 65, but because the culture stayed the same, it didn’t feel all that different.
I also recommend looking for the characteristics of people that fit with the vision and goals you establish with your department heads. It’s important to foster relationships with your team, no matter how large they are. I like to hold off-site meetings every quarter and each month, I plan a happy hour event.
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?
It takes a village, but some of my greatest supports have been my husband and brother. Without them, I would have spent thousands on therapists and coaches. My mom has also been very inspirational, paving the way for my career. Though she’s still in India, she was one of the first people to be educated in technology and even became one of the few women of her generation to join an IT company. I am thankful for her courage and example.
I’ve had the fortune to be associated with so many great leaders. One in particular, from my position at EA, really inspired me because he showed me you can put complete trust in people without them needing to prove anything. That’s how I’ve chosen to lead: I put complete trust in my team and unless corrective action needs to be taken, I don’t second-guess them.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I volunteer for an organization called “Girls Who Code.” Their mission is to close the gender gap in technology and to change the image of what a programmer looks like and does. I love that they help girls get experience in coding while they’re in high school. It’s fun to see them understand their worth, especially when they believe these types of jobs are only available to men.
I also commute to Utah working to make a difference in the lives of parents and babies at my new position at Owlet Baby Care. Through this experience, I’m hoping to educate parents about what they can do to keep their babies safe, happy and healthy.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Don’t go it alone. You will hit a ceiling if you work on a project by yourself. You can scale up if you bring more people in. it will take time, but the impact is much greater than what you could achieve by yourself.
- Patience, patience, patience. I don’t have a lot of this quality and usually can’t wait for things to unfold. But as I get older, I realize it’s impossible to control anything, so just be patient and it will come.
- It all comes down to people. It’s not even the most talented or intelligent, it’s the people you have chemistry with. A high-functioning team of not so experienced players will be much more successful than a dysfunctional team of A players. Having a connection, chemistry and common values is way more important than working for the most amazing high-growth company.
- Don’t be in it for the money. You won’t succeed. But if you love what you do and it creates an impact on society, you will succeed.
- Find balance between learning and impact. After a point of learning, you need to learn how to apply it to create impact. It’s important to calibrate yourself along that journey.
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 think giving disadvantaged kids a voice would be extremely influential. There are so many kids who are living in horrible situations, but don’t even know how to get out. When I have the time, I would love to start a non-profit organization so I can give these children hope and a voice.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
The Man in the Arena by Theodore Roosevelt — “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Michelle Obama is such a trailblazer. She shows so much courage in her beliefs and individuality. The ability she has to carve a role out for herself is so inspiring. For someone like me who doesn’t have that level of confidence, she is someone I look up to who has done it well. Just being able to talk to her about her life would be so incredible.