Name: Dhivya Venkatesan
Title: Head of Marketing
I lead the inspired and talented Marketing team at Signeasy, an electronic signature and contract workflow platform. I have always loved telling stories about brands from a place of authenticity and clarity. I also love working with empathetic, intelligent, and curious people. Unlocking great ideas from passionate folks is a high I will never get enough of. I am also a mentor, a friend, a daughter, and a slightly anxious dog mom. For me, work-life balance means going to bed on Sundays with joy and spending a Wednesday evening with my family without guilt.
Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!
I hope Dhivya's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
Sometimes, it can be tempting to put other people’s emotions above your own. It has taken me a while to learn that being a leader does not mean always addressing and managing people’s emotions. Yes, you have to give them the space and time to express themselves, but you also have to guide them and teach them to get better at doing it themselves. You are responsible for their growth somehow, and a growth mindset calls for accountability and action. This realization has helped me save a lot of energy and do better by my team. Being a leader can sometimes be a bit overwhelming because we have to deal with so many people and their unique personalities. However, I am slowly learning to turn this challenge into something gratifying and rewarding.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
When I left my first job after three years, I was around 25, and my first boss told me — “Take up the first opportunity you can get to lead people. I have a strong feeling you will like it.” But for some reason, I preferred to do good work alone for a while. Over time, my seniority compelled me to manage and lead teams. I have had the opportunity to lead truly delightful teams previously at Pramati Technologies and currently at Signeasy. In both stints, the story has been the same. You do the job before the job finds you. In both situations, I had already built enough trust with the stakeholders, stepped into roles and situations that did not necessarily come under my purview, cared about my team members, and made my boss’s life easier by getting shit done. I think the best feeling is when someone walks up to you and tells you you are a great leader when you have zero consciousness of it and are trying to do the right things and go with your instincts. It has happened to me twice, and I am grateful for both these companies who gave me an amazing platform to grow and learn.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
The days I wake up by 5 a.m. are my happiest and most productive days. I am a spiritual junkie, and I am obsessed with routines, rituals, growth, and everything that come with it. A good day involves waking up early, morning pages (By Julia Cameron), meditation, yoga, gratefulness journaling, and falling asleep by ten. At work, I complete tasks that require focus and creativity before 10 a.m., time-block things as much as possible, and avoid inefficient meetings. An AI assistant note-taker has helped me a lot to keep up with important updates and to prepare better for follow-up meetings.
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
Most days, I don’t carry the tag of a leader with that much weight. I believe everyone is a leader and can make a lot of difference wherever they are. But there are some days when I feel a real sense of responsibility towards my role. And I have learnt this lesson again and again. No matter how far the world goes, discrimination, sexism, inequality, and stereotypes remain in every corner, and calling them out is essential. As a leader, my voice becomes even more important because there are so few of us already, and we deserve better. As I grow older, I am becoming increasingly aware of the power of my voice and the importance of being vocal so I can speak for those who do not have the same platform as I do.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
I read Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” very early in my career, and it stuck with me. Sometimes, we are so busy celebrating how far women have come that we do not realize how inaccurate the picture really is. Women are dismissed or frowned upon when we dissect the realities of minimal opportunities and the very real roadblocks women have to face. Also, the book made me empathize with my colleagues at different stages of their careers and got me thinking about why there are so few women leaders. It all comes back to leadership, culture, and the world we create. The book taught me that it is possible to be the kind of leader who can contribute immensely while navigating the nuances of a complicated world.
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
Stay humble, work on yourself every day, don’t treat people like shit, and always have fun.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
A boss of mine taught me that how you treat people when they fail/or make a high-stake blunder is a crucial and deciding factor for them and their careers. I was once in a position like that, and I was blown away by the kind of calmness, maturity, and trust he showed in me. This immediately eased my anxiety but also helped me constructively plan the best steps ahead. There has been no turning back for me from there on, and I have only gotten better. But I look back and always acknowledge the power leaders have in shaping people’s outlook, their beliefs, and their careers. I strive to be that kind of leader every day.