Name: Ketaki Vaidya
Title: AI Product Manager
Ketaki Vaidya holds the position of AI Product Manager at Oracle, where her primary role involves creating and managing Artificial Intelligence Solutions for a hotel operations and distribution enterprise platform. Additionally, she hosts a podcast called "Personal Branding for Professionals," which offers career development strategies to support professionals in building a thriving career in the tech industry.
Her work with organizations like Women in Data Science and Criya has provided her with a comprehensive understanding of the challenges women face in the tech industry, and she actively works towards creating an inclusive space for women. Her efforts have earned her recognition in Entrepreneur Magazine's side hustle feature and the 1 Million Women in STEM campaign, which highlights the work and experiences of women in STEM and business to promote female role models for the next generation.
Ketaki is passionate about mentoring aspiring professionals interested in product/tech and has mentored more than 100 college graduates and professionals in securing their desired job roles and improving visibility at work in 2022. She has also been invited to deliver talks at about 15 conferences/podcasts including prestigious conferences like the WomenTech Global Network Conference, Product World, and GHC.
Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!
I hope Ketaki's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
The most challenging aspect of leadership has to be finding the right balance between challenging a person to live to their true potential but also making sure that they feel supported and appreciated in what they are already doing.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I have worked with Oracle Hospitality for the past six years now and this tenure has given me an opportunity to work with multiple domains of our core product. I recently transitioned from an Engineering Lead to a Product Manager position. My new role enables me to drive the business strategy of our product while supporting my cross-functional team in achieving their product implementation goals.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I wake up early and start my day with a glass of lemon water (with honey). Next, I practice yoga (workout) to train my body and journal about how I am feeling to soothe my mind (most days). My work day begins by cleaning my desk (to clear the clutter in my mind) and enlisting the pending tasks for the day (both personal and professional). I try to wrap up my workday by 4 p.m. and reserve my evenings to upskill in my field, take walks and coffee, and work on my personal goals like writing an article, working on my podcast editing, etc. I like to end my day by talking to my loved ones and typically go to sleep early to be better ready for the next day.
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
A recent leadership lesson that I learned for the first time was to inspire others through action. I witnessed my manager enthusiastically undertake a technical certification which in turn inspired the entire team to follow along and take the certification themselves. My manager didn't say a word but inspired others by taking the action herself.
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?
The book "Catalyst" by Venkatesan Chandramouli has profoundly shaped my leadership values. It advocates the cultivation of a hobby that fosters self-competition. For example, you might embrace hiking as a hobby and devise a plan to enhance fitness by conquering challenging terrains with consistent practice. Consequently, this approach allows one to derive personal validation from their hobby rather than seeking it at the workplace. The capacity to not yearn for praise or validation can enhance one's leadership skills, as it promotes receptiveness to criticism and a stronger commitment to improving and supporting the team.
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
Practice what you preach. People learn better by observing than by being advised.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
During my time as a leader for one of our previous projects, we were tasked with obtaining corporate security approval for our product without affecting the release timeline. This approval typically took about 10 weeks but we were looking at releasing the product in just 2. The entire team divided and conquered the pending tasks to justify compliance with the stringent security checklist, convincing the Oracle Security team that we could get early approval. This experience helped our team realize that communication and planning were the two pillars in the strategic execution of any project.