Name: Vyasateja Rao
Title: Managing Partner
Vyasateja (VT) is the founder & managing partner at Analogy and an industrial designer specializing in designing memorable and fresh experiences for products, both physical and digital. Since moving away from corporate design in 2013, where he had the opportunity to work with large Fortune 500 companies and leading design studios, he has worked globally in the US, HK, China, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and India. He founded Analogy to create a synergy between physical and digital products. After graduating with a Master's in Industrial Design from North Carolina State University, he has received various international design awards and patents, including the Red Dot Design Award, Good Design Award, If Design Award, Singapore Design Award, and currently, Analogy has consecutively in 2021 and 2023 been India's Best Design Studio for Industrial Design. He has designed for various global clients such as Panasonic, Amazon, Marvel, Maersk, Unilever, Cellairis, and other leading companies who are passionate about creating breakthroughs in product and user experience. He also collaborates with numerous start-ups from the US, Asia, and Europe. His foremost interests are based on creating fresh approaches to how products are experienced by people and the underlying emotions that are triggered. His work and experiments continue offline when he has time to explore various places and is a big advocate of global design, drawing inspiration from cultures around the world. With Analogy, he plans to create a diverse and well-rounded ensemble of specialists and is focused on creating a studio culture that is respectful and observant of cultures globally.
Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!
I hope Vyasateja's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
Keeping Ambition on the same level as reality has been one of the biggest challenges as a leader. As usual, the struggle between the left brain and the right brain is always omnipresent.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I've often found myself reflecting on the path that led me to leadership, and it's a journey intricately tied to the strong influence of my mother. From a young age, she instilled in me the value of strength and the importance of leading from the front. As a high school student, I was immersed in various sports teams, and the thrill of competition fueled my desire to excel. I was always eager to explore uncharted territories, whether it was crafting a new script for a skit or accomplishing seemingly impossible tasks. My mission has always been to make a lasting impact, a passion I discovered early, thanks in no small part to my innate communication skills and an absence of stage fright.
The realization of my leadership potential dawned on me when I embarked on my professional journey at General Motors Technical Center India. In a remarkably short span, I was entrusted with the role of a Product Line Leader, overseeing the Process Assembly Documentation teams for the Corvette Z06 and the Cadillac XLR programs. It was during this period, characterized by increasing responsibilities and limited support, that I discovered my ability to not only thrive but to excel under pressure. It motivated me to push my limits, to constantly refine my design skills, earning me accolades during my master's program at NC State and the honor of being picked to deliver the commencement address at graduation.
While these early victories were instrumental in my growth, the profound lessons of leadership truly crystallized during my tenure at Case-mate. There, I made a bold self-proclamation as the lead designer, despite having no prior experience managing a design team. This period was an arduous yet invaluable one, as I grappled with understanding and setting expectations, charting the right path forward, and cultivating confidence in my actions. It became evident that leadership was far more than a title; it was an intricate experience of understanding people and their motivations and channeling this toward work. This experience shaped my understanding of the nuanced facets of guiding and inspiring individuals and fostering their growth – a role I actively embrace in my current capacity.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I have been an early riser for the past few years now as I love the quiet the morning hours give me. I am up by 6 am and have a no phone, no email, no social media, fitness routine that focuses solely on meditation and exercise. I spend the remaining part of my morning reflecting on my previous day, setting my goals for the day, work on tasks that need thinking and strategy before I leave for work. My work day at the studio is packed with client meetings, Internal reviews, hiring, and marketing where I spend a large amount of my time. My day has time blocks and a routine to work through various aspects of the business and I focus on growth activities in the late evening. My day also consists of sticking to a very strong meal routine and I finish my dinner before 7 pm which helps me close the day strong. I finish up my emails and to-do list during the commute back home and I spend the rest of my day with my wife, daughter, and my parents. It usually lights out by 10.30 pm unless I have scheduled calls with the US or other time zones.
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
Design Consulting is usually marked by continuous evolution, a necessity driven by the ever-shifting landscape of economic conditions, global financial markets, and dynamic user trends, often shaped by the relentless churn of social media. These variables have presented both challenges and opportunities, not only for me but for my entire team.
Regardless of the constant learning and adaptation necessitated by these variables, we've uncovered a fundamental truth: the core of our existence must remain unwavering. It's not just about what we do but who we are that defines our success. It's about embracing our unique identity and communicating this unequivocally to all our stakeholders, both internal and external.
This authenticity is not just a company value; it's the bedrock of our decision-making and interactions. It's the beacon that guides us through the maze of uncertainty and change. In the ever-evolving consulting landscape, where people fluctuate and trends pivot, we have to remain steadfast in our commitment to being ourselves. We take immense pride in our identity and the clarity it provides, enabling us to keep focusing on who we need to be to be successful. And through it all, we've learned that in a world of constant flux, authenticity is our most powerful asset.
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?
"Let my People Go Surfing" by Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia has been a game changer helping me understand that there could be a constant connection with the people I work with and around me and keep a successful business running at the same time.
It helped me understand how to balance profit and innovation, define company culture and values, leadership and decision-making, and write a manifesto for my studio on how we should all work towards a shared purpose. The book's emphasis on the importance of authenticity and integrity in business has guided my decision-making and interactions with my team and stakeholders. It has taught me that success is not just about profit but about staying true to one's values and being transparent in all actions. Chouinard's approach, where personal passions and professional pursuits are not separate but interconnected, has inspired me to encourage my team to bring their authentic selves to their work. It has instilled in me the belief that, as a leader, I can drive both positive change and business growth simultaneously.
In the past year with a fairly new set of team members, I have been struggling to instill our values and shared purpose which then led us to just implement policies that were in place to make sure errors didn't happen. This was a huge mistake as I had to make sure I instilled trust in them and amongst themselves first so they could work as a well-oiled team. I was also pretty measured in my feedback to the team thinking I would hurt them and that I had to shield them from the harsher practice of consulting. A quick read brought back the perspective towards being authentic and having integrity in what we do.
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
" Know who you are" - There is a lot of content out there and a lot of mentors and advisors, but nothing can replace the gut feeling of a leader. That has to be encouraged, cultivated, nourished, and trusted internally in your mind and your daily routine. Some of these traits might seem judgemental at the start, but the more you trust yourself in identifying these patterns and customizing them to your business, it will hold good for a very long time. Journal as much as possible, reflect, and retrospect daily. This will 10x your growth without needing to flock to too many people for advice. Always trust people and they will deliver that trust back to you tenfold.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
We were working on a really tough project for a very large international bank through our client who is a huge market research agency on a rather new platform where we did not have a lot of experience. Joel, who was the experience design lead was the person who was handling such a large project. The project was going smoothly but it was extremely time-dependent and one day at the very end of the project, I received an email from our client letting us know that if we were not able to hit the timeline, she would need to resign her job as she had no backup and it was that big a deal. Such a message motivated us to make sure that no matter what, we delivered and we delivered in a manner that made sure that the client would look like a rockstar. I assured her that we would get this done, no matter what. The next day Joel and I got on a plane to meet our highly experienced development partners, but we did not want to leave anything to chance hence, we were there on the ground in their office and we did the longest online Skype call in the company history sitting in a hotel room as it was past work hours for our partners and that went on for 11 hours of constantly testing and making sure the solution and portal worked before it went live at 6.30 am. This was 3 days of nonstop work with very little sleep, which was insanely fulfilling but at the same time so stressful that most people would quit. This is when I realized that I had the right mix of people that would push us forward. We finished the project and handed it over on time and the launch was perfectly on time too. This was meaningful for three reasons, again going back to who we are and getting things done without any pretense or excuses, getting confused between effort and results and finally, the most impactful one was that I was not alone and I had people who had my back.