Connect with Ashish Jha: https://www.linkedin.com/in/itsashishjha/
Learn more about VComply at https://www.v-comply.com/
Learn more about your own leadership style at:
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How does gaining a 360 view of your organization help you as a leader?
In this episode, Ashish shares the impact of having a 360° view as a leader in his organization.
Ashish Jha is the VP of Engineering at VComply, a startup company that helps businesses simplify their governance, compliance and risk management processes.
Automating daily tasks and processes of nonprofit organizations is one of the typical use cases of VComply.
Nonprofit organizations usually do their day-to-day tasks and processes manually. So VComply helps automate these processes where everything is centralized in their software and done electronically.
Everyone then just gets reminders about it, making their daily work life hassle-free.
Ashish started his career at a startup company as one of their first interns. The day he joined the company was also the day the company started.
Since he started on the same day as the company, he was able to grow along with them which allowed him to be able to explore leadership roles informally for a couple of years until the company got acquired by Citrix. After the acquisition, his leadership role got formalized.
In a startup, your role may differ from the work that you're doing on a day-to-day basis. You basically do what is required of you on a given day which gives you exposure to things that will probably take a little longer at other places.
This will then help you gain a 360 view of the situation and an increased overall outcome that you wanted for yourself and for the company. And this will take you towards a leadership role eventually.
How did Ashish approach his work as an intern in the early years of his career?
There are always a lot of opportunities to go around and gaps to fill in an early-stage company.
As an intern, Ashish was always looking for gaps to fill. He's always looking for things that are not working. Then he will identify them as opportunities and will figure out how to solve them.
No one told Ashish to do it. He identified it as something that needs to be done. If you are in control, you can decide to look at all these areas and identify where you could add the most value to the organization.
Ashish explains the shift from working in a startup environment to a more established environment, the point where he had people reporting to him because his leadership position got formalized.
A Startup and an established company are two completely different worlds.
In a startup, a lot of people are trying to do a lot of things together but in a bigger organization, people have well-established roles who have done it over the years. You also have access to infinitely more resources than you did as a startup.
The difference between a startup and an established company is the focus on the important things, which is getting stuff done.
When their company got acquired by Citrix, they got access to many resources and experiences. They were able to divide and conquer much better and their overall planning became more granular which helped in putting a lot more focus on certain areas that they want to progress.
Ashish explains the change of pace he experienced with exposure to more resources in an established company.
Citrix has a much more structured environment with a well-built training program. They also got a full university program where they could hire from different universities. Whereas in a startup company, you don't have access to some of those resources.
When they got acquired by Citrix, their company's overall structure and the whole growth for every single individual became much easier because it was already thought through in many ways.
After having experienced both the startup and the established environment, where does Ashish fall considering that sometimes people naturally gravitate towards one or the other?
Each one of them has its own benefits and strengths. Ashish started in a startup, then went to Citrix, and had also experienced being part of Amazon. Now, he's back in a startup again.
In a startup, you get to do a lot more things. It's a lot more ad hoc and fast-paced. In larger companies, things are much more structured. You have really well-defined roles. So you know exactly what you need to do.
What key takeaways did Ashish get from working within a big organization?
One of the leadership lessons Ashish learned was to think big and long-term.
Leadership is not about getting things done on a day-to-day basis. It's about nurturing the team and helping individuals grow in their respective areas. It's about human connection.
Leadership is about recognizing and understanding that each individual walks and behaves differently to help each one of them get to the best of their potential.
What has Ashish done to help his team level up over a long period of time?
One of the things he did to nurture his team was enroll them in a mentorship program that would help accelerate each individual's growth and potential.
When you pair coaching with potential and talent, you get incredible results.
As a leader, seeing your team reach their own goal is the best reward you can get. When you become a leader, it's no longer about you. It's about them.
Get the maximum potential out of them for them to keep growing beyond you. There's no limit to the potential of everybody else because the world is evolving faster than it ever has before.
As a leader, there's no way you could stay on top of everything necessary. The only way for you to stay on top is to facilitate the growth and development of your people.
Why was it important for Ashish to join VComply as VP of Engineering?
In the last few years, Ashish had been into the security audit compliance space. He had observed that most of the software being built is for the administrator power users only and that there's a lack of intent to support the end-users who are doing the compliance on a day-to-day basis.
He saw this opportunity at VComply and that's why he wanted to join. He wanted to address this opportunity with his unique skill set, background, and expertise. Ashish has always been consistent about identifying opportunities and providing solutions for them.
If you're always identifying gaps, there's always going to be a problem to solve which you can always solve. Problem-solving is one of the key skills that you can bring to any table for anybody who's starting their career.
It's also important to keep things simple. Don't over-plan things. Just focus on the problem at hand and see what you can do to solve it.
There are always a lot of problems to solve. How does Ashish go about identifying which problem to solve?
You have to figure out your top priority among those problems.
Look for the top priority, and then figure out what are the things where you already have redundancy in place. If somebody else can solve that problem at the same level or better than you, pass it on to them, and then see what else is remaining.
Then reprioritize and go after the next top priority on the list. Do not just do it but also plan on how you can make that redundant moving forward so you can delegate it next time.
Keep repeating that process. The idea is to keep making yourself redundant, while you keep doing the highest priority work on any given day.
Delegate tasks off your plate, so you can focus on the next task on your priority list.
How often does Ashish take a step back to audit his priority list?
Ashish reserves some time to reflect back on a weekly basis. This gives him two or three-pointers every time on where he might have spent time which he should not have.
He also plans things on a quarterly basis, to get the resourcing done and to understand who the key players are, what the gaps are, and what to do about them.
How long does Ashish give himself to plan?
Ashish reserves at least 30 minutes to do his weekly reflection, which he usually does at the end of the week.
He sets aside quiet time to reflect back and not be in front of a screen.
Taking a little step back and being honest about your calendar and your time can give you a lot of insight and where you should spend the next week.
People have the tendency to fall back on their strengths. Sometimes they overdo it. Be careful with that. If it's already redundant and you know you probably need to learn new skills, then you have to put less time into the skills which you have already mastered in the past.
What advice does Ashish have for where your attention should be focused?
If you are in a position where you're a little bit uncomfortable, because you're feeling like you're really good at doing this, but you know that the growth area is probably going to be somewhere else, think of the gap between today and one year later and then plan it accordingly.
Start learning those things. Start preparing yourself for that. But mentally, you need to feel as if you're already there.
Like Amazon's way of leadership in some ways where they imagine where you want to be one year later, and start acting as if you are there.
You're going to struggle, but together, if you already believe you're in that future position, and you find the tactics, the skills, the strategies, and the tools, there's no stopping you.
What advice would Ashish give his younger self?
One piece of advice he would give his younger self is to spend more time knowing his customers. The more you do from early on, the more tuned in your mind becomes in terms of getting their feedback.
Your customers in your leadership role are your employees. So learn them from day one.
If you treat your people like customers, they have an option to renew with you every single day. They have the option to churn at any point in time. They have a particular vision and you have to understand what that vision is. You have to overlay what you have to offer on top so that you can get them to an even greater place.