Founder's Friday Episode 02 - Shwetha Pai
Updated: Sep 16
“At the end of the day, we are really all the same. We’re all entrepreneurs. We have far more in common than we realize.”
This realization comes from a journey of self-discovery and ambition, and a bit of luck. The story of a tenacious young professional torn between her two greatest passions in life.
Shwetha Pai founded OrgAnalytix after the beginning of one of the most profoundly rewarding, albeit challenging, experiences many of us are fortunate enough to have: parenthood. Becoming a parent while working a demanding job in investment banking caused Shwetha to take an honest look at her life. With time and cognitive resources both limited, she quickly realized the situation she was in. She simply could not devote her full effort and ability into her career while acting as the primary caregiver for her children.
Something had to give.
Shwetha chose to be a parent, and what she found in the process were the striking similarities between raising a child and building a company from the ground up. “I had tried consulting as a parent for a few years. It was great, but it couldn’t grow. It wasn’t scalable, and I felt that was something I was looking for.”
As Shwetha continued her journey of self-discovery, she realized that diversity and inclusion were the chief values held close to her heart. She had an analytical background in investment banking, but this challenge would be one step greater: to quantify an inherently qualitative subject. As her efforts wore on, OrgAnalytix grew to solve some of the largest diversity problems that major companies face today by doing just that.
So what are the issues of diversity in today’s workface? Here is a fact to help you understand: the attrition rate for minority women is three times higher than it is for white men. This is a major issue for large companies, especially those who place an emphasis on recruiting diverse candidates out of undergraduate programs. The greatest benefit of a corporate culture which champions diversity and inclusion is at the highest level, or the decision-making level. But when only a fraction of diverse employees makes it to upper management, then what real progress has been made?
This is the exact pain point OrganAnalytix set out to address, one which is more relevant today than ever before. In the wake of the Black Lives Matter and Me Too movements, nearly every company has a newfound social responsibility to check their blind spots and biases, striving towards holistic change that isn’t just surface-level diversity programs. In tandem with the solutions her software provides, Shwetha looks for outside arenas that fuel personal growth, such as mentorship and volunteering, and helps prepare mid-level employees to make the transition to more senior roles.
I asked Shwetha if she thought leaders are made or born. She noted that there are certain qualities that come more naturally to some than others. Perhaps the most important of these traits are tenacity, curiosity, and the utmost confidence in oneself to get the job done. However, this was not without an important caveat: these skills mean next to nothing unless they are channeled productively. Having the right blend of inspiration, mentors, and experiences is necessary to mold this raw talent into true mastery of one’s craft.
On the subject of entrepreneurial spirit, Shwetha noted the most important differences between her career in corporate America and entrepreneurship. To her, trust is an essential factor in the growth and ultimate success of a startup. Large companies are designed to field the errors of entry-level employees: “When someone drops the ball, there is a safety net in place to catch it.” In a start-up environment, no such safety net exists. In describing her relationship with her Chief Technical Officer, she praises his ability to take her vision and make it a tangible reality. “I have no idea how he does it, I just trust that he’ll get it done. And he does.”
I asked her how she was able to develop such a relationship with her CTO. “I got really lucky”, she noted, “He’s the kind of guy who is incredibly technical but still very interpersonal. I know that if I can convey the idea to him, he’ll be able to develop something great. In a company this small and fast-paced, there is no time to babysit anyone, so I’m relieved that I can count on him.”
Looking back on my conversation with Shwetha, I’m impressed by her vision and democratic leadership style. She has built a team that whole-heartedly believes in their company’s vision and sets goal with the confidence that her team will meet and exceed them.
As the corporate world awakens to the need for diversity and inclusion, I think her company is uniquely poised to prosper.
The Astral Consulting Group approaches every business case with a clean slate, and applies our unique framework to build a workflow to suit each client's individual needs. Our founding partners come from engineering backgrounds, and understand the importance of reasoning from the ground up. As such, we combine this "first-principles" style of thinking with a holistic growth mindset to evaluate each case from both the top-down and bottom-up. This creates a comprehensive process unique to each solution we develop, and gives our clients insight into both the granular details of their business and the high-level strategy and vision to propel them forward.