The importance of brilliant failures: Lighthouse Fireside Chat with Deepa Madhavan, PayPal

Published March 12, 2021   |   



When talking about your journey, it’s important to acknowledge the challenges and failures you faced along the way,” said Deepa Madhavanas she sets the tone for the second Lighthouse Fireside Chat to mark International Women’s Day (IWD)earlier this week. 

Deepa, who is the Director, Data Privacy, Product and Engineering at PayPalhas over two decades of experience in effectively leading large product and engineering teams in the regulatory data and data warehousing space. Her thought leadership, strategic thinking and innovation has made her known as a resultoriented leader while remaining people centric. This was reflected in a freewheeling talk where she shared the experiences that shaped both her professional and personal life.  

Here are some key takeaways from the session on 11th March. 

In the workplace

  1. Brilliant failures: Value the importance of experiential learning. Not just from your own experiences, but also from the lives of those you observe around you. The bigger failure is if you do not assimilate learnings from these encounters. 
  1. Empathy quotient: Watching people struggle and rise out of these challenges can re-shape your perception of people and make you more empathetic. Acknowledge that failure and challenges are an expected part of life.  
  1. Timing is everything: You could have a brilliant idea, great technology, and a very cool product. But make sure you are not trying to introduce it to a market that is not ready for it or lacks the infrastructure required to make it successful. Think about the dynamics and measures that the product needs to make an impact before you release it to the world.  

In personal life

  1. Make yourself the priority: It might sound selfish, but when you put yourselves first (especially women who juggle home, family, kidsand work), everything else falls into place. Set the tone for your day by taking care of your physical and mental needs – be it exercise, meditation, journaling, or whatever works for you. 
  1. Put it on paper: Jot down your goals, intentions, and actions for the day. If there is something that is bothering you at work or home, it helps to see it written down. For one, it no longer exists just in your head. Second, when you articulate your worries, you can figure out a plan to address it.  
  1. Stay organized: By charting your day each morning, you set yourself up for a non-interrupted workday, especially in the current work from home situation. Planning a menu and making sure the kids have what they need for online classes are just a couple of things that free you up to focus.  

Gender equality in the workplace: inclusive, not exclusive

Policies that are framed for inclusion are much more successful than ones that are women centric. When something is labeled for women, others tend to shy away. Aim at fostering an environment where all genders feel comfortable discussing equality and benefit from conversations that are centered around uplifting and supporting women.  

Mentoring 101

Having a mentor is invaluable. Focus on having the right mentor at the right time. You do not have to have the same person in that role throughout your journey; they must fit in to where your career is at that point of time. Sometimes, you will outgrow your mentor – so keep evaluating the relationship. It simply means that you have moved on from the challenge you faced and have overcome it. Whether you are a mentor or mentee, it is important to find a meeting of the minds, as well as understand each other. Have goals: think about what you would like to achieve out of the relationship. Chart it out in a spreadsheet if that helps!  

Leading with vision

For those in the product engineering space, like us here at Crayon Data, Deepa stressed on the importance of having a vision. Apart from having a leadership vision, she suggested that each person, no matter what team they are in, should “articulate clear visions for yourself, and for the product and engineering aspects.” This involves setting goals for every meeting, so that even if the discussion is free flowing, you make sure to communicate what you are going after. Follow it up with action items so everyone is on the same page. “Take as many extra steps as it takes to achieve this clarity. It really adds a lot of value, which is important in this space,” she wrapped up.