18 May 2015
The First Five Years: Anjali Vaidya (MBA 2010)
Anjali Vaidya on mobile products, coaching, chicken contact lenses, and why the annual HBS Show reigns supreme.Topics:
Photo by Brandon Wehman of Wanderlust Photo
Where did you go after you graduated from HBS?
“I spent three and a half years working at Google on mobile advertising and have been at Yahoo, also working on mobile monetization, since October 2013.”
What are the most important things you learned at each stop?
“At Google, the task was to translate an incredibly successful advertising model on desktop to mobile devices. I learned about the mobile ecosystem and its vocabulary: apps, developers, deep-linking, SDKs, APIs, server-side, device IDs, carriers, exchanges, SSPs, DSPs, DMPs, etc. It sometimes felt like a game of alphabet soup.
“At Yahoo, the challenge is to catalyze growth at an Internet company with tremendous assets. I’m learning every day how to inspire people to challenge conventional wisdom, use data to drive decisions, and tackle roadblocks proactively. I’ve learned to roll up my sleeves and write database queries if I need to, take sales calls if necessary, and wear any hat required to help Yahoo realize its mobile ambitions.”
What drew you to team management, turnarounds, and technology? What commonalities, if any, does each area share?
“I like coaching people. I was a teaching assistant in college, and I think I enjoy team management for the teaching aspect. It’s personally very rewarding to see someone take my advice or general direction and produce useful results. I enjoy turnarounds because they are very difficult and no one expects the underdog to succeed. I like proving people wrong!
“For me, technology, and mobile technology in particular, has the potential to be a tremendous tool for empowerment. There are now two billion people across the world with Internet access through handheld touchscreen devices. Cheaper handsets are allowing entire nations to leapfrog over the PC revolution into the mobile one. Uber and other apps have made the mobile device a remote control for life (think of how distressing it is when your battery runs out!). The pace of innovation here makes it incredibly exciting to be a part of this industry.”
What do you know now about these areas that you didn’t know as an HBS student?
“Strategy is a luxury. More acutely needed are people who can sell product or build product.”
What were your favorite HBS classes and what made them so impactful?
“My favorite classes were The Entrepreneurial Manager with Felda Hardymon; first-year marketing with Mike Norton; and Competing through Social Networks with Misiek Piskorski. They were all charismatic professors and some of the cases I remember most came from their classes (chicken contact lenses, anyone?).”
What advice—career or personal—do you have for current students during their first year on the job, post-HBS?
“One: Optimize for people. Many variables will influence your career choices after HBS—geography, industry, function, company, manager, salary, equity, etc. Sometimes there are correlations between these variables, like high-growth companies tend to have stronger managers. But the highest ROI I’ve found comes from working with smart, hard-working, intellectually curious people. Choose projects, teams, and companies where you feel mentally challenged; your brain should feel tired at the end of the day. The subject matter of what you’re doing matters less—you’ll figure out how to add value anywhere.
“Two: As a corollary, avoid situations where you are the smartest person in the room. As the saying goes, you are in the wrong room if that’s the case.
“Three: Marry someone great. Among other perks, it’s good for your career.”
How do you use what you learned at HBS in your current work?
“HBS inspired me to be bold because my classmates were the same way. The greatest lesson I took from HBS is to speak up in meetings, challenge authority (respectfully and ideally with some data), and have an opinion.”
You list ‘musical theatre’ as an interest on your LinkedIn profile so we have to ask: What are your favorite musicals, and why?
“Pippin I remember fondly because I played Pippin’s grandmother in the eighth grade. Phantom of the Opera has the most powerful music. Mamma Mia for its joie de vivre and dance routines. The Lion King for the costumes. Chicago for its feisty, take-no-prisoners women. Oh, and of course, the HBS Show 2009: One Western Story. I devoured all six minutes of my stage time as Annie Patel.”
Can you finish this statement? Great mobile products…
“Make your life easier.”
Follow Anjali Vaidya on Twitter at https://twitter.com/avaidya2.
Class of MBA 2010, Section A