Life @ PhonePe
7 lessons on Breaking Barriers from an Innovator’s Perspective
— Jayati Singhal —
Meet Jayati Singhal, a seasoned professional with more than a decade of experience in the dynamic and ever-evolving tech industry. With an unwavering dedication to her craft, Jayati is a highly respected leader in her field. In this blog, we deep dive into some valuable lessons on her leadership journey and navigating challenges in the world of tech.
My journey from an IIT Delhi graduate to an experienced leader in one of India’s leading fintech companies has been filled with valuable lessons and insights. Over the years, I have faced several challenges and have also been given the right opportunities. I believe that my experience can help others who are navigating their career paths in the technology sector.
Here are some key lessons I have learnt in my 12-year journey in the tech industry:
Learning 1: Understand your Customers
As a leader, it is crucial to put the customer first and develop products that meet their needs. In my professional journey, I have been a part of many companies. One common thread that has run across all my stints is that either I have been a customer of the products I am working on or I have seen people around me using them. This has helped me gather live feedback, both positive and negative, on the offering. It has also helped me stay close to the problem while giving me the motivation that whatever I am building is impacting people’s lives. A great example would be the PhonePe Smartspeaker — a device that helps validate customer payments without any intervention, launched in July 2022. The device has already reached 2 million merchants within a short span of 6 months. Since the device is now ubiquitous and commonly used by offline stores, whenever I visit a store the real-time feedback I receive helps me understand customer needs better, while also experiencing how the product works in a live environment.
Learning 2: Embrace challenges and focus on things you can control
Over time, the one important shift in my mindset is the thinking that challenges are opportunities and not obstacles, and it is important to focus on things that are in your control. If you continue to focus on things that you can’t control, it will just lead to disappointment and frustration. A recent example is, there was a time when we felt our Smartspeaker hardware won’t reach us due to the Covid lockdown restrictions. While we were all disappointed for a few hours, we decided to huddle and discuss alternate ways to fast-track shipment, and flash the firmware in-house if needed. This decision enabled us to get the device delivered on time, despite a challenging external environment.
There have been multiple occasions when I have asked for advice from friends and mentors. While I earlier felt that asking for help may lead to being judged, over time I have come to realize that most of the challenges I am facing have already been faced by others in their careers, so it is better to learn from their experience rather than reinventing the wheel.
Learning 3: Have effective communication and Empathise
Effective communication and empathy are important qualities for a leader. Active listening, being empathetic and being open to feedback are necessary requisites for effective communication. While it may sound very natural to be empathetic, it’s necessary to strike a balance between understanding the needs of others and being assertive where it’s needed.
Learning 4: Work should be fun
In my professional journey, I have worked in teams where the projects we were working on were moving really fast and there was also a lot of technical learning involved. However, there was no personal connection within the team. Did I enjoy those tenures? The answer is no. We spend a lot of time at our workplace, so having a connection with the people you work with is very important. As a leader, I try to create an environment where employees enjoy their work and are motivated to give their best. I make sure that my team is happy, motivated, and has a positive experience at work.
Learning 5: Never stop learning
The tech industry is constantly evolving, and as a leader, it is essential to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and technologies. I have always made an effort to continue upskilling while constantly learning and growing as a professional. While it may seem like things may get repetitive after a decade in tech, the Smartspeaker was my opportunity to learn about the MQTT protocol and hardware. This was my first project related to hardware and the one interesting learning for me was that while you can deploy fixes very easily in software if something goes wrong in the hardware and you don’t have a proper remote upgrade mechanism, there is no way to fix it.
Another noteworthy learning experience happened when we were expanding Amazon India globally. We were the first online portal in India to go into the exports business, so there were lots of discoveries and learnings with respect to compliance and regulations.
Learning 6: Ask the right questions
Another big realisation during my 12-year stint has been that it is often not about having all the answers, but rather about asking the right questions. As a leader, it is important to ask questions, listen to your team, and work with them to find solutions to problems.
Learning 7: Prioritise Work-life balance
I think work-life balance is a constant struggle, especially for women. I have a son and can tell you from my personal experience that while it is not easy to manage both, things work out better if you plan, have an open conversation with your stakeholders. Ensure that you set some preferred work timings and make a conscious effort to prioritise your personal life, while making sure your work deliverables are met.
The tech industry can be both challenging and rewarding, and I am grateful for the experiences and opportunities that I have had over the past years. I hope what I have learnt in my journey can be useful to others who are navigating their careers in this field. By focusing on your customer, learning to embrace challenges, prioritising effective communication, prioritising work-life balance, and always being open to learning and asking the right questions, you can build a successful and fulfilling career in tech.