Meet Almitra Karnik, head of marketing at CleverTap. She started out her career as a software engineer but moved into marketing after completing her MBA at Santa Clara University. As she went along, she realized that customers seemed to have difficulty seeing the value in marketing SaaS products. Karnik knew that having an in-depth understanding of technology and being able to articulate that to technical and business decision-makers has helped her gain credibility and better understand her customers’ pain-points.
In regards to what has helped her develop her leadership, Karnik says she has been fortunate to work with many great mentors. However, she points to a quote by Edward Deming that was a catalyst for her theory on opinions. “Without data,” Deming said. “You’re just another person with an opinion.”
As it turns out, she actually prefers a later quote she saw in a Forbes article. “Without an opinion, you’re just another person with data.” During her early years, her first mentor embodied this concept. “He used to create a checklist that included observations and comments based on data,” Karnik remembers. “This made our meetings highly beneficial for the entire team and we always ended up implementing or exploring one or more of the suggestions.”
She also points to the importance of empathy and self-awareness in leaders. During her time at Cisco, Karnik worked with a manager who had a very high emotional intelligence quotient. He was a keen observer and cultivated an environment where people felt they could share their opinions. Leaders who are able to receive honest feedback from their employees will have better team buy-in and fewer blind spots.
Karnik has enjoyed an illustrious career at some of the best tech companies in the world, including Cisco, Twilio and Dell EMC. She calls CleverTap her career home nowadays and leads their marketing division. In her words, the company provides a user retention and mobile marketing platform that empowers growth professionals such as marketers to leverage customer insights and increase customer lifetime value by building personalized engagement experiences at scale.
In her job, Karnik works to increase top-line revenues, support sales enablement, build customer confidence, define GTM strategies and elevate brand awareness. She works with a marketing team that spans Asia and the United States to accomplish these goals and works hard to bring out the best in her employees.
When asked about how she inspires her team, Karnik shared her thoughts: “Every individual is different and so are their motivations to excel. Some employees are motivated by salary, some by titles and some by praise. As leaders, we have to understand this.”
To do this, she leads by example. If there is an expectation to be honest, or accountable or punctual, then she should be all of these things. Karnik also believes in leaving room for failure. There needs to be an environment where employees feel comfortable taking calculated risks. If a leader wishes to encourage innovation and out-of-the-box thinking, then she needs to make sure employees can trust her to be around if they fail.
The toughest professional challenge that Karnik faces is hiring well. “A team or an organization is only as good as its people. How do you hire the right set of people? How do you make sure they are happy? These are not easy questions,” she admitted. “I have used various interview techniques and evaluation criteria to help resolve this.”
For aspiring women leaders in technology, Karnik urges them to take risks. She offers a quote from Richard Branson that inspired her own journey: “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!”