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‘The world is going visual and my daughters are showing me how,’ says Kirthiga Reddy, Facebook India MD

Dipti Nair
28th Oct 2015
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She’s RAD. When she’s happy with her team, she sends them a Shark emoji for ‘killing it.’ How cool is that?

Kirthiga Reddy, Facebook India MD, has no inhibitions about sharing ‘what’s on her mind.’ For 42-year-old Kirthiga – listed among the ‘Top 50 Most Powerful Women in India’ by ‘Fortune India’ magazine in 2011 – believes the world is going visual. Whether we interact on a personal level or professionally, images, videos, stickers, even 3D, are powering the way we communicate.

Kirthiga with her daughters, Ashna and Ariya
Kirthiga with her daughters, Ashna and Ariya

But this learning was not so much a consequence of board meetings at Facebook headquarters as it was at home. “The world is going visual and my daughters are showing me how,” says Kirthiga. She learnt filmmaking from her older daughter, and the result was a 007 style video showcasing her team’s work. When she ends her messages with XOXO to her girls, they are surprised she even knows what it means.

“Today, there are four billion video views daily on Facebook, and 75 percent of them are on mobile,” she says, adding,

My children teach me where the world is going and help me internalize it and get me on the bandwagon. They stretch me in so many different ways.

Talking to YourStory, Kirthiga says, “People come to Facebook to connect and share, and communication happens in many ways. There’s one-on-one, one-to-many, many-to-many and that’s where our family of apps come into play. It’s not just Facebook, it’s Instagram, it’s Messenger and Whatsapp. As much as 152 million people we have already connected, we still have to connect a billion plus people and that is exciting.” In order to achieve this, Kirthiga keeps her eyes and ears open to any learning that can keep her one step ahead of what the young are thinking.

Despite a Master’s in business administration from Stanford University and an MS in computer engineering from Syracuse University, Kirthiga says her learning has never stopped. “They (her children) are destroying my definition of what parenting means. What it means to be a professional, a life partner, and all the other roles that I have the privilege to play.”

The power of ‘And’

Born in Nagpur, Kirthiga grew up with strong middle-class values of hard work. She spent her formative years in places like Dandeli and Nanded because of her father’s government job.

She completed her computer engineering from MGM College of Engineering, Nanded, and moved back to Nagpur to join Kanetkar tutorials, helping engineering students master C skills.

After she finished her Master’s in business administration from Stanford University and an MS in computer engineering from Syracuse University, Kirthiga started working with the US-based Phoenix Technologies, which is when Facebook offered her a ‘dream job’.

Like many other women professionals, Kirthiga has struggled between balancing her personal and work life. Today, however, she has cracked this conundrum and come up with a new paradigm:

To embrace the power of the ‘And’ vs the tyranny of the ‘Or’.

In her talk on the INKTalks stage in Mumbai recently, she recounted how she came up with this. “After my younger daughter, Ariya, was born, I had to make a professional choice (after the six-week maternity leave was over) to travel on work. But it was also super important for me to nurse her for a year. I went through agonizing days. It was my down, and I wondered if this was the moment that everyone talks about where you have to make a choice between your professional goals and personal goals.”

Kirthiga-Reddy
Kirthiga Reddy

Through this down, emerged her new paradigm and she adds, “I realized I could do both.” Thus, when she travelled on work she would take her baby with her. Her colleagues helped find good day care, and in between meetings, she would take time out to nurse her child. She had learnt to push the boundary of the ‘Or’ and found the ‘And’.

Kirthiga uses this philosophy in other areas of her life too. Because of her tight schedule, she could not commit to social work, and ‘giving back to society’. “But we discovered volunteering on the go, and my children and I have helped out in soup kitchens, taught English as a second language, planted saplings, and more.”

Growth hacking

Kirthiga’s new paradigm has helped her push the boundary on parenting as well. “Often, there are moms’ Whatsapp groups. Why not a parents’ Whatsapp group? I have had long involved conversations to have a parents’ Whatsapp group. My husband, Dev, has always been a 50/50 partner, if not more,” she says.

Kirthiga’s cycle of learning, unlearning and relearning involves accepting change. “Don’t resist change. Change is good. Be open to avenues of inspiration, there will be some expected and some unexpected.”

Can this culture of a life-time of learning be taken to the classroom or for that matter companies? “At Facebook, we have a culture of hacking. We have global hack sessions and sometimes really big changes come out of this,” she says, adding that classrooms need to adopt an open approach and allow students to question and be inquisitive.

My MC2 (emotional intelligence/effectiveness) comes from my children,

she says, and it is from them that she learns to growth hack her way to a successful life.

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