Operator Spotlight
Technical & Product

Meet Rubrik Chief Product Officer Anneka Gupta

Caroline Caswell

“How did they do that? How did they get there?” Companies succeed because of the people who build them - operating leaders who grow businesses to new heights and make decisions every day that can impact entire industries. Each month, our Operator Spotlight gives you the inside track from one of our incredible Operator LPs (Limited Partners) who are changing the game – building and scaling some of the world’s most successful companies. Read on for lessons learned and mistakes made, perspectives from the top, practical advice, and ideas on what’s next. 

This month, we chatted with Anneka Gupta, Chief Product Officer at Rubrik. Anneka brings more than a decade of product and SaaS expertise with a track record of driving revenue growth, navigating expansions to new markets, and overseeing diversity, inclusion, and belonging initiatives. She joined Rubrik from LiveRamp where she was the President and Head of Product and Platforms leading product development and go-to-market operations and strategy. Anneka also sits on the board of directors for Tinuiti.

Tell us a bit about your career journey and some of the big lessons you learned during the move from LiveRamp, where you were for 11 years (!), to Rubrik? 

Anneka: My biggest times of learnings and lessons within each of these roles have been in the moments that have been toughest, where I felt like throwing up my hands in frustration and calling it quits. Choosing in those moments not to give up  and to instead see possibility and a path forward has yielded a lot of valuable lessons including:

  1. Hire for the person not the position, and hire for the person you need in 18 months, not just the person you need now. My biggest hiring mistakes have been hiring for the profile that matched the role that I had on paper. My biggest hiring successes have been hiring people that were absolutely stellar but maybe lacked some specific experience or background that I was looking for for the role. 
  2. Know what really matters and spend 80% of your time as a leader on those 1-3 priorities. As a leader you have to ruthlessly prioritize. Knowing what actually matters and blocking time to make significant progress on those initiatives ensures that what’s important doesn’t linger. It’s easy to let what’s urgent but not important fill 80% of your time. 
  3. Manage your energy levels vs. work-life balance. There is no such thing as balance when you are a person that is driven to achieve a lot. I’m able to do so much more when I ensure that my time is being spent on areas that actually give me energy both within and outside of work. By structuring my day and time based on having enough things that give me energy vs. sap it, I’m able to achieve 10x of what I’d otherwise be able to do.
  4. Everyone has something to teach, everyone has something to learn. I’ve worked with and for a lot of people and even the people that I found challenging to work with I learned something from. This mindset of realizing I have something to learn from everyone keeps me humble. The mindset of realizing I have something to teach everyone as well helps me manage impostor syndrome.
  5. Never waste a crisis - leverage crisis to drive 10x change. Change especially in scaling organizations is difficult because there is so much inertia to do things the way they have always been done. Using crisis as a catalyst for change is actually one of the ONLY ways to successfully drive lasting change in the org. And the key learning I’ve had is sometimes you need to take an issue and turn it into a crisis to be able to drive the change needed.

Rubrik recently celebrated a successful IPO, how did you orient your teams towards this moment, and what has changed as a result?

Rubrik’s IPO is an incredible milestone for the company and for the cybersecurity industry overall. We wanted to keep our teams grounded post IPO because all of us in leadership want to build a long-term company. We know that the IPO is an important step but not the endgame. As such, we’ve oriented our teams on the responsibility we have to our broader investors including people who have invested their savings in funds that are now invested in Rubrik. We have oriented our teams to continue focusing on innovation on behalf of our customers so we continue to help organizations be resilient in the face of cyber attacks. 

What are some of the most important dynamics between engineering, product, design teams? How do you keep them aligned?

At Rubrik we treat design as an equal partner in the Engineering, Product, Design triad. In my current role both product and design roll into me at Rubrik while Engineering is managed by our CTO and Co-Founder. We stay aligned by anchoring all three of these functions to what’s best for our customers and what’s best for the business. And we encourage and model healthy discourse where for example, Design pushes Product, Product pushes Design, and Design pushes Engineering. I think the most important aspect of having strong dynamics between all three functions is ensuring each has a healthy respect for what the other functions bring to the table and the value they can create. If there is that foundation of trust and an environment of challenging each other, asking questions, and pushing for excellence every day, then you can have a great working relationship.

You are also a part-time lecturer at Stanford’s GSB - how has lecturing at Stanford made you a better leader? 

The traditional method of learning surgery is “see one, do one, teach one.” In companies, we often have the opportunity to observe people doing jobs similar to ours and we get a lot of hands-on experience actually doing work, making decisions, and seeing outcomes. But rarely do we get the opportunity to teach, and when we do it’s coaching or running a one-off session to train the team on how to do customer interviews or how to write a product requirements document. At the GSB, I teach a class in product management. The act of co-developing the class and teaching it every year has really helped me distill what’s required to be a successful product manager, what are the skills you need, and what does the work look like in practice. This has helped me develop best practices, processes, and even trainings for my own teams that enable excellence across my team. 

What are the most important traits you hire for when building out your product teams?

  1. Ability to learn, curiosity
  2. Simplify the complexity
  3. Drive results without authority

There’s a lot of chatter about the impact of Generative AI in the security field, how are you thinking about its application and the future of B2B enterprise?

Gen AI is going to change the paradigm in which B2B enterprise products are delivered. Traditionally, B2B Enterprise SaaS products are dominated by dashboards and reports that help you track and monitor your business, but tend to be static and unchanging. Imagine a world where all products are adaptive to the user, where products surface data dynamically and allow you to interact, explore, and ultimately take action on the fly. Imagine a world where more actions are automated without having to predetermine the steps ahead of time. This world will become our reality over the next 5 years and will fundamentally change the productivity equation for workers within organizations. 

How have you made a mark in your industry? What’s something you’ve done that’s perhaps counterintuitive in your field - broken any rules with interesting results?

In my current role at Rubrik I’ve done a lot of hiring. In data infrastructure and security the common practice is to hire people from the industry because they can hit the ground running faster in a subject area that is complex and not easy to ramp into. Domain expertise is often very helpful but can also be limiting - when you’ve worked in an industry for a long time you sometimes don’t think about completely different strategies and ways of doing things because you know all the ways it won’t work. I’ve chosen to under-index on domain expertise and instead hire people that can learn, be great leaders for the team, and drive innovative strategy. This strategy has had the ancillary effect of creating a much more diverse team - for instance we have an outsized number of women in leadership roles in product and design vs. other cybersecurity companies.

What’s your secret super power?

I consider myself a generalist because I’m drawn to learn about so many topics whether it’s related to my job or not. My superpower is being able to take in and absorb an enormous amount of complexity and distill it into simple words and actionable next steps. This has enabled me to be a versatile leader that can adapt to the needs of a scaling and changing business. It’s also enabled me to be a successful leader in two completely different industries, marketing tech and cyber security, both of which have gone through massive innovation and change in the past decade.

Let's connect.

Sign up to receive community updates.
Sign Up