Operator Spotlight
Technical & Product

Operator Spotlight: Verizon Media CTO Rathi Murthy

Ambrosia Vertesi

Looking for practical help and advice on an operational area that may be outside your realm? Each month we spotlight one of our talented operators, who’ll share their expertise and offer insights and ideas that may help improve your own operations. This month we spoke to Rathi Murthy, Chief Technology Officer at Verizon Media.

You just joined Verizon Media in January! What leadership lessons did you bring from previous companies that prepared you to lead in such a hectic, uncertain time? 

RATHI: When it comes to leadership, I like to remind myself of the 5 C’s. The first is Connect, or find time to meet with your teams to keep lines of communication open. The second C is Collaborate: share ideas and encourage new ways of thinking to reach solutions during this time. The third is Create, or innovate and build for changing conditions. The fourth C is Culture, make sure you keep a fun element in the work you do to maintain the feeling of belonging. And finally, Community: we can win together by helping and serving the larger community.

How has your Verizon Media team had to change because of COVID-19? 

RATHI: Fortunately, our teams were able to seamlessly adopt this new working-from-home style across most functions. In fact on our engineering side, we’ve seen no drop in productivity. That said, we’ve encouraged teams to meet on a regular basis and hold virtual stand-up meetings for status updates to maintain collaboration. Most critical, I think, is maintaining consistent communication from leadership. I post weekly video updates to help the team understand what leadership is thinking about during these times and how that affects their focus and priorities.

How has COVID-19 affected engineering teams in general? 

RATHI: We’ve challenged ourselves to find work we can do that will help during this time, which has given our team a unique drive to be creative and successful. For instance, given the vast amounts of data available about the disease and its spread, we saw an opportunity to use our big data expertise to create a searchable index of COVID-data that researchers can use to learn about trends. It was a massive undertaking for our team, but also such a rewarding project.

How has working remotely affected your operations? Do you have any lessons learned as we all start to think about a “back to work” structure? 

RATHI:  Verizon Media has technology at its core – and many of our engineers can work remotely, maintaining our technical performance. When we think about coming “back to work,” we are considering various aspects for what returning to the office might look like. We’re exploring how we can secure our facilities and make people feel safe once they are back in office, as well as working through how to manage social distancing and employee comfort with returning to the space.

What are some things engineering teams should prioritize over the next 6 months? 

RATHI: Leading with empathy, rather than emphasizing productivity. Remember that in this time, your team is dealing with many priorities, whether it’s childcare, educating children from home, caregiving for family members and pets, while also working. While productivity is important, it’s even more important to support one another during this time. 

Engineering is a profession that’s heavily dominated by males. What’s one piece of advice you’d offer other women looking to build a career in engineering and tech?

RATHI: Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good. Speak up and take on opportunities even when you feel you don’t know 100% of what is expected. Grow your confidence and find your voice. We have a lot of advantages as women in our ability; we just need to believe in ourselves.

What’s one amazing insight no one knows about engineering?   

RATHI: Engineering is fun! There’s always something new, creative, and challenging coming up. It’s never stagnant. I’d love to bring this idea of “Engineering is FUN” to all the young women out there and encourage them to explore this field. 

AOC often talks about the skills she picked up as a bartender, and others talk about what they learned working retail. What were some of those formative jobs for you?

RATHI: I had children early in life – my early 20s. I started my Masters in Computer Engineering after my second child was born. When she was 1 month old. I had 2 kids under the age of 3 and started my journey to be a full time mom and study. I learned to be very disciplined, prioritize my work, delegate, leverage my family and friends for support, and manage myself efficiently. This foundation has helped me significantly. I also remember the kids falling sick the night before every exam. I had to be ready for any and all surprises. This has also been a good muscle to build, to handle curve balls with a smile. 

What’s one unconventional thing you’re doing to keep yourself sane?

RATHI: Peloton – I even take a few meetings while on the bike. It definitely keeps me sane 🙂

What’s the one condiment you could never live without? 

RATHI: I’d pick a spice, actually – Cumin!

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