Everyone faces challenges. It’s knowing how to handle them that leads to success or failure. Dutta Satadip embodies this principle, making the most of every opportunity and overcoming obstacles along his journey to success.
Dutta Satadip was born in India but came to the United States around 2000. With a love of computer science, he worked hard to make his dreams become a reality. During his schooling, however, Dutta discovered that he wanted to do more.
With a born inclination to lead, Dutta found that the abstract aspect of computer science was perfect for preparing him to take on a leadership position. Dutta looks at computer science as a puzzle.
He explains, “It had this element of looking at problems that are very abstract, figuring out a way to structure them, break them into little pieces, solve them, and then put them back together.”
It’s interesting to listen to Dutta describe computer science, as it is very similar to solving issues in most businesses. In fact, he details leading almost the same way that he does computer science.
“When you’re working with teams, you need to cut them up into manageable bite-size problems. You need to enable everybody to work on those problems and eventually bring it back together to deliver the outcome for the business”, Dutta explains.
It is this understanding of business and leadership that has helped Dutta succeed. During and after his time at Haas, Dutta has worked at HP, Google, and Pinterest, among others. But he didn’t start out a success. There was one major obstacle that Dutta would have to overcome before he could go on to become the global leader that he is today.
Life at Haas
Dutta’s first day at Haas was met with a blend of awe, self-doubt, warmth, and acceptance. He was very well-received by his peers, but he found that his constant uncertainty about himself made it difficult to make friends.
Being in a new environment only made things worse. Looking around at everyone, Dutta felt as if he didn’t belong; like there were far more talented individuals walking around Haas. Thinking back to his early days there, Dutta remembers, “These amazing people [were] all very accomplished and very articulate.
“I think they made a mistake having me here.” This thinking continued for quite some time until Dutta finally determined to commit to having a good time and making the most of his opportunity at Hass.
Dutta signed up for as many international courses as he could, including business seminars and class trips. In doing this, Dutta was able to connect with people for the first time and explore opportunities to build relationships.
The first class trip that he took at Haas brought him to Israel. Dutta’s penchant for being direct allowed him to seek advice in making friends. “I would actually say, ‘How do you build relationships?’” he recalls.
Dutta continues, “I thought this was some sort of a complicated procedure. It turned out it was actually very simple.”
Dutta also attributes his relational discourse to a book by Keith Ferrazzi, entitled, Never Eat Alone, as it taught him how to observe relationships and learn about them. Dutta recognizes that earning success isn’t just about what you know.
It’s about how you use that knowledge and work to translate it into something valuable. And therein lies the key to becoming successful. If you have something that can benefit others, you are more likely to put your knowledge to use.
And that, according to Dutta, is how his journey at Haas started. While there, Dutta took part in the Haas at Work program. This allowed students to learn the ropes as they pertain to the real world and transform business models.
This program helped set the stage for things to come in Dutta’s life, as it gave him concrete values that could be applied in other areas – not just business. He also credits Haas at Work’s core values, faculty, and students as playing a big role in what he absorbed.
Becoming a Leader
As with many leaders, Dutta never stopped aspiring to be the best. After Haas, he would go on to lead larger and larger teams, all the while continuing to work on and build his leadership abilities.
Dutta recognizes that once he had a sound structure in his life, it allowed him to build from there and move toward managing and leading teams. But Dutta first had to overcome the challenge of building relationships before he could think about leading.
It’s clear that Dutta’s direction and accomplishments in life didn’t simply fall into his lap. He sought out every available opportunity to make his dreams and goals a reality. When given the chance, Dutta would make the most of his opportunities, always interested in learning how to connect and eventually direct.
These are the marks of a natural-born leader, which Dutta continues to develop today. If an opportunity arises that allows Dutta to connect, he is sure to jump on it and use it to share his knowledge with others, all while learning all that he can to better himself.
Empathy and Technology
How did he develop empathy and why he thinks it’s an important aspect of leading large teams?
What is the impact of technology on empathy within teams and people?
One way that has allowed Dutta to stay connected and grow is through the use of technology. Because technology causes a tangible divide between people, Dutta realizes that there is a greater need for building meaningful, lasting relationships.
As he explains, “It is not lost upon anybody that deeper, meaningful relationships, the empathy that comes from those relationships are harder. Personally, my belief is that a lot of this lies with the individual itself. Technology is simply an enabler.
He continues, “I saw this article on Forbes shared on a social media network. That was Facebook. And, I reached out to the author, Alyssa Cone. [She] and I have met a few times and I commented on how I enjoyed the article, because I really did.
“And how I saw some connecting points. Alyssa, along with her friend Dorie Clark, who is the author of many bestseller books including Stand-out Entrepreneurial You, they do a happy hour every so often [and asked if] I would be interested in joining.”
In typical Dutta fashion, he graciously accepted the invitation so that he could take advantage of reconnecting. For Dutta, it’s not so much about “likes” and “followers” as it is making meaningful connections.
Empathy is important to Dutta, and for good reason. Clearly, it was empathetic relationships that helped him feel welcomed at Haas. It was empathetic relationships that gave him the confidence to become the global leader that he is today.
And as he explains it, empathy allows one to develop an appreciation for things that they might normally not be interested in. Truth seekers allow for understanding, enabling them to expand their thinking and reason.
It is this mentality that has helped Dutta become a successful, respected leader on a global scale. One needs no further evidence of Dutta’s success in leadership than to look to his time at Google.
Being a Global Leader
In 2014, Dutta lead a global team at Google, with one of their decisions being to unify both the sales and non-sales entities under a single umbrella. This proved to be a challenge for Dutta, as there was a clear lack of empathy among other teams.
“First and foremost, you have to create a real understanding of why this change was made, and we made that and we communicated that”, Dutta elaborates. “Interestingly, as we start to execute on these changes, I found that my Latin teams were consistently behind or I would find out about problems probably two weeks too late.”
After doing some digging, Dutta discovered that there was a huge disconnect. Other teams were unclear as to how to implement his changes, or they simply didn’t care enough to make it happen in a timely fashion.
He also found that there was an internal belief that although his changes might work in the United States, they couldn’t work abroad. Even among Google’s Canadian teams, the belief was persistent that Dutta’s changes couldn’t be employed elsewhere.
The more Dutta researched his colleagues’ beliefs on the matter, the more he realized that there was a breakdown in communication. Because English wasn’t the spoken language of the other teams, it was difficult for them to get invested in Dutta’s changes.
It was clear to Dutta that further changes needed to be made, but this time on a more personal level. As he explains, “One of the big changes I immediately made was going back to the basics of doing good meetings.”
He continues, “We always had agendas but we made sure that we presented questions that we were going to discuss upfront. Yeah. So that people could come prepared for the discussion, not just with the pre-read, but specific questions.”
A Recipe for Success
By getting the other teams engaged with his meetings and directing them to feel empathy for his plight, Dutta was able to get a better reaction this time around. It’s important for Dutta to craft his meetings in a way that drives results.
He outlines his formula as follows: “I’m hoping to get input on X, Y, and Z. Please read the options, come with pros and cons, and we’re going to have a discussion. So, at least everybody knows we’re expecting pros and cons before they show up. Just that little thing, 24 hours before changing the dynamics.
“The second thing, making sure everybody in the meeting has had a chance. And number three, summarizing everything at the end of the meeting.” It’s also important that people have a chance to voice their opinions and concerns.
If something isn’t able to be addressed in the short one-hour window that he is allotted, Dutta encourages his colleagues to share these thoughts during their regular one-on-one meetings with him.
By following this method, it ensures that everyone’s voice is heard and that all bases are covered. This allows for things to move forward, and yet it also builds assurance and empathy among the various teams.
Problem-solving is important to Dutta, as it enables transparency and flexibility. It also allows for greater productivity while instilling a sense of unity. In fact, Dutta was leading a team at Pinterest when COVID-19 broke out across the world.
Their job was to accelerate the acquisition of customers, but the pandemic put a halt to their ventures. His team was understandably worried about their jobs and didn’t quite know how to move forward. But thanks to Dutta’s ever-mindful eye, he was able to have meaningful, productive conversations with his team and get them back on track.
By adjusting to the new reality around them, Dutta worked toward a realistic goal, even amid budget cuts. By being open and transparent while remaining rooted to reality, Dutta and his team were able to complete tasks and make things work in their favor.
It may not have been in the order they liked or without certain resources, but Dutta’s level-headed guidance ensured that they were successful in their ventures.
Be an Overcomer
Fear often divides and causes war in the minds of many. The unknown prevents some from attaining goals and dreams in life. Had Dutta not decided to overcome his personal challenges of making friends and connecting with new people, he likely would not be the leader that he is today.
What is holding you back? Can you think of anything in your life right now that is keeping you from achieving greatness? Like Dutta, there may be an obstacle in your life that needs to be addressed. Once you do, you never know what doors it may open and where it may lead you.
For more information on Dutta Satadip and his life experiences, you are welcome to listen to his interview on the OneHaas Alumni High Impact Teaming podcast.