As our COO, Chitra is responsible for shaping our Go-to-Market strategy and leading our sales, customer success, marketing, and strategy departments. Specifically, she is helping to ensure Comfy continues to innovate while simultaneously scaling our operations as we expand our presence internationally. Before Comfy, she held leadership roles at the Boston Consulting Group, Charles Schwab, AAA, Salesforce, and Funding Circle. She holds her MBA from Harvard, an MS in Engineering from Cornell, and her BS from the Indian Institute of Technology.
Tell me about the path that led you to join the Comfy team.
Looking back, my career has meandered splendidly, which I’ve really enjoyed because I’ve learned so much from every experience. I started out as an engineer, doing environmental consulting and working on some really interesting projects like the EPA superfund site cleanup design. I’ve always had this deep idealism about helping the environment, so I suppose that was the first iteration of putting that idealism into action.
After a few years, I wanted to broaden my work beyond engineering and do something that touched all aspects of a business. So I went back to school to get my MBA and spent about six years in management consulting, helping large companies identify ways to improve their business, before moving in-house to do similar work for Charles Schwab and AAA. Having lived in the Bay Area for some time, I eventually realized that I could not possibly continue to live here without ever working in tech! I decided to make the switch and went to work for Salesforce, which was sort of like...baptism by fire. Transitioning to tech, doing B2B as opposed to B2C, there was a lot that was new to me. Needless to say, that was quite the year...as were the next seven years I spent with Salesforce.
There’s been this challenge throughout my work of build, grow, fix, and scale...those are the kind of opportunities that really energize me. So after the better part of a decade at Salesforce—essentially a lifetime in the technology sector—I decided it was time to take everything I’d learned and put it to use somewhere smaller, that was mission driven, and could have a real “triple bottom line” impact. After a successful year at my first startup, Funding Circle, that search ultimately led me to Comfy, where it was immediately clear that the potential for growth and impact are huge.
"In order to do that, it’s important to ensure every individual understands how the work they do contributes directly to the company goals."
What is your mission as Comfy’s new COO?
As COO, my mission is to connect the dots between our Go-to-Market teams to ensure we’re delivering the best possible Comfy experience to our customers. The key for success is figuring out how to pull all these teams together and create a situation where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts—is that how the phrase goes? I always get that one wrong...but you know what I mean.
We’re in this really exciting stage where we’ve had some great success, are growing quickly, and hearing a lot of demand from the market. We’re also very fortunate to have a team of incredibly smart, passionate individuals working hard to help us scale and deliver Comfy to as many people as possible. So my goal is to ensure that the GTM teams (sales, marketing, strategy, and customer success) are really cohesive, in part by encouraging everyone to, as I like to say, put on their “company hat.” In order to do that, it’s important to ensure every individual understands how the work they do contributes directly to the company goals.
What was the best office you ever worked in? Why?
You know what’s funny, when I first went to work at Salesforce, I was so used to having my own office that I was actually somewhat terrified of working in an open office! I thought, I’m going to have trouble concentrating, there’s going to be too much noise, and I’m going to be constantly distracted. And here’s what’s interesting...years later when I started to investigate what I wanted to do next, I visited a lot of companies—even some late-stage startups—that had people working in these walled cubes and separate offices...it just felt all wrong. I’d come to really much prefer the open office. Not only is it much more visually appealing, but I think it translates to people being more engaged with each other throughout the day.
I also find—especially here at Comfy—that people are actually very respectful in the open space. There’s a good cadence of both in-person conversation as well as communication through tools like Asana and Slack to prevent too much interruption. The key is making sure you have the right types of space available for the needs of your team, so that people can, for instance, find a conference room to have an in-person discussion rather than having it out in the open, distracting those around them. That’s one of the biggest challenges in the workspace today but let’s just say, we’re working on it!
Is there anything you do regularly to perform better at your job?
I think the most important thing for me when joining a new company, particularly as a COO, is simply listening to people. It’s the best way to learn what’s going on, both within the company and in the context of customers and the industry. It’s also how you identify where there might be potential issues or frustrations that you can then address before they become bigger problems down the road.
Another thing that has a huge impact on my day is meditation. If it wasn’t already clear, I’m a very results-oriented person and demanding of myself and, frankly, of others. But growing a company at this stage, that analogy “it's a marathon, not a sprint” very much applies. So every morning while commuting on BART, I plug into the Headspace app to do 10 minutes of meditation. It gives me that deep breath that I need to start the day and helps keep me from getting too impatient.
What is your ideal day off?
My ideal day off would be a combination of reading, long walks outside, and some sort of creative activity. On the weekends I really like to paint, make jewelry, and do encaustic art…all the things I would never never do professionally as I wouldn’t want them to feel like work. I read a lot of fiction, but have this deep aversion to reading anything non-fiction, which is probably result of having to read thousands of pages of cases a week in business school! I will say, being somewhat of an impatient person does find its way into my artistic practices. A few years ago, I even switched from using oils to acrylic because acrylic dries more quickly. What can I say, I like to get things done!
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