Before the pandemic, Pari didn't worry too much about logistics. She ordered things online, of course and engaged in e-commerce activities. And her professional roles at tech giants like IBM, Google, and Microsoft had certainly exposed her to the importance of complex operations. Not to mention her stint as the Executive Director of Technology at The New York Times, where she had plenty of opportunities to think through how insight was delivered.
But it wasn't until the world shut down due to the pandemic and Pari and her family were stuck inside that she really realized the significance of the commercial transportation that kept everything moving.
"When COVID had essentially paralyzed our entire globe, not just our country and our economy, I realized the significance of the logistics industry," she says. "When the fear of the pandemic and losing lives literally took over humanity, and everyone transformed their lives to being fully virtual, fully remote, the only thing that kept us all living seamlessly was the logistics industry."
When the opportunity to join online shipping marketplace uShip as their Chief Technology Officer arose, she jumped on it, recognizing that there had never been a more important time to work somewhere that was supporting the future of commerce.
We sat down with Pari to hear more about how she's built her career, how her transition to this new role during the pandemic has gone, and how she's developed her approach to leadership and motivation during such a challenging time.
Strategic engagement from the start
As a seasoned technology leader, Pari is used to tackling real-world hard challenges. She began her career focused on Biotechnology, specializing in Genetic Engineering, doing her Masters in the field before deciding to do a second Masters focused on Computer Science, specializing in Software Engineering, with a dissertation in Artificial Intelligence.
"I love working in the area of data, [including] data engineering, data science, machine learning, and AI," explains Pari, who adds that some of her favorite past projects have engaged in building data science and engineering, applying the same to driving revenue for businesses, building next-generation platforms and future-proofing platforms against security threats.
As uShip's CTO, Pari is currently focused on transforming the EPD (Engineering, Product and Design) organization by hiring the right talent, driving transformation and building the next generation of their platform, leaning on data engineering and data science, to continue to differentiate uShip's product core IP.
Because uShip works by matching shippers and carriers on an open marketplace, it works with individuals and businesses of all sizes, explains Pari. "Building products in the logistics space is very challenging and very dynamic—nothing can get more real than logistics," she says, referencing the vital role the industry has played in distributing everything from PPE to furniture to cars, boats, RV's, over the last year and a half.
Motivation through change
Pari has never had trouble keeping herself motivated to achieve her professional goals. "For me, motivation is all about building a positive mindset and creating a feeling of gratitude for what we have and what we can do for others," she says. Still, she acknowledges that even as she took heart in knowing that her work was helping to drive a positive, real-world impact, it was hard to stay motivated during the extended isolation of the pandemic: "We humans are born to socialize, network, and work as a team."
But there's one piece of advice she returned to in the harder moments—"Get up, dust off, reload, recalibrate, re-engage"—and she applied that same approach to starting a C-suite role in an all-remote setting.
6 ways to manage, motivate, and lead at scale
Though stepping into a CTO role during a world-altering pandemic that only put more pressure on the importance of the logistic industry has certainly been complicated, Pari has been able to lean on her decades of management and leadership experience to settle in well and start making a positive impact.
Here are the guiding principles that will allow you to do the same thing, whether you're starting a new role or just looking to level up in the one you have now:
1. Set a vision—and then get out of the way. "It's our job as leaders to give a clear direction and then just get out of the way," says Pari. "Teams don't need micro management or over-focused process management, they need direction. Teams can tackle problems innovatively and productively themselves, and we can be there to guide the progress through workshops, demos or stakeholder presentations."
2. Connect with individuals. While providing team-level vision and guidance is important, it cannot replace building rapport on an individual level, says Pari. "With people I work very closely with, I engage in one-on-ones as often as I can. It's important to connect with people and understand what some of their challenges are." That's been especially important during the pandemic, she adds, when employees might be dealing with
economic or health challenges, losses in their families, or other hardships that require extra support. "I always sit down, listen, and try to understand what people are going through," says Pari. "No two people will go through the same sets of challenges in life, and trying to put yourself in the other person's shoes helps to solve for the challenges that people face."
3. Create a cycle of clear goals and clear feedback. "I focus on setting clear, attainable goals and objectives (Objectives and key results or OKRs, a goal-setting framework for defining and tracking objectives and their outcomes) for teams to chase after quarter over-quarter," says Pari, highlighting that she works to add development and cross collaboration opportunities into those goals whenever possible. "That helps teams reach their full potential, whether they're in-person, completely virtual, or working in a hybrid model," she says. She believes in getting creative with innovation too, and gives the example of uShip's three-day hackathon as a way to drive innovation and creativity organically by teams: "It promotes networking, collaboration, and socializing, and even in a virtual workplace, it enables people to foster those connections we've lost in the past 15 months and to build something ground up or organically that helps drive business."
4. Let people ask why. Pari says that the biggest thing she does in any tech leadership role is to bring alignment during times of change. "A lot of times when we are transforming in any organization, it can be painful for people...whether at the people level, the process level, the product or technology level, or the overarching company level," she says. "Being in groups where you can have open-ended conversations, have workshops, and ask the 'five whys'—like why are we doing this in the first place!—is very, very important."
5. Invest in your people, not just your products. "In business, I believe strongly in one core principle: 'a company is only as good as its employees'," says Pari. "So I believe heavily in: 'Invest in your people and you will see huge rewards.' which is critical to success."
6. Don't forget to celebrate the wins. "It is so important to pause frequently and celebrate wins," says Pari. "They can be small wins, they can be large wins; it can be in meetings, town halls, All Hands, or even small team ceremonies. That's how we motivate ourselves and keep moving no matter how hard times get," she says.
As a relatively new homeowner, I know firsthand how difficult it can be to navigate the world of real estate and how important it is to have a trusted guide with you along that journey. That's why I was thrilled as PowerToFly's Production Lead to collaborate with real estate groundbreaker Compass on a women in tech networking event, held at their gorgeous New York office, on December 6th.
"Women in tech" you say, not "women in real estate"? Yes, because at its heart, Compass is a technology company that is building the first modern real estate platform, pairing the industry's top talent with technology to make the search and sell experience intelligent and seamless.
Our event on December 6th, hosted by PowerToFly's CoFounder Katharine Zaleski, featured many of Compass' impressive women tech leaders and male allies plus plenty of time for our guests to network with their peers over delicious bites and warming wine.
The evening kicked off with a thrilling and inspiring welcome address by Maëlle Gavet, Compass' COO. "I'm here because diversity really matters. Compass is a company that has a CEO who is a Jewish black man and the COO, which is a french woman. We are by definition diverse people. Our CEO Robert and I, all our life, we have been in an environment where there was no diversity and where we were basically one of a kind in the room."
Maëlle shared some encouraging statistics about Compass' diversity as well. "49% of our people managers are women, which is a really important indicator because a lot of companies will talk to you about diversity, but they will never talk to you about people managing diversity. 21% of our product and engineering team are women. It was 19% a year ago, so slowly but surely we're improving. And the last performance review, 61% of the people that were promoted were actually women."
After Maëlle wrapped up, she introduced Chief Product Officer Eytan Seidman who provided a bit of a deeper look into Compass' platform from the perspective of both a buyer and a seller, showing just how easy it is for a listing agent to create an email blast to her potential buyers.
Maëlle returned to participate in a panel discussion featuring two other women leaders at Compass: Basia Mucha, Senior Engineering Manager and Tal Netanyahu, Engineering Manager. In addition to detailing their own career journeys, our three panelists dived into such topics as how they keep current on tech trends, how they balance work-life integration and, if they could go back in time, what advice would they give themselves.
The evening closed out with a very special keynote speech from Compass' brand new CTO Joseph Sirosh (it was his third day and Joseph rushed back to the office after a school event for his kindergartner because our event was so important to him ). A veteran of both Amazon and Microsoft, Joseph stressed the importance of the customer. "Everybody is customer focus but it is the customers that will end up defining who you are as a company."
While our presentations may have ended, there was still plenty of time for our guests to continue to network with our speakers, other members of the Compass team and their fellow women in tech. We were proud to partner with Compass on this energizing event.
Compass is hiring! Visit their page on PowerToFly to learn more about their open roles.
Maëlle Gavet, Compass' COO provided the evening's welcoming remarks.
PowerToFly's Katharine Zaleski moderated a panel featuring Maëlle Gavet; Basia Mucha, Senior Engineering Manager; and Tal Netanyahu, Engineering Manager.
Joseph Sirosh, Compass' CTO, takes questions from the audience.
Attendees had plenty of opportunities to network with members of the Compass team.
This is an invite-only event for software engineers. Contact email@example.com or click on the button below for the event password if you think this event would be a good fit for your skill set.
"In Silicon Valley, today, there is a sisterhood of women who are supporting each other, telling each other about board opportunities, giving each other business ideas" - Christa Quarles, OpenTable CEO.
Meet and hear more from Christa and her executive team on March 14th about how they're building inclusive environments and innovative tech products at OpenTable. The night will kickoff with a keynote address by OpenTable CTO Joseph Essas and will feature a product demonstration from OpenTable's female tech leaders. We'll end the evening with an opportunity for you to network with additional women in tech over cocktails and light food.
Also, OpenTable is hiring! They offer professional development opportunities, wellness events, four weeks of accrued PTO per year and access to such affinity groups as OpenTable's Women in Tech and Women of OpenTable. To learn more about OpenTable, a company that Glassdoor named one of the "Best Places to Work 2016", and their open opportunities, visit their page at PowerToFly.
About our Events: All RSVP'd attendees are welcome, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender identity, pregnancy, physical or mental disability, or age. If you require accommodation to fully participate in this event, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will contact you to discuss your specific needs.