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“For me, success is knowing that at end of the day, I tried my best and those who matter know that.” with Ketaki Sharma and Chaya Weiner

I wish I could confidently claim to be straddling the two worlds of career and family. It is a juggling act where some days I succeed and on other days fail miserably. It is impossible to keep everyone happy at all times and one just has to prioritize at that specific moment. “Success” by its very nature is relative and cannot be contained within absolutes. For me, it is knowing that at end of the day, I tried my best and those who matter know that.

I had the pleasure to interview Ketaki Sharma who is the Founder and CEO of Algorithm Research, a bespoke research and advisory firm based out of the Middle East. Algorithm Research is now over three years old and is a Y-Combinator startup school alumnus as well as past winner of numerous regional entrepreneurship awards and recognitions, none of which were given at gunpoint.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?

Though I wish I could share an exciting “origins” story involving radioactive spiders biting me and giving me superpowers, my childhood was pretty normal. Growing up in a big city (Delhi) of a fast-evolving emerging country (India) meant that as a child I had access to most of the creature comforts one could imagine. Being born in a family with an academic bent of mind (my father was a Professor whilst my mother a well-educated homemaker), it was made clear to us (including my kid brother) in no uncertain terms that getting a good education was paramount. So childhood for me was a heady mix of fun, studies, hobbies, vacations and everything in between. May be I did get those superpowers after all.

Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?

I began my career over a decade ago as a sovereign ratings analyst with S&P, Mumbai. Those were exciting times as we were trying to build a standard sovereign ratings template for all countries. Later, I joined Nomura Securities to cover Indian macroeconomics. These were absolutely the very best opportunities and great learning experience both as an economist as well as a professional.

We shifted base to Dubai in 2011/12 where to my surprise and occasional frustration, macroeconomic research jobs were fairly numbered and usually if the region (Middle East) was tracked, it was done so from the London office of a multinational company. With luck and persistence, I managed to find a job at a local bank that required me to set up their research desk from scratch. While it was an opportunity of a lifetime, it certainly came with its own set of challenges not least of which was that of the mindset that research was “good to have” vis a vis “must have” at every bank’s treasury and investments division. It was perhaps here that the vision of having a Middle East focused research firm was conceived. After working at another local bank in similar capacity, the idea of a ‘Middle East’ focused research firm became a reality in the form of Algorithm Research.

Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?

The joy and challenge of being an entrepreneur is that no two days are alike. It is not a standard 8-to-6 job that follows a fixed cadence with lunch and coffee breaks nicely fitting in. And that is probably one of the reasons I gravitated towards starting out on my own. So while there is no typical day, majority of my days start really early — with some yoga at home. That is followed by dropping off my daughter to school, usually on the way to meeting some potential clients or to some regional conference. Lunch time is sacred to me as I enjoy catching up with my daughter before heading out again for work again. We have early dinner together as a family before finally finishing up with any overseas calls/meetings or related work.

Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. This is probably intuitive to many, but it would be beneficial to spell it out. Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?

Not spending enough time with your kids can be terrible for both the kids and their parents. Children need their parents’ around to build the much-needed emotional anchor, value system and to understand that deep valuable bonds are built through unconditional love and consistent involvement in every stage of their life. This is perhaps going to be the foundation of all their future relationships. When parents do not spend time with their kids, they are pretty much left to their immature and naïve selves to navigate and figure out their moral values, find their emotional anchor that may or may not be good for them.

Also when you read the biographies or back-stories of extremely successful people, having a stable childhood with caring parents is so often a common thread running through them that it is probably not a coincidence.

On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is so important to make time to spend with your children?

It is probably as important for parents to spend time with their children. Child rearing is in a lot of ways similar to running a startup. It is exhausting in an exhilarating way. In the process of raising my daughter I have been able to understand myself better, learning about my own limitations, quirks and dimensions to my own abilities. Also, as we usually think of our kids as an extension of our own selves, it is perhaps our retake on reliving our lives and learning and doing much more than we ever got a chance to.

According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give a 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?

Spending quality time is definitely more important than the quantity of time. Being an entrepreneur has given me the much-needed flexibility which means that on most days we have all three meals together. Our chit chats during the meal time help me understand the mundane and the highlights in the life of my 5-year-old. Her accounts and anecdotes give me a peak into her mind and how she is dealing with the process of growing up. The other thing I ensure is to spend some time teaching to read, write and speak in our native language (Hindi) as she goes to an International School where it is not taught. We have had moderate success as she has made some progress there and I feel like I have passed on our cultural heritage to the next generation.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention?

Feeling rushed or not being able to be “fully present” is largely due to constant distractions. For me what works has been to a) keep the phone on silent for a large part of the day; and b) practicing meditation a couple of times a week. Meditation helps me reconnect with myself and helps me get that much needed balance in life. Keeping the phone on silent helps to concentrate better and get the job done. Having said so, by no means have I figured it all. It is a daily choice that one needs to make.

How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?

I think the definition of a good parent could vary depending on your who you are and where you come from. For me, my job as a parent is to ensure that I give my child the emotional anchor, teach her good habits and give her values that our parents gave us. For instance, we encourage efforts/attempts to say learning to cycle as we want her to value persistence. The outcome is glorious when you do not give up and keep trying.

How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?

To be honest, I have not really made an effort on that front. She is inherently quite a dreamer and is naïve enough (she is five!) to believe that she can be the best in every task she does! So our challenge as parents is to help manage her own expectations of herself. For instance, her teacher in school has said that academically she is ready for grade two but when it comes to swimming, she is a laggard in her class. Now this feedback really seems to bother her as one morning I found her praying to god to give her the superpower to be the best swimmer (Thank God, she says her prayers aloud)! So we turn to the wisdom of the ancients, particularly to Bhagawad Gita where it is said “Karmanye Vadhikaraste, Ma phaleshou kadachana” which means that you only have a right to perform your duty, but you are not entitled to the end result.

How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?

I wish I could confidently claim to be straddling the two worlds of career and family. It is a juggling act where some days I succeed and on other days fail miserably. It is impossible to keep everyone happy at all times and one just has to prioritize at that specific moment. “Success” by its very nature is relative and cannot be contained within absolutes. For me, it is knowing that at end of the day, I tried my best and those who matter know that.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?

My favorite resource for everything parenting related are a) my mom/mom-in-law and b) some of my older friends who have been through the same journey. Given that these ladies know us very well and understand me and my family well, their advice tends to be more personalized and relevant.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

One of the legendary Hindi poets, Harivansh Rai Bachchan, had once said “mann ka ho toh achchha, aur jo na ho toh aur achchha” which literally translates into “it is good if you get what you desire but even better if you do not get what you desire”. What you desire is bound by the limits of your own thoughts and imagination, whereas what you ultimately get might be far greater and more meaningful — much beyond you could have perceived for yourself.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Mahatma Gandhi had said that we should strive to be the change we want to see in the world. The world will truly be a better place if we treat people the way we want to be treated and hence become better versions of ourselves. The other movement that I would like to inspire, though it could potentially come back to bite our business, is to get more and more people to read and interpret data. Data and facts are all around us, but in spite of that the world is beset with fake news, an alternative version of reality and straw-man arguments. But like I said, that would probably shrink our addressable market for us since we really are the experts in gleaning insights out of data.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

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About the author:

Chaya Weiner is the Director of branding and photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator. TLI is a thought leadership program that helps leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field. Please click HERE to learn more about Thought Leader Incubator.




In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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