Slow Down to Do More: “There is a limit to what we can accomplish when staring at a screen”, with Jaspreet Singh, CEO of Druva
Don’t be afraid to disconnect. The idea that someone would step away from their computer, smartphone (or even smartwatch these days) is almost unfathomable. But there is a limit to what we can accomplish when staring at a screen. Whether it’s moving onto a new task to give your mind a break, or physically walking away to break up the day at your desk, even a 10 or 15 minute walk can do wonders for your psyche. When I am in the office, I make a point of scheduling at least one meeting a day as a walking meeting and those 30 minutes or so away from a screen is always helps me refocus when I sit down. I try to get out of the office regularly to visit with customers and partners to ensure I’m engaging in-person and getting feedback to keep our company thinking in new ways. That out of the office experience is critically important for all of us.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Founder and CEO, Jaspreet Singh. Jaspreet brings a combination of product vision and general manager experience that has allowed Druva to be one of the fastest-growing companies in the $28B data protection and management market. His entrepreneurial spirit enabled him to bootstrap Druva, which has now raised some $200M in venture funding and over 4000 customers worldwide. His market and technology insights have led him to create the first and only cloud native, SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) data protection and management company, delivering innovative technology solutions and distinctive consumption models that are disrupting the classic data protection market. Prior to starting Druva, Jaspreet held foundational roles at Veritas and Ensim Corp. Additionally, he holds multiple patents and has a B.S. in Computer Science from the Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati.
Thank you for joining us, Jaspreet! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?
I began my career as a software engineer for Ensim Corporate, before joining Veritas as a technical staff member. While my engineering career was on the rise at Veritas, I was passionate about exploring new ideas around backup and disaster recovery for mission-critical data. Recognizing this entrepreneurial spirit emerging, in 2008 I left Veritas at 26 years-old and bootstrapped what is now Druva alongside my co-founders. Angel funding and large early customers fueled our initial growth and revenue, leading to a 2010 investment from the venture capital fund Sequoia Capital. This made Druva one of the first India-based startups to receive Silicon Valley venture capital and brought myself (and the company) to the valley, where it has been headquartered since.
According to a 2006 Pew Research Report report, 26% of women and 21% of men feel that they are “always rushed”. Has it always been this way? Can you give a few reasons regarding what you think causes this prevalent feeling of being rushed?
While there has always been a sense of urgency in life, I think it has really come to a head in the last decade or so. I think the rise of technology like smartphones and social platforms, where things change every minute, has created a world that suffers from an inability to focus on a single task or idea for any extended length of time. Instead, we now have an “always on” culture, which in turn breeds the idea you should always be occupied — responding to emails, getting ahead, going faster or just working, period.
Based on your experience or research can you explain why being rushed can harm our productivity, health, and happiness?
Regardless of what some may say, humans are not good multitaskers, and trying to juggle so much in your personal life or at work inevitably ends poorly. Details are missed, quality is poor, or individuals simply burn out. This approach removes the feeling of accomplishment achieved when a project is completed in full. Instead, it’s easy to become a box checker and focus on moving on to the next task. I want people who are passionate and driven for excellence, but as a leader you need to give your team room and opportunity to focus on delivering their best work.
On the flip side, can you give examples of how we can do more, and how our lives would improve if we could slow down?
Just think, whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed by a situation, what is the best response? To remove yourself from the situation, get some air, take a deep breath, sit down and clear your head — whatever that means for you. I love to read to take my mind off things for a while. Slow everything down for a minute to make sense of what is going on.
In the office, slowing down means being able to focus more completely on a few key assignments and ensure each is done well, creating that feeling of satisfaction and achievement we all want.
The same can be said in personal lives outside the office. Committing to a singular task and staying within the moment is when we have the most satisfying experience.
We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed. Can you share with our readers 6 strategies that you use to “slow down to do more”? Can you please give a story or example for each?
- Set your own schedule. Like many, I wake up with an inbox full of emails. It’s easy to spend hours, or even an entire workday simply responding to emails. Personally, I check email each morning before 9AM, during lunch time for one hour, and then responds to any remaining requests after 6PM. The hours in between are devoted to developing my team, or projects I deem critical for that day, whether it is supporting product development, focusing on building customer relationships or enabling the salesforce.
- Don’t be afraid to disconnect. The idea that someone would step away from their computer, smartphone (or even smartwatch these days) is almost unfathomable. But there is a limit to what we can accomplish when staring at a screen. Whether it’s moving onto a new task to give your mind a break, or physically walking away to break up the day at your desk, even a 10 or 15 minute walk can do wonders for your psyche. When I am in the office, I make a point of scheduling at least one meeting a day as a walking meeting and those 30 minutes or so away from a screen is always helps me refocus when I sit down. I try to get out of the office regularly to visit with customers and partners to ensure I’m engaging in-person and getting feedback to keep our company thinking in new ways. That out of the office experience is critically important for all of us.
- Surround yourself with people smarter than you and empower them. Individuals will always look to an organization’s leaders for answers and guidance, but a top down strategy stifles the innovation you are trying to foster, not to mention the bottlenecks it creates. I try to champion an approach of “letting go,” and push my team to be the decision makers as much as possible. I opt for bringing people to Druva who are excelling in their field and watch how they can push our organization towards greater innovation.
- Pick one thing to focus on each day. No one can solve everything in a day. Making a ‘to do’ list can be helpful, but I caution not to have your days dictated by it. A list can create a feeling of being overwhelmed or minimize the impact of some projects over others.
- Listen to others. It sounds simple enough, but given the pace of business, I’m not sure it happens as much as it should these days. As I said earlier, we are not good multitaskers, and active listening requires putting down the phone and laptop. Instead of trying to send a dozen emails while in a 30 minute meeting, commit to supporting the group you are with at that moment.
How do you define “mindfulness”? Can you give an example or story?
I think of mindfulness as trying to keep yourself in the moment at hand, and not getting too far ahead of yourself, for better or for worse. As an entrepreneur it’s very easy to run one, two or even five years down the road and try to see what’s next. When we first started Druva, it was easy to second guess the decisions that had been made and what it might lead to, but as a team, we worked hard to stay in the present. We had to understand that the future is uncertain, but we can control what we do today.
Can you give examples of how people can integrate mindfulness into their everyday lives?
Mindfulness is so tough to find these days with all of the distractions and stressors we experience daily. I think one of the best ways is to honestly put our devices down and take in the world around you. We bury ourselves in technology, but taking the screen away from your eyes and looking at what is going on around you is one of the most powerful ways to bring yourself into the moment and help prioritize what’s most important.
Do you have any mindfulness tools that you find most helpful at work?
In moments of high pressure, I remind myself to look around the office. The company is filled with incredibly smart and motivated individuals that are all focusing on a singular goal of driving our company’s long term success. Spending a couple of minutes talking to them motivates and inspires me to continue to push this company to new heights.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to use mindfulness tools or practices?
One of the books I’m really enjoying right now is The Art of Thinking Clearly, by Rolf Dobelli. The ability to recognize our own biases, whether it’s the decision to spend more time on a task than necessary, or making decisions that in hindsight may have been unwise, is critical to being a leader, and being present. Staying in the moment, and trying to clear away those influences to make rational decisions is always easier said than done, but I find is an important piece of finding mindfulness.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Don’t walk as if you own the world, walk as if you don’t care who does.”
Self awareness is important, and the understanding that you, or anyone else for that matter, is not in control of everything. But, it is important to have confidence, and to not be scared by a challenge laid in front of you. That’s what should excite you and drive you.
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.
Personally, I believe the only way to solve inequality is through access to education, and my wife and I try to support organizations focused on expanding educational opportunities to all children and young adults. Education is foundational to improving communities, societies, and countries at large. Those with good education often go on to lead successful careers, contribute to the local economy, support their community, and lift up the next generation of young people to be successful, creating a continuous, positive feedback loop. If I could inspire a movement, it would be around the idea of improving education on a global scale — overhauling the system, supporting teachers which are so critical in this process, and creating equal access to education. With the technology we now have available, I certainly think this is within our reach.
Thank you for all of these great insights!