Women Of The C-Suite: Anita Tulsiani On The Five Things You Need To Succeed As A Senior Executive
An Interview With Candice Georgiadis
Try your best everyday — and have peace that you did your best. There is no point in beating yourself up for what you could have done or should have done.
As a part of our interview series called “Women Of The C-Suite”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Anita Tulsiani.
Anita Tulsiani is the Chief Marketing Officer for Carpe Data. She brings deep industry knowledge and strong business acumen in insurance, real estate, technology, and data and analytics. Tulsiani received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business and her master’s in business administration from St. Edward’s University. Tulsiani is married and is the mother of two young girls. She is also an avid foodie and lifelong Austin evangelist.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I am a first generation daughter of immigrant Indian parents who had strongly encouraged their children to maintain a high set of standards when it came to education as they believed that knowledge was power and could not be taken away. My parents wanted me to become a doctor, engineer or lawyer and IF I chose a business path instead, pursuing an accounting or finance role was “acceptable” to them. After a few classes in those disciplines, I knew it was not my passion and I quickly changed my major to marketing without telling my parents, and never looked back.
I spent the first half of my career in high-tech sales and marketing at Dell and AMD. In 2013, I took a leap and shifted industries to join CoreLogic, a real estate technology and analytics firm. I was excited about tackling a new challenge in the company’s strategic business unit, where it had plans to diversify from mortgage data and analytics to insurance data and analytics. Little did I know that that shift would turn into a lifelong love and curiosity for the insurance business.
It’s incredibly fitting that I wound up working in the real estate industry, because my father had a passion for real estate and all things property as I was growing up. This is what catapulted my career in real estate and insurance.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
My very first day at Carpe Data was the first day of Carpe Data’s customer event, Data In Paradise. Without skipping a beat, I met my fellow colleagues, customers and industry veterans and instead of feeling new for weeks, I felt like an established part of the team by the end of the first day. That is incredibly rare and I am grateful to have had this kind of jump start on my time at Carpe.
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Ok this one is ridiculous. When I was in sales, a very dear friend of mine and I had lunch almost everyday. Mostly he would drive because he loved driving in his very large all encompassing truck, and I did not want to drive because leaving meant that I would have to give up my very precious parking spot. One day while running late to a meeting, I jumped out of the aforementioned very large and tall truck, started to sprint to my meeting and tripped (or maybe even toppled) over a fire hydrant which I had not seen due to how tall this truck was. The node on the fire hydrant made an immediate imprint and bruise. To make matters worse, it was in front of a large series of office windows which was extremely embarrassing as I felt like everyone in the entire building saw. I sprinted to my meeting but carried that embarrassment with me. It was truly the silliest fall of all time.
I still think of it to this day, and the lesson it taught me is that no one is really watching all of your misfortune. We often experience embarrassment (or nervousness, anxiety, etc.), but we are all human and have silly and strange things happen to us all the time.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I have been fortunate enough to have had some great mentors, teachers and made some amazing friends throughout my professional career. I would say both of my parents shape where I am today.
I would attribute my success to my parents who made so many strides and sacrifices for my academic achievements and success. My parents met in Austin, Texas after immigrating to the bustling central Texas city from India for education in the early 70s. As a first-generation daughter to Indian parents, I was exposed to a strong work ethic by watching both of my parents work tirelessly to achieve the “American Dream.” It was my dad (who passed away when I was 24) who taught me my drive, my love for real estate, resilience, and how to have fun. He was always carrying a smile on his face no matter when things were good or bad. It is these experiences that shape who I am today. I have a drive and a quest for knowledge and a passion for the why and the details. This has given me the great professional fortune to do what I love. And for the cherry on top I get to market technology, business and property and maintain a curiosity for the ever-changing insurance landscape.
Leadership often entails making difficult decisions or hard choices between two apparently good paths. Can you share a story with us about a hard decision or choice you had to make as a leader?
At a certain point in your career your network of business relationships and friends grow immensely, especially if you have had a long tenure in a specific industry as I have. There are many stories along the way where I have been placed at the cross-roads of interesting predicaments and have been walking a tightrope.
One example is the case of the controversial hires. Years ago, there were two employees who had been hired into my company and placed on my team–one having been hired without going through the same stringent processes as the other. I was not sure I wanted to hire the employees because I knew it would likely upset the existing team dynamics and be seen as preferential treatment. But these new hires were seen as critical hires to the business, and I had to make the best decision for the business even though that meant upsetting the team dynamics. I won’t try to pretend that it was not difficult, scary and awkward on many levels. On top of this, one of the employees ended up causing a lot of organizational conflict and later on I had to have (many) difficult conversations with this person. I was worried that the information would go all the way back up to the CEO but still had to persevere for the overall team dynamics and health of the business.
At the end of the day, as a leader, you have to focus on doing your best, and reminding yourself that you were hired for a reason. Do the best that you can, and take decisions that you can stand behind. A former leader from my Dell days Thurmand Woodward asked us all to operate in a manner consistent with our core values, and as we grow our business, to operate as if your actions could be seen on a highway billboard. Only then will you know how to operate in a way that leads to doing the right thing.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
CMOs do the following: Be the leading evangelist for the company mission and create additive value to internal and external audiences.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive? Can you explain what you mean?
Myth #1: You cannot have it all.
I am blessed with an amazing career, beautiful family and a loving and supportive husband. Finding a foundation of support including friends, family and a company like Carpe Data that provides and supports the total human is possible. I don’t think of it as an ability or an inability to “have it all.” You have to work to adapt each day, week and month and calibrate to the total output versus a play by play.
Myth #2: Burnout is not a real issue.
No matter where you are in your career, given the state of the world, it is no wonder that many are struggling. I still look back at 2020, and am not sure how I survived managing a career, homeschooling and trying to maintain some level of sanity. I believe burnout is real. It’s okay to say it and it’s okay to ask for help managing it.
Myth 3: You have it all figured out.
As a functional leader, I have been brought in for my experience but it does not mean it’s all figured out. Marketing is a blend of art and science but then taking those experiences and navigating within the business, externally with customers, as well as other major stakeholders to formulate an opinion and a series of programs that are put to the test. Some tests will fail and as marketers, we will need to learn from that and dial up things that are working well, and kill the darlings that are not. As a marketing leader, “figuring it all out” doesn’t mean getting caught up in shiny vanity metrics that just show upward trends. You need to really hone in on key KPIs that tie to the business’ overall health.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
Some of the biggest challenges women face in the workplace, is underestimating the need to secure sponsorship, advocacy, followership and friendship. Men have had a long runway of being able to navigate a room of a similar kind for decades where maybe those terms were part of the culture, utilized, or just a given. For women, we face an added challenge of learning to not just be good at what we do….but to be good at how we do it. Some women can hold themselves to a set of standards and also measure themselves on how they make others feel. Because women like me care about the how, we often work to surround ourselves with a sounding board and that is why it’s important to strive for:
Sponsorship: Staying close to those who have helped you along the way and believed in you.
Advocacy: We must also take time to lift our heads up in order to help others be lifted. Make sure we take time to really appreciate those that support those in leadership roles. It is impossible to succeed without the help of others.
Followership: Create an organization where people desire to follow you. Rally people and inspire teams to align to the department and business mission.
Friendship: Finding someone in the organization who can be your sounding board, someone you can trust and has your back. Bonus if that can be a two-way street.
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
Coming into the job I knew I could make a difference using my key strengths, building a great foundation (technology, team, and transformation of our narrative). I expected my biggest concern would be to move quickly to shape my team–the first marketing leadership role for this company. However, the key difference is that instead of moving just quickly, I have the time to collaborate with our leadership, our customers and our employees to create a more thoughtful view of our value to the marketplace, which is giving me the space I need to build a successful department and message that will create real results.
Is everyone cut out to be an executive? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?
Getting to be an executive is an interesting path to navigate. On one hand you must excel at the function in which you have chosen. You must have a track record of producing and seeing results. On the other hand there is a bit of grit, savvy and grace that one must balance as you are ultimately responsible for key results. That means making tough business decisions that might not benefit everyone but with grace and humanity that helps even the skeptics align.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
It is not just how smart you are and how many A’s you get in school. One could say I had some diversity on my report card, but it was because I was busy honing my social and emotional learning!
Hire for diversity of thought — embrace diversity and how it is exponential — for yourself, for your team, for the company.
Never take your health for granted, NO MATTER WHAT and no excuses. At CoreLogic, our CEO died unexpectedly because of a health condition. I have also battled my own health challenges and now try hard every day to put my health first by starting the day off with fitness.
Work out 5 days a week, not for vanity but for total wellness. Getting to the top is stressful and full of sacrifices. Fitness provides so many benefits — time to think, endorphins, and longevity.
Try your best everyday — and have peace that you did your best. There is no point in beating yourself up for what you could have done or should have done.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
If I could inspire a corporate movement it would be for all businesses across the country to send employees on one universal day per quarter to ideate, innovate, think or give back on behalf of the business–collectively. Covid gave many the opportunity to work from home but for many that meant the creativity created by collaborating with others in person was lost. If we had a day to be together as a country–to unite those of similar professions across company and geographical lines, I think it would reduce the anger, hate and stress in the world. At the same time I do believe it would inspire creativity and ultimately drive indirect revenue for businesses. I got inspired by the American Express campaign, “Small Business Saturday,” which was a campaign to bring awareness to small businesses and is now a national holiday.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
For those that know me, they know I love pop-culture, and one of my favorite pop-culture interests is Mindy Kaling. I am an absolute fan of the famed TV show The Office, as it offered an opportunity to truly laugh out loud at all of the office dynamics that we often encounter in real life. But it was not until Mindy Kaling created the Netflix series Never Have I Ever, about an Indian American high school student, dealing with the death of her father and loosely based on Kaling’s own life growing up in Boston, that I really gravitated to Mindy Kaling. I often share with my friends that this story is a 100% carbon copy of my own life growing up in America. I love that Mindy Kaling has shined the light for South Asian representation in Hollywood and has been praised for breaking Asian stereotypes. One that she continues to infuse across all facets of life.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.