ICYMI: Meet Yamini Rangan, Chief Customer Officer at HubSpot
Welcome to In CASEYou Missed It, where I take a brief break from my Weekly Walks to get to know some of the most interesting and innovative personalities behind the greatest startups in the world.
This time I met up with Yamini Rangan, Chief Customer Officer at HubSpot, to talk about leadership, human connection and the perfect paella.
How do you explain what you do to parents, friends, kids and non-industry people?
I come from a family of a lot of doctors and very few tech people. The easiest way to explain what I do is to say, “I work in technology and I make our customers happy across all of the teams that we work in. I try to help our customers as well as our employees grow better.”
Doctors are trying to make their customers—their patients—happy, too, so they understand this explanation.
What’s the best part about your job?
Even though I’m in sales and customer-facing roles, I’m a pretty big introvert. And yet the part that I really like about my job is the one-on-one connection that I have with our customers, and the one-on-one or very small group connections that I have with our employees.
They fulfill me in very different ways. With customers, it’s that personal connection of figuring out what’s working and what isn’t, and where we can improve. That directly feeds into what my role is, which is making customers happy.
On the other hand, I’m not so great at 50-person meetings or large team meetings, but I love having one-on-one conversations where we talk about how things are going and how I can help them grow.
Every time our customers come back and say, “Hey, your team helped me”—that gets a big check mark for fulfillment. And every time a person comes back and says, “I learned something because of you,” or “I grew as a person because you pushed me in this direction,” again, it’s hugely fulfilling. I think that’s what I live to do.
If there were no internet, what would you be doing? Would you be a doctor?
No, I did not want to be a doctor. Because of my family of doctors, I decided early on that I had to do something else. When I was in seventh grade or eighth grade, I really wanted to become an architect. I liked the creativity of putting something completely on paper and then seeing it transform into a 3D space.
Last year, we remodeled a house and I played a little bit of architect for about six months. I thought a lot about how it could have been my profession.
If there were a movie about HubSpot, who would play you?
Salma Hayek. She has such a strong portrayal of anything that she picks up. And I just love her as an actress.
Do you have a favorite superhero?
Wonder Woman. The reason is that a lot of times female superheroes have 75% the power of a male superhero. And in the case of Wonder Woman, she can actually take anybody in terms of her strength. Marvel rates all of their superheroes on a scale of 50, 75, 100-plus, and she’s a hundred-plus woman.
Is there a tool you’ve discovered in the last year that has made things easier for you?
I’m a huge fan of Loom. Basically, you can record yourself and send a personalized message to anybody. What I’ve found is that during the pandemic, because we can’t have that human connection, I record myself on a five-minute Loom video and send it to the team, or to a member of the team or a customer. It’s super personalized.
I’ve also found that people do the same thing with me. When they’re trying to reach me, they’ll be like, “Hey, I’m going to record a 10-minute Loom video for you.” I love it.
How do you manage your inbox?
I’m an inbox zero person—I’ve been this way for more than a decade. In fact, I don’t feel like I can ever turn off for the day if there’s an email I haven’t responded to.
Here’s how I do it: I use priority inbox in Gmail, which helps me sort through the ones that are directly to me or direct group-related to me versus all of the broad emails. That’s like a sword.
But then even if I have two minutes between meetings, I’m constantly sorting through. The way I look at it is that I’ll either be able to get back to you in five seconds with a quick response like, “Yes, I got this,” or if it’s more complicated I’ll need to write back and say I need 24-48 hours to respond. This way I’m holding myself accountable in terms of when I respond to people. It’s worked really well. When I go to bed, I typically have zero inbox.
The only problem is that when I go on vacation, it’s really hard to maintain this. So I give myself a little bit of space when I come back from vacation to just reset.
What’s your typical morning routine?
Before Covid, I’d wake up at 5am to make it to a 5:45am Orangetheory class three or four days a week. I’d be back home by 7am, and then I’d start the day by reading email.
Now, I still wake up pretty early—usually around 5 or 5:30am. But instead of going to Orangetheory, my husband and I take a four- or five-mile walk.
My morning routine always starts with taking care of myself, either through walking or yoga, and then jumping into work. I feel my cortisol levels going up if I start my day with email—or, worse, with checking social media. I’m just not ready to take on the world at 5am.
Yamini’s calm spot
What are the most important qualities of a leader?
The first one is integrity. What I say is who I am. No question, right? I want everybody on the team, and anybody who works with me and interacts with me, to know that if I say I’m going to get back to them in 24 hours, that’s my word and that’s who I am. So integrity is really important.
The second one is authenticity. Being authentic as a leader is just exceptionally important. Especially as a female leader in a somewhat male-intensive industry, at least for the last 20 years. In sales, I’ve got to be who I am, and I have to claim my natural spot there—I don’t need to try and be someone that I’m not.
I’m not going to watch football if I don’t care about it, or learn to play golf because everybody does it. I just have to be really comfortable in terms of who I am and make decisions based on who I am.
The third one is the ability to inspire others to do their best. A lot of times we’ll run into “this could have been better” and “that could have been better.” The way I see my role as a leader is to be an agent of change—to be able to create change and inspire others to bring their best every day.
What are your favorite podcasts?
The list is very long. The one that I will always go back to, which is on a loop for me, is TED. I like to go through the top trending episodes when I’m walking or working out. Sometimes it’s a topic that I’m passionate about and I know about, and sometimes it’s a topic that I didn’t expect but I learned so much about.
Did you have a favorite book when you were growing up?
I used to read Nancy Drew—every single one of them. I loved figuring out patterns and what that mystery was, and trying to solve it before the end. I love that pattern recognition. In fact, that’s what I enjoy in my job. It’s a lot about pattern recognition. So I just imagine myself to be in that mystery solving, figuring out things mode, and I get really excited about it.
Do you have a favorite song that gets you pumped up or puts you in a good mood?
My sons have taken over our airwaves at home and in the car. They’re like, “Mom, give me your phone. We’re going to play the music.” They’re 13 and 11.
So, my tastes have kind of merged with my kids’ tastes—they introduced me to Imagine Dragons. My go-to track is probably “Natural” or “Thunder” by Imagine Dragons as a result.
What’s the best thing you’ve done with your family since the pandemic hit?
I’m proud to say that we’ve perfected our paella. I’ve always been intimidated about cooking paella—it seemed like something only restaurants could do. We have a favorite Spanish restaurant that we used to go to almost every other week for paella, but of course we were no longer able to go there because of quarantining.
My son, who loves Spanish food, told me he missed the paella, so I decided to order a paella pan and give it a try. Over the last four months, we’ve probably made it eight times or so. It gets better every time.
Restaurant-worthy paella cooked by Chef Yamini
If you could invite anyone over for dinner, who would it be?
Michelle Obama. I’ve always admired her. I would have a ton of questions for her—it’d be a long dinner. And maybe I’d serve her paella.
What’s something you’ve learned this year that you think everybody should know?
What’s been incredible is having conversations with people in their homes over Zoom. Human connection is so important.
As I’m talking to you, I know that you’re in Cape Cod and I can see the cat running around behind you and hear the dog barking—it’s a real, human connection. The same thing has happened with so many teammates and customers I meet with.
When we were all back at the office, we knew that people have their other side, their personal side, their life where the job fits in—not vice-versa. But the last several months have made it super visceral to actually see people in their natural places of habitation, see what the rest of their life actually looks like, and have real empathy towards how we’re making this work as a team.
As we continue to go forward, I hope we don’t lose that human aspect of how life has turned out to be in 2020.
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