Anju Ahuja - Astute and Audacious

What are your “and” words and why? Astute and Audacious. These are words that people on my teams have used to describe me. Personally, they have meaning for me in that audacity is daring to pursue a vision that at times may feel akin to intuition as a product leader, while being astute in the execution of developing innovative new products and the leadership of teams is ultimately what’s required for success. There’s no map out there to new markets or amazing new products. Great success requires audacious moves tempered by wisdom and operational discipline.

What you are known for saying / a quote from you. What does this quote mean to you, (or if it’s from someone else, why does it inspire you)? Well, I’ve got a lot of Anjuisms. I’m always impressed when someone uses one on me! Lately, I say a lot of “I hear ‘no way’ as ‘somehow’ with a big fat ‘why’ attached.” I say this (and have for years) to colleagues who might find a particular challenge or product opportunity daunting or seemingly impossible. In my experience across dozens of growth-stage companies, if a need exists in the market, a solution will get created to satisfy it. Once the need has been validated, it’s critical to psychologically focus the team on how they will go about manifesting success and not whether success may or may not be probable. Coupling this notion of “somehow” with the mission behind the “why” is a creative intoxicant that I find liberates product managers and engineers from fear.

Which other Ladybadasses inspire you and why? I’m particularly inspired by many women in social justice, because their drivers are often deeply compelling, and I believe they never lose sight of what matters: people and progress. When it comes to people and progress, I would have to highlight our past and present female Associate Justices of the Supreme Court as well as admirable women like Malala Yousafzai, for bringing everyday justice to life.

When did you first realize that you had some Ladybadassery in you? I knew I was in possession of serious badassery in high school. Anything that struck me as problematic was a target for fixing. I was known for bold editorials that often called convention into question. And I was a maker. I designed a lot of my wardrobe, because I didn’t like feeling or dressing “off the shelf.” I still don’t. Over the last twenty years, I’ve designed more couture and fine jewelry than I can count. I’ve enjoyed collaborating with artists in both fields, and expressing myself through these creative ventures makes me more innovative in product and also better at forecasting trends; although media and tech might appear removed from fashion, they all boil down to inspiring and empowering people.

What keeps you motivated on days when you aren't quite feeling like a Ladybadass? I can honestly say that lacking motivation is not an Anju problem. I’m naturally a very high velocity person. If I’m not feeling my creativity rising, I listen to jazz. If I’m worn down, I work out hard or dance til I drop, and then allow myself to sleep for ten hours straight. It’s my favorite binge-purge reboot!

What is your advice to other women who are trying to tap into their Ladybadassery? I’m not a fan of cookie cutter advice, but I believe life and work have to be about things bigger than you, if you want to grow with both, too.

Anju is a Media Technology Innovation Executive.