I worked for Rajiv for two years, from 2017 to 2019 at The Wall Street Journal, where he held the role of CTO and CPO.
Before he arrived, I held a position of leading digital product, and we had been going through a tough period of transition. I had gotten to the point within product where I wanted a new and exciting challenge, and in my desire to learn, I was interviewing for a new opportunity. I was offered a plum opportunity, with a higher title and a broader scope. I was very close to taking it — and then I got to know Rajiv. Rajiv is unlike any other leader I have worked for….
He treated me like an equal, and reminded me frequently of how much he was also learning from me. He used to tell me that he could have ended up working for me just as easily as me for him. He would go out of his way to ask about product and my process, and with every probing question I felt he made me a bit better at my craft. He would suggest countless books and way of thinking, and initiated interesting dialogues with the team around themes like empathy in product development, and the selflessness in leadership. He led by example in that we are all students in our careers and to stop learning is to stagnate – the worst possible fate. He relished in vigorous debate, giving us the gift of critical thinking when it came to coming up with the best solution for the problem at hand, whether it be the right authoring tool approach for our newsroom; how to handle successful authentication and access, or how to best handle personalization in our iOS app.
Inevitably those navigating the trio: the tough terrain of product, engineering and design, tend to favor one above the others, leading to a rather lopsided org from a focus and process perspective. Rajiv conceded that engineering was his background, but his curiosity for design and product had him engaged and collaborating, and amazingly all three legs of the stool were on equal footing. Together we drafted a vision for what Product, Design and Engineering should look like as a single organization, replete with values, roadmaps, and process drill-downs. What was even better was we socialized it and brought it into practice. He also brought solid talent into the team, recruiting from Apple, NY Times and Scripps, serving as a strong indication to all of us that Rajiv is someone people follow.
Product had so long worked through KPIs, but they never got the traction they deserved. Enter OKRs, a critical underpinning to our PDE story. Rajiv introduced them to me, and really brought them to life. It was a way to tell a story, backed with a mission and attach quantifiable results. One of the most wonderful things about Rajiv is he actually let me run with the idea. He allowed it to be mine, where others might have been slightly more territorial. He supported me and gave me air cover as I championed them tirelessly across the organization. Rajiv is an incredible boss. Remarkably because of our work, OKRs were adopted company-wide at Dow Jones across the B2C and B2B businesses. And this was not without tough times, and myriad questions about them. Rajiv encouraged flexibility around how we presented them, and helped me understand the value of really “understanding the API” of the person across from you. He would always tell me that you must understand your audience when making any argument. He countless times helped me do just that, which is a great part of the reason we had so much success in his tenure here. What Rajiv was really doing with OKRs was trying to tie all of our wonderful product work back to the bottom line, and with that giving it greater more far-reaching relevance.
Rajiv also has a remarkable ability to galvanize a team, to instill a sense of pride in their work. I watched as he regularly would check in with team members to hear about their projects, and he would encourage them to publish post about their work for external review. One woman who was quite shy felt some of that encouragement and actually authored a medium post about how OKRs work with engineers in the mobile team. This was all with Rajiv’s cheerleading all the way — it was magical to watch her gain such a sense of confidence. He also encouraged us to publish a newsletter about all of work great product development work we were doing for WSJ. The final product was slick, well-written and broadly consumed. It really helped raise the profile of our team, well beyond order takers and into the zone of being innovators.
Lastly, Rajiv is one of the most fun and kind people I have ever worked with. He is always respectful, and thoughtful — caring about his employees, and passionate about their bringing their full selves to work. In this way he models the kind of environment he wants to create and shape. Disagreements between people would fall away with Rajiv, and he would refocus us on the job to be done, and on the importance of mutual respect.
I hope I would work with Rajiv again, and if you get the chance to work with him…jump at it.
As Senior Vice President of Product at The Wall Street Journal, Katharine reported to Rajiv.