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The Spark: Sailing into uncharted waters

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By: Milen Mahadevan, President
Subject Matter Expert

Welcome to The Spark, a leadership blog featuring ideas and perspectives from our business leaders.

84.51° embarked on a new fiscal year at the start of February. During our all-company strategy kickoff, we shared our key objectives for the year ahead. I recognize and appreciate the need for the entire team to understand our business goals, so that “all oars are rowing in the same direction.” But I also know the winds of business can change greatly over the course of 12 months. So I also encouraged our 1200+ team members to take a longitudinal view (much like our name alludes to) and navigate by fixed stars – and for us, that’s our values: limitless minds, fearless hearts and relentless delivery.

Here’s how I see those coming to life for our team in the year ahead.

We don’t just encourage the team to keep learning – we dedicate time to it. The second Friday of every month has a four-hour block carved out for deep work and skills development. Our L&D team has created an 84.51° Career Center to help them easily explore learning pathways. But not all learning is formal; we also encourage 84.51° associates to pick the brains of their colleagues, to benefit from the experience and expertise of the great minds they work alongside every day. And to keep our data and science skills sharp, we need to go beyond our walls – sites like https://singularityhub.com/ or https://techcrunch.com/ provide plenty of inspiration as we think about “what’s next” in making customers’ lives easier.

I also think it’s important to expand our minds beyond our area of business expertise. A great book can transport you to another world and expand your sense of possibilities. One recent recommendation of mine is Thistlefoot by GennaRose Nethercott.

The good news is our company has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years. The challenge inherent in that growth is bureaucracy and silos. We’re making a concerted effort to accelerate our decision-making speed, and we’re doing so by pushing those decisions down rather than up – to those who are closer to customers, closer the business needs, closer to what works and what doesn’t. A sense of urgency and empowerment is a powerful engine moving the entire business forward faster. To enable that, the other business leaders and I have to trust our teams to steer us on the right course.

I’ve been known to frequently say “what got us here won’t get us where we want to be.” We’re immensely proud of our customer-focused data science capabilities, but we know the winds of change can shift suddenly. I’ve encouraged “all hands-on deck” to challenge the status quo, and to look for ways (both big and small) to use tools and technology to make customers’ lives easier – and to make our colleagues’ lives easier as well. Change can be scary, but as author Andre Gide said, “Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”

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Milen Mahadevan, President
Subject Matter Expert
Milen Mahadevan was named president in July 2020 after serving as Chief Operating Officer of 84.51°. Mahadevan is responsible for the day-to-day leadership, management and vision for 84.51° to deliver best-in-class re...learn more

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