Dec. 8, 2022

EP41 - Be Reckless and Break Things in Your First 90 Days with Shilpa Arora

EP41 - Be Reckless and Break Things in Your First 90 Days with Shilpa Arora

It takes a strong leader to be vulnerable and ask their teams, "can we do it this way?" and if it doesn't work, admit that it's okay. It takes an even stronger leader to speak with all new hires as they come on board, empowering and encouraging them to be reckless. Imagine starting a new job and having you leader tell you to use your first 90 days to try and do things your way, and to break and change things as you see opportunity, without fear of repercussion.  That's the kind of leader that Shilpa Arora is, and DoorDash is benefitting from her leadership. As Shilpa states, "I think that's where a lot of the energy comes from, and that's where a lot of the will to do something different and think about something from a fresh perspective comes from, and it leads to better debates, better discussions, and better outcomes".

Shilpa Arora is the General Manager of DoorDash Canada, responsible for overseeing overall business strategy, operations and growth. With an international career spanning almost two decades and several industries, Shilpa has held leadership roles across financial advisory, mergers & acquisitions, corporate strategy and innovation as well as digital transformation. Before joining DoorDash, Shilpa led CIBC’s personal banking and client connectivity strategy and operations. Most recently, she was Senior Director of Transformation at CIBC, responsible for the bank’s digital enablement and business optimization initiatives. Shilpa is a trained architect, holds an MBA from Indian School of Business and is a certified business valuator (CBV). As a female leader in technology, Shilpa is an avid advocate for diversity and inclusion and
intersectional representation in the workplace and is passionate about mentoring emerging women leaders and mentors newcomers and early-career women.

Transcript

Corby Fine:

So with me today is Shilpa Aurora, who is currently the, the general manager of DoorDash Canada. I had the pleasure of working with Shilpa before, and you know, in her current role, I'm quite impressed with what she's doing, overseeing all business strategy operations and growth for the Canadian division of DoorDash. I'm sure we've all on this podcast used it. I used it. Covid changed my behavior. I'm sure as, as well as many of you. I. An international career surprisingly spending almost two decades. Across different industries and verticals. Leadership roles in financial advisory, mergers and acquisitions, corporate strategy. I had the experience of working with her in innovation capacity As she was heading up digital transformation as a senior director a trained architect. We're gonna have to dig into that a little bit with an mba and a certified business evaluator. So structure. Value. You can tell me what my health is worth by actually looking at the blueprints. There's like a whole, there's a whole thing here. A female leader in technology, Shilpa is an avid advocate for diversity inclusion in, in her workspace in the industry, mentoring emerging leaders. I've seen her presented conferences. You do not want to miss her. Next one. So we're gonna get a plugin for what that next next speech is, Choppa. Welcome to the podcast.

Shilpa Arora:

Thanks Corby. So, so glad to be here and thanks for having me. You said a lot of nice things there, so thank you also for those I do have about 18 years of work, so sometimes it's surprising to me and that it's coming up to two decades, but like you pointed out, it's been a very different meandering path that got me to where I'm at today. And so that. Being a trained architect, that includes a c b, that includes the mba. And I think that's why the two decades feel not like two decades, cuz I always feel like it's day one in my

Corby Fine:

Yeah, that's a, that's a good philosophy to go on and, and. Your career has led you to where you are today, which is at DoorDash. Maybe talk a little bit about what your role is within the Canadian enterprise for DoorDash and for those that aren't as familiar. A little bit about DoorDash as it compares to maybe other delivery organizations in the space.

Shilpa Arora:

For sure. So I think the way I define my current role at DoorDash as the general manager for the Canadian operations is the in-house janor. My role is to connect pipes, keep them clean, make sure everyone's unblocked in order to do what they do in the right way and with speed and agility. But more seriously, I think you know, obviously my goal is the entire p and l health. Which means keep growing the top line efficiently while managing the bottom line. How we do this at DoorDash is we started out as obviously a food delivery business in Canada. So we were operating in a bunch of markets delivering food from your favorite restaurants to you. And charging you a fee for it. Now we've grown the business beyond just restaurants. We've, recently announced partnerships with grocery and convenience stores. Most recently with Loblaw. We've got dollar amount on our platform. We've got multiple other convenience providers on our platform. So it's it's way beyond sort of the what do you want for dinner right now. And today actually we announced our partnership with Sephora. So getting your beauty and indulgence needs as well. Small plug there. In addition to that, I think the, the philosophy of why Doordash exists in the first place and started in the US was how do we solve problems with the merchants? It started with one store trying to, you know, keep up with the demand. And these three or four aspirins sort of walked up and said, What can we do with this problem? How do we solve this? And I think we've stayed true to that philosophy, which is a big differentiator for do ash across geos and especially in Canada, where we're like, okay, what? What do our merchant partners need to grow the business and to serve our collective? So what? What do we do there? So we started this white label product called Drive, where we said, Okay, you don't wanna be on a platform or, or marketplace, but you do need a fleet to develop your e-com business. So how do we help you with that? So there's a lot of deliveries today, like if you order walmart.ca or if you order Home Depot there's a pretty good chance that there's a dasher delivering that order. Even though you don't see it on our app. And then there's other things like storefront, et cetera, where we're like, Okay, you don't know anything about E-com, Let us help you, let us build the interface for you. Let us create the fleet for you, and then see where it goes.

Corby Fine:

Yeah. Well first I'm gonna say as. In our preamble of starting the recording, we're talking about you put things out in the universe and they come true. I actually always use the term janitor as well, but more in the context of you can call me the janitor as long as you pay me the salary that I want. So more from a titling, but I completely understand as a leader, your job is to. Really remove roadblocks or as you say, clean the pipes and make sure that things can essentially get done. So that's, that's very aligned. And the Sephora I, I had no idea. So congratulations on that. I actually just saw a, a meme on Instagram and I think it was a picture of a shocked man as he was shopping for his wife at Sephora. And it was just a really kind of comical face that he was making of like overwhelming craziness of walking into a store where he would have no idea about anything. But now he. Use you guys to deliver it. So I think everybody wins.

Shilpa Arora:

Absolutely filter it with The product filters browse to the experience. And honestly, like, you know, we're, we're learning how to do this and so I always say like, it's day zero. It's always a beta product. We're always trying to make it better. So now that you know about it, Corby, go shop and

Corby Fine:

Well, you said make it better, and I. That's really the new theme of what I've been trying to do since relaunching the podcast. And so I actually think I'm gonna reverse order on how I generally go with this, because what you just described in the evolution of DoorDash, thinking about a business that was working no major problems. I mean, you've got -competitive sets, you've got pricing, challenges, et cetera, but so does every business. But you still found a way to innovate and expand and as you talked. taking a single function business platform to a more white labeled enabled fleet capability to a software platform, to a multi-brand, multi-business, multi vertical delivery capability. When you think about that and maybe think about other areas of your career different organizations, different times, how do you actually keep your team motivated to say, You know what, even though things are actually going. We still want to carve off time, effort, focus, and energy to still iterate and try and find things to make better. How do you manage that? Because often organizations are like, Why would I invest in something that's working? I should go fix the stuff that's busted.

Shilpa Arora:

Yeah, great question. I think like all of us, I pride myself. Being green on the goals, right? It's the things are going well, I'm hitting the targets, like, great, let's, let's go out. But there's always this hunger to go dark green, and I've seen that, more in places like DoorDash than some of the other more established industries or organizations. And that's really telling of a little bit of the culture of how things operate. So how do you get dark green is only when things are going. Right. This is exactly the time when you find those opportunities because you aren't fighting a war. You aren't scrambling to fix something or get the red to the greens, and so on. So I think, you know, if I look back, my last two jobs, including DoorDash, have been very local market based businesses that were doing well. And I pushed around to see if there's, you know, any reorganization that we can do in our thinking, whether it's around capabilities or functions, and see even better results, right? So for example, when I joined DoorDash, there was this theme around, We operate in this X market. Ontario is a great market to focus on dance population, et cetera. Let's go win this one. Let's go all the things that will help us go win Ontario. And then we did meet the targets that we wanted to meet. And then I was like, now if we kind of reorganize our thinking instead of going and what's the next market to go win? Can we, can we look at it as, can we win one part of our flywheel? Every. And reorganize our thinking that way. And I think that allows us to become more creative and, you know, think about things like, does that mean now, if merchant ops is that chosen function, does that now mean that I need to go solve for a white label fleet, or I need to go solve for a better POS integration product, or I need to go, you know, do something else like, I don't know, help them in hiring, which we did over Covid or like. Better plastic containers or something else. Right? And really take a functional lens that helps us innovate. the other thing you know, it, it's very important you mentioned this around motivating the teams and understanding how people operate in that environment. The green environment, so to speak. I think it is to create the psychological safety for teams, right? We look for pulse checks and surveys and stuff for things like that, but I think that the will and hunger to go dark green is a good indicator for me on how psychologically safe the teams feel. In taking risks and bringing ideas and being okay with failure. And I think the way I've done that in the past is leading by example and being vulnerable and saying, Can we do it this way? What happens? And if it doesn't work, that's okay. Cause we were green, were fine. And one of the things, words that I use most frequently when new hires come on board is I'd love if you could be reckless use your first 90 days to try and do things and break things and change things and do all of that. And I think that's where a lot of the energy comes from. And that's where a lot of the frankly, you -know, the will to do something different and think about something from a fresh perspective comes from and leads to, better debates, better discussions, and better.

Corby Fine:

So admittedly, not every organization. Guts to allow their leaders to tell every new employee on day one. I'd love you to be reckless. I think I might have maybe done that a few times and gotten my hand slapped for it, but that's another conversation. do you think that that psychological safety net that you describe. Is actually enough to really get people motivated to do that, to be reckless, to challenge, to find ways to innovate? Or do you think you need to get down to brass tacks and actually start to play with compensation models and incentivization? You know, can you do it with psychological safety? Can people really feel it or did they need to feel it in their.

Shilpa Arora:

It does vary by role, right? So if I go, I need to do something reckless, and I might get slapped on the wrist too. But but if I ask the sales teams to go do something reckless, their compensation structure today lends a conversation about how am I gonna get compensated for it if. Provide the safety for someone who's in strategy or ops or, you know, doing some grassroot operating tactical in the trenches work there, it is enough to provide the energy. It is enough to provide the will to see the green turn, dog green, which then in turn, raises everyone's rewards at the end of the So it definitely varies, but I think in the work that I've seen most closely, there's some frontline. Capacity that you have to manage slightly differently, but the psychological piece I think just permeates to everybody.

Corby Fine:

I think culturally being in an environment that somehow rewards, and it doesn't necessarily need to be monetary compensation, but pat's on the back. the Friday afternoon notes that just highlight the accomplishments of the week and even if the accomplishments were learning the things that we shouldn't do again, that in and of itself is an accomplishment. And, and so then maybe flip back to the other question, which normally I ask first, which is, you've walked into a bunch of different industries in organizations over 18 ish years. There's obviously things that when you either start or have been there a while, you identify. Challenging, problematic, Maybe not as efficient as they could be. do you, when you look back, think about any of those situations where you really identified something that wasn't, wasn't humming, wasn't according to you, at least as good as it can be, a product, a, a process, something in the structure, and how did you address getting the buy-in to make that change and really get people to focus?

Shilpa Arora:

Yeah. Another great question, Corby. I like to believe that. Usually brought in to spark change. So that's kind of my job description. But I think of a couple examples. That stand out? I think the, the one is I've spent a lot of time in internal strategy teams, so whether that's COR strategy corp dev some bd and then strategy liaison and, for example, at C I B C transformation, so the think of that as a more internal consultant. Type role in a lot of places, and usually I noticed that when we tended to get busy was when either the core day-to-day ops teams didn't have the bandwidth to do something, or it was an completely net new to the run rate situation where it was an inorganic. You know, partnership or merger or acquisition or something, or it was some sort of a, Hey, we don't even know how to begin here. We don't know who the rightful owner is, so like this team needs to go run with it. And I thought that that was a gap, right? Just structurally on what the team of generalists that this strategy team tends to be, was utilized for, was a gap. And so one of the things that I started to do at both C I B C and Loblaw. That, how do we get people on this team start to get more engaged with the operating team? And so what that was, you know, when you participate in the execution and operationalizing of your ideas along with the day to day teams, that gives you a granular and trench level empathy and appreciation for how things work. And that in turn, actually makes you better at shaping the 10,000 and the 50,000 foot level big picture thinking. So, you know, the appreciation. The, you know, omnichannel strategy or the, the call center ops or the frontline partnerships on the personal banking side lent itself to a more crisp direct banking strategy when I got there. so I think that's the kind of thought process and structural understanding that I was able to bring. The other thing is visibility. So, you know, this is an example from my time at Loblaw when There's a bunch of strategy teams across the different business verticals and functional and shared services, et cetera. And from, from my c that corporate strategy, I worked with every single one of them, but I started to notice gaps in the appreciation for each other's work in that group. And so I created a forum. Which was kind of like a roadshow of everybody. You know, talk to each other about what you do. Make your presence felt, make your work showcased, celebrate the wins and share and learn from each others in terms of best practices, whether it's people, whether it's. Projects or whatever it is, or technology. And that becomes apparent when organizations gain scale and it's important to create more and bigger bridges across these important teams. And so I think those are the two things that I've stayed consistent with in managing everywhere I went, because I feel like, you know, there's, there's data that we can make data driven decisions from, and data always wins arguments as they say. But if there's likable. Correlation of data that leads to business collaboration and less arguments and makes the corporate strategy job easier. And in my janitor role, like that just makes the

Corby Fine:

It, it sounds so simple to conceive of engaging a strategy team in the day to day operations team, cuz quite often you, you do find, you go into a company and it's like, Oh, we have a Corp Strat team and they're gonna build a deck and tell you where we should go. And they have no concept. And it could be, you know, something as simple as everybody in an organization, whatever role, whatever level, whatever capacity should. a day or a week doing the in the shoes job, right? Work in every customer touch point, take calls, work at your retail branch or outlet, whatever that might be for your business. Get in a truck or a car, deliver for you whatever the business model is because until you've actually understood the interaction at the, at the last touch, I'm not really sure how you can effectively recommend massive change further up funnel. So it's a great point.

Shilpa Arora:

Yeah, I, I can't take credit for this one, but DoorDash has this we dash. Program which I've talked about before, is every employee is respective of whatever team, whatever your title, you have to go and deliver. Like you have to dash multiple times a year. It's, it's like structural. It's part of your comp review and so I feel that that's just so simple and so important, right? And I've said this before, We're in the business of operations and so we cannot be, cannot not be in the operations

Corby Fine:

So what's the craziest thing you've ever had to dash?

Shilpa Arora:

Not crazy in terms of the items that I've had to bring, but there's been some experiences of, you know, dashing in a condo building and having to like literally jump through stuff to get through a door. And in the winter, like people, not everybody shovels on time. So it's a little bit of a, this is risking my life to get you your

Corby Fine:

So it gives you an appreciation for what really the employee base is having to do on a day to day basis.

Shilpa Arora:

A hundred percent. A hundred percent because I'm sitting over there going like this, the order should have been completed five minutes ago. What's taking so long? And when you actually do it, it's like, yeah, I was moving snow outta my way,

Corby Fine:

the extra pickles that always does it. You gotta wait for the extra pickles. So you talked about Sephora. We got a little bit of background on the evolution of the business to date. Congrats on, on that announcement. What's next? Like, what can you share in terms of where is. Where is DoorDash going? What's, you know, shareable from a roadmap to just get everybody excited about what's coming.

Shilpa Arora:

For sure. I mean, obviously you can't get into a lot of the details, but what I can say with a lot of confidence is that e-com is undeniably here to stay. We're, we're seeing that from the evolution coming out. Of the pandemic. I don't know. We've both been sick or we had sick kids for the last little while. So I don't know if this is too normal, but we're obviously different than we were you know, eight, 10 months ago in heavy restrictions and lockdowns and so on. So it's interesting to see that that demand, that the fit for this product has stayed and consumers are actually believing. And the convenience that we bring to them and continue to order more with us and continue to tell us what else they. And so I think for, for industries like ours, and especially for DoorDash, it is all about how we offer and continue to offer what the audiences need from us, right? It could mean more omnichannel offers with consumers. And one example is our partnership with Loblaw, where we have rapid, we have same day, we have within hours. So it's a little bit of how you want to interact. We have the ability to give you and what does that mean for other categories, right? Grocery inconvenience is one way to look at it. Now with Sephora, we'll have more learnings, and then we're also experimenting with other categories to help us learn more. And then there's this same thing for merchants and Dashs. Who are our dashers, understanding those audiences and then seeing how well we address their needs from us. Same thing for merchants. Like Drive is one example of, you know, a need based product development that happened at DoorDash. And we're working with other innovation pieces as well. And it's similar thought as the what is the macro environment telling us, and what is our audience telling us? So obviously affordability is a big theme, right. Getting folks back into the workforce and having the kitchen capacity raised for some merchants is a big theme. So how do you address that systematically versus a, you know, hacky bandaid project is, is the stuff that we're looking at. And then honestly, like innovation, never. For the industry either, right? If you go back and look at three years ago to where we're at now we like to call the pandemic our Chief Transformation Officer, but But there was a lot of, lot of transformation happening anyway, right? I talked about rapid delivery, but we actually also launched drone delivery. So the first drone delivery was made in Australia within 15 minutes. And it's actually a, a fun video. It's, it's all about delivering regimen and butter forrey. Really fun, fun to see how that operationalized. We're doing cross country deliveries. So if there's something that's famous about Chicago, you get that in California through DoorDash. We did a food truck partnership trying to help our merchant decide where to open their next location. We're doing ghost kitchens. But truly this is, this is at the beginning and I honestly feel that as we, you know, address the macro trends of trying to become a more. Business as an industry, frankly there's definitely hunger to keep innovating, so you'll

Corby Fine:

I think back to a conference, probably three or four. Right before the pandemic and I had an opportunity to see the CMO for I believe is the largest pizza chain in the world out of the US without naming names. And one of the things that he was presenting. They had innovated the delivery capability to the point where it didn't have to have a physical address. You could literally mark me where I am right now to get my pizza example. You're with your friends, you're hanging out playing football on the beach. There's no discernible address, but I want my pizza. Not a problem. We can find you. So I'm gonna challenge you. I want a drone to follow me with some Vegemite, and a sandwich for breakfast, and we're gonna run around the city of my car and see if that drone can find me. But I mean, you can just obviously think of all kinds of possibilities. So, Thank you for sharing. And it's really it's, it's an interesting roadmap and you know, I think as the in-house janitor for DoorDash I look forward to seeing how you help the organization innovate and succeed on those things. So thanks for sharing that. and you know, with that great learnings, Putting people in the shoes of all of the different customer touchpoints, you know, trying to create a psychological safety ecosystem to really get people to innovate and, and break things, be reckless uh, so happy you've landed in an organization that actually rewards and, and facilitates that kind of thought leadership. And, and so congratulations on that. And again Shilpa Aurora janitor for DoorDash Canada. Thank you so much for spending some time with me.

Shilpa Arora:

Thanks so much for having me, Corby.