(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)
I recently met with Dolly Singh, CEO and founder of Thesis Couture, which specializes in creating a high heel with a structure that’s both fashion-forward and foot-friendly.
What makes you do what you do?
I view technology as a worthwhile field. It can make better world. We can change and adapt the world through technology to suit our new needs. I love being able to solve other people’s problems and problems of my own.
Growing up in California in the computer revolution of the 1990s really impacted me. I see Science and Technology as setting a foundation for others to build on. It is like a wall that allows others to climb higher and higher. Engineers make remarkable things in human history. Some have made an impact 15 years later and it is wonderful to see belief come to fruition and impact the world.
Again it is like an intellectual foundation where we can build on one another’s knowledge.When I graduated, I joined Oculus VR and SpaceX in recruiting in aerospace and technology sectors. Astrology was also an interest and fascination of mine but I didn’t make it my profession.
How did you rise in the industry you are in?
True passion is important. I am sure I have Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and add in Obsessive Compulsive Disorder for good measure. I am the type that pours heart and soul into the things and harder on myself than any other needs to be. I learnt to surround with smart people and not be afraid to ask for help. I am also not afraid to say I don’t know.
Why did you take on this role/start this startup?
We solve our own personal frustrations. I like high heels a lot. High heel shoes bring me joy. Shoes were my hobby just like for others its collecting snow globes or appreciating a fine wine. Knowing heels hurt as we get older, prompted me to make it better. It was giving me the opportunity to do shoes better. It is a huge 40 billion dollar industry with no innovation in last 100 years. It is also a very loyal market. So it is definitely something any innovator could find a worthy cause. Something I can be passionate about and be doing for the next 10 to 15 years. If the end goal is just making money, then it wont change the industry. It has to be noteworthy. Thesis Couture is.
Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work
I never had a formal mentor. I do however choose conscious towork with smart people. In the first companies, I worked at the people were smarter than me. I don’t want to be a big fish in small pond. I keep choosing big companies where people there could help me be better. From these colleagues, I had deeper thinking. new skill sets. While most people want a paycheck. That’s merely one piece of the equation. For me money is the least important return. For me the most important is who I work with and what they will teach me. In that way, my employment is always a mentorship.
Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?
I hire people who demonstrated the DNA of achievement and are hard on themselves. You cant in startup stage to develop. They have to be super proactive from the time they start and hit the ground running. They all wear different hats and need to multi-task. The right talent really depends at which stage you are at as a business.
I believe inclusion and diverse of thought for creating a strong group. Different strengths and weakness help build robust groups across the business.
As a leader of a startup, your first test is can you convince other people to go with you. The most important element is to create enough of a vision and mission that people are willing to work for free. If the opportunity is not big enough to convince people to work for free, then you may have to question your product. If you can get more team members where for them money doesn’t matter, even better. Members who have already made their money and now want to be part of your mission. This is where money is not the decision maker.
Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?
Yes. We live and breathe diversity. Our team the first 5 members are women. It is a women’s product so women are better suited to understand our customer. We don’t think of diversity in terms of ethnicity and gender. Rather more like diversity of experiences and thought. So our team is diverse in expertise and experience for the good of our product.
What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?
A great leader in any space, builds a great team, has a great vision and works really really hard. This is is a skill for any great entrepreneur. How you build a team facilitates the kind of ideas they will create. Will they reinvent a bridge? If they are all previous engineers with bridge building experience they bring that. If they are all from different disciplines, they see things differently. Evolutionary vs revolutionary improvements.
A great leader forces the team to work with people different from themselves. This gets new blood and ideas pumping.
Advice for others?
Keep at it. Consistency is key and the true defining factor.
For more information about Thesis Couture, please see http://thesiscouture.com/.
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