Principal Karthik has always relished in research and innovation, but it wasn’t until 2010 that he truly figured out how to channel that passion. After earning his PhD in industrial engineering, Karthik went on to accept a research role in operations and supply chain management at the IBM Watson lab in New York. After four years and multiple patents, he acquired a breadth of new knowledge—and a growing desire to do more. In his head, Karthik kept replaying the words of his Purdue advisor: “Your research is great, but who is going to use it?”
“At IBM, my projects were all applications-oriented,” Karthik explained. “As I did those projects, the urge to see the influence my research had on implementation and, ultimately, change only increased more.”
So, in 2010, when an operations research consultant role opened up in Chicago, Karthik made the decision to join ZS. He knew the firm well, seeing as his wife had been a ZSer for six years herself. Karthik was elected principal in 2017. Today, he leads our marketing, market research and analytics work with pharmaceutical clients from the Boston office.
Why do you do what you do? What’s your “core purpose”?
For me, it’s all about having an impact—both the impact I can create for my clients, and the impact I can have on my team in helping them grow. And, it goes both ways. My teams have an impact on me, and I still continue to learn and grow. It gives me joy and fulfillment, which is my driving force.
What’s the most game-changing feedback you’ve ever received?
In past jobs, there was a strong focus on getting the correct answer. After my first project at ZS though, my manager said, “you got it right, but what’s the ‘so what’?” Of course, how I got to the right answer was important. But, even more important was the “so what” because it helps empower the client to get leadership buy-in and leads to implementation. Now, I always think of the “so what” when I uncover an insight. That realization was the turning point that catapulted me from geek to consultant.
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made and what did you learn from it?
I used to think about technology as information technology, rather than an enabler of problem-solving and business impact. It wasn’t until my work on launch analytics with a client that I realized the entire project wouldn’t have been possible without a combination of insights and technology. Now, instead of thinking about the operational aspects of business technology, I think about how I can leverage it to create magic.
What’s your life like outside work?
My wife Anu and I love good movies, good food and good wine. We spend most of our time with our two girls: Mitra, 6, and Maya, 3. I try to be the “fun dad,” always roughhousing, tossing them up in the air, and dangling them upside down by an ankle. Serendipitously, all our family’s biggest years coincided with ZS milestones. Anu and I got married the year she started at ZS, we moved to Chicago the year I started, Mitra was born the year I was promoted to manager, and Maya was born the year I became associate principal. We’re all anxiously waiting to see what will happen in my first year as principal.