Aruna Krishnan

My day job is being a management consultant. I’m the founder and owner of OPTIM, which is a consultancy to help people and businesses maximize their efficiency and growth. I’m also an author and host a podcast, Lead That Thing.

As a management consultant, I work with businesses to define and deliver high-quality products. Many of my clients are in the tech space, and I’ve been a woman in tech for 20 years.

I draw on my own experiences as a leader and with other leaders to inspire others to take on leadership roles, regardless of title. My goal is to help people get from thinking “I’m not sure I can do it” to “Yes I can!”

I started as a software engineer and eventually moved into a more functional role that allowed me to have a better work/life balance. I later got into project management in the tech space and then product management, which is what I focus on today.

My role is to work with my client to define, develop, and deliver a product that not only addresses their customer’s needs but creates an experience that delights their customers!

I added “author” to my list of roles about two years. This stemmed from some changes and growth in my own life. I saw others were going through the same things I had experienced and felt I should share some of my journey.

Part of my journey was spiritual; part was challenging myself physically.

My first challenge was a half marathon. After I did that I thought, “Now I have to do a marathon.” I remember thinking, “This is big! How did I do that?” Then I moved into triathlons and did four of those. It wasn’t easy and when I was biking, I was scared anytime I had to go uphill or downhill! But it showed me that even if I was afraid, I could get through it. Those experiences showed me I’m a lot stronger than I gave myself credit for and my ability to conquer physical things translated to success in other areas too.

Women tend to hold themselves to such high standards. If there’s a job opportunity and they don’t fit at least 90% of the qualifications, they don’t tend to apply. Men will apply if they fit at least half. Why do we restrict ourselves?

After my athletic accomplishments, I’ve learned to stop restricting myself. I figure, the worst case, I’m eliminated. The best case? They ask me to come in and we have a conversation.

I’ve written three books. The first is about emotional intelligence and mindfulness, Stop Wait Go. When we’re worried and upset and don’t know how to deal with things, I compare it to a busy intersection where there’s no traffic lights and things are in chaos. Think of your mind like that intersection and what it will take to get in control and make good decisions.

First stop and examine your thoughts and how they make you feel. Then wait. Analyze why you’re reacting a certain way. Finally, go from a place of being rational instead of emotional. I’ve also written a book on problem solving and one on leadership.

With my Lead that Thing podcast I bring in leaders who talk about challenges they’ve faced and the techniques they’ve used to solve them. My most recent season focuses on personal transformation and empowering women to reach their full potential.

My most memorable caffeine story is tied to jasmine tea. I’m from India but grew up in Africa. When we’d go to India for a visit, jasmine was always part of the experience. People would make strings of jasmine and women would put the jasmine in their hair and their hair would smell so good. When you went to a temple, jasmine would be part of the experience. When I have green tea jasmine, the smell is very nostalgic for me.

My current caffeine of choice is green tea jasmine. But in my pre-vegan days I loved mochas. The complementary flavors of sweet chocolate and the wholeness of coffee. Yum!

My favorite place for caffeine is some sort of local cafe. I especially like Urban Fuel out in Fond du Lac. They make a delicious hot chocolate among other things.

The person I’d love to share a cup of caffeine with is Oprah—hey, why not shoot big? She has such an amazing story of transformation. Oprah came from a very difficult childhood and became such an incredible success. I’d love to hear about the steps in that journey and share them with my podcast audience as well.

World problem that could be solved with the right amount of caffeine:  figuring out how to reach more people. I’ve come to realize that my purpose is to empower women. I’d love to figure out how to connect with more people and make a difference in more people’s lives.