Ex-YouTube VP Shishir Mehrotra on team rituals, AI and distributed work

What’s it like to be the CEO of a US$1.4 billion company? In this episode, we get to hear straight from the source.

Shishir Mehrotra is the Co-CEO of Coda and a former Vice President at YouTube. He also sits on the board of Spotify. 

When we think about what companies like these are in the business of doing, we are focused on their products and services. However Shishir is focused on something else as well –  another product, equally vital – the workplace experience created for his employees. 

Shishir focuses on the concept of ‘rituals’ in building a strong corporate culture. During the early days of the pandemic, he conducted a virtual dinner with leaders from notable tech firms like Slack, Pinterest, and Snowflake. The discussion aimed to understand and share the various rituals these leaders practised in their teams. What unfolded were three key revelations. We dig into these and understand why Shishir finds rituals so important. 

It’s clear that to him, building a strong workplace experience isn’t just about providing perks or creating a pleasant environment. It’s about fostering a sense of community and shared experience, which is where the idea of rituals comes into play. 

While I had the chance I also took the chance to pick Shishir’s brains on the role of AI, since Coda has its own AI solutions. 

We also talked about the evolution of work towards distributed work, and how we can make sense of that by looking back at where humankind has come from. 

Shishir’s insights are powerful for leaders of modern workplaces today. 

– Nina

 “As companies we build two products, we build one for our customers and then we build a different one for employees.” Shishir Mehrotra

Key moments

2:20 – Shishir talks about the journey of setting up Coda and its astounding growth

9:39 – How Bing Gordon, Electronic Arts and Audible founder, inspired Shishir’s way of thinking about rituals

15:53 – Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens underpins how rituals inspired communication and teamwork across humans 70,000 years ago

24:33 – The three tests for a company’s golden ritual 

25:32 – Coda’s golden rituals are Dory and Pulse

32:01 – The importance of AI at places like YouTube and how user experience is driving the technology

34:01 – The two primary observations Shishir has made on AI with Coda’s further exploration into AI

44:37 – Shishir’s book about team rituals and how you can be a part of it

Workplace Makers – the podcast about people building workplaces that attract a crowd

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