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[PODCAST] Operating with high values and dignity is a rare skill set

Data Stories: Leaders at Work is a weekly podcast brought to you by Audiense. Hosted by Rahul Jerome, founder of, the series captures personal anecdotes and career highlights from some of the most talented and brightest minds in the research and insights industry.

In this episode of Data Stories: Leaders at Work, I sit down with Sathyaraj Aasaithambi, Group Leader of Insights and Analytics at Novartis.

Despite his 15 years of experience as a molecular biologist, Sathyaraj now works as a service leader at Novartis with a strong expertise in brand performance. Working closely with market analysis, he supports evolving business units. With close to seven years working on business needs, Sathyaraj says the beauty of a product-based industry is experiencing a lot of exposure to various skill sets and to all genres.

With a masters in molecular biology, Sathyaraj’s original plan was to return to academics. During a short stint in analytics, he grew a lot and managed more people. Returning to academics then took a back seat. He moved to a mid-sized company Indegene, which was bent on automation. And during the last six to seven years, Sathyaraj has had an amazing experience taking on different roles: First, he was a business analyst, then a manager. That was his journey to reach the market research industry.

His move to Novartis was an unplanned, happy accident. He had been doing analytics at Indegene, which offered more of a consulting service, and Sathyaraj wanted to be on other side of it. Indegene is more of an agency side. He took time to understand the dynamics and then got an opportunity to work there.

Sathyaraj tells me he wishes someone had this kind of podcast when he started out in his career. Before starting his career, he wishes he knew that soft skills are important if you want to succeed. While there is the analytics side of the industry, you must also mesh well with others and learn from experiences, not just from textbooks.

As far as skills are concerned, Sathyaraj emphasises operating with high values and dignity. He tells me it’s the DNA of Novartis. He also firmly believes in critical skills.

If you want to shine in market research and digital insights, you must expect you’ll embrace project management. As an insights or intelligence practitioner, you’ll do some data wrangling, and it comes down to how efficiently you use models and tools. From there, you’ll work on data analytics, which will involve showcasing this to consumers.

Sathyaraj’s advice to his younger self is understanding your potential involves connecting the knowledge you possess to a translation that is useful for society. He suggests thinking of how you want to be educated and where do you want to structure your career path. In today’s world, young people can become siloed while doing things, but they need to do things with others. He also says he would tell his younger self to take care of himself regarding health and family.

Sathyaraj tells me his journey has shaped who he is by changing his trajectory. His first experience at a startup, where there is not a lot of bureaucracy, gave him a lot of exposure to perform and to explore new avenues. Then, he changed his trajectory again by moving from analytics to data insights. Data tools changed his trajectory. He can now do more meaningful things with insights, and he can follow what his colleagues do. He can learn from and be inspired by not only colleagues but also from books and industry leaders.

As far as mentors are concerned, his former boss was a unicorn, an MD with a background in clinical life sciences combined with technology experience. Sathyaraj’s former boss could put out a problem statement and come up with plans A, B, and C, each of which was unique. He had a different way of doing things. Driving for new things, he wanted to be an innovator coming up with new products and new solutions.

Sathyaraj suggests reading resources such as the HBR, the McKinsey white papers, and blogs covering the latest technologies. He also recommends reading the Japanese book Ikigai and Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why”.

His leadership style at Novartis follows the company’s DNA to stay curious. They ensure leadership sets clear goals and removes obstacles to those goals for the team. He aims to create more curiosity.

Sathyaraj’s advice for someone pursuing a career in data insights is to build expertise and create opportunities for yourself. Needs exist in every area. Be creative. Insights has to be integrated with data science. That is the industry’s expectation. He says to enjoy every aspect of analytics.

In the next three to five years, Sathyaraj is not sure where he will land. But he does plan on using technologies to the fullest to transfer to more meaningful insights. He wants to integrate consumer insights into brand performance. He plans to transition from a siloed approach to more of an enterprise solution. Then, end users will be able to use actionable insights to do some forecasting.

The full version of the podcast with Sathyaraj Aasaithambi can be listened here: