Women in Business Q&A: Asha Sharma, COO, Porch.com

Asha Sharma is the Chief Operating Officer of Porch.com. In this role Asha is responsible for building a truly great company that employees and customers love and achieves the company's mission. Day-to-day responsibilities include company strategy and delighting our customers; all 3 business unit P&Ls; and business services including Inside Sales, Operations, Support, Analytics, Local, Growth, Central Marketing, and Brand Communications. As one Porch's earliest employees Asha helped build Porch from the ground up across the development of revenue streams, the brand, the product, and talent. In addition, Asha was instrumental in closing and executing the national online, in-store, and financing partnership with Lowe's Home Improvement. Prior to joining Porch, Asha worked at Microsoft, Deloitte Consulting, Cargill and SC Johnson & Son. She started her career by founding two companies, one of which was recognized by the President of the United States in 2012. Asha earned a bachelor's of science degree from the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
My entire life I have always been pushed to find the potential in any situation - in every sport, in every job, in every friendship, in every life moment. This is the exact focal point of every opportunity and challenge I face today which is a core part of being a COO. It's to my imperative to find the potential in people, in growth, in scaling, in escalations, in business models, and in our future. That coupled with relentless but realistic perseverance is a key attribute that reflects my leadership. I will say that I am a very young leader still which is also reflective of my life experience. I very much admire several of my direct reports who have much more depth and perspective on leadership matters that they've experienced in their career. To that end, I dedicate myself to always learning from the talented people around me as we make Porch great.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Porch?
To be honest, it's really hard to "prepare" for working in a startup. You're faced with a lot of problems that may have never had solutions in the past. When I first joined Porch, we were still working out of the basement of the CEO Matt Ehrlichman's rental house. At the time, my job was to market a product that did not exist and had no name . My past experience has been wide in nature. I worked for 7 different companies and started a couple of my own. I've carried that lateral thinking with me to not narrow my tools to solve a problem to a particular function or role title, but rather to use collective ammunition to deploy against a goal, make smart investments, and just execute really really well.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Porch?
There has been so many highlights along the way, including the momentum of releasing new products to the world, raising over $100 million in funding inspiring investors, and launching partnerships with generational companies like Lowe's. I will say that what I feel most privledged about is the people I get to work with day in and day out. They are some of the most talented individuals I think I'll ever get to work with in my career - coming from the walks of Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, startups; and most importantly, with a true north of making the company great over their careers.

Of course, all triumphs are the fruit of great challenges. One that is very top of mind is managing our growth. When we launched our first public product, we were 25 people a little more than a year and a half ago. Now we are over 350 employees. Rapid growth like this doesn't come without a few growing pains. Until we expanded our now 30,000 sq ft office, things were a bit crowded for a few months and we still didn't have our internal communication footing. But we rallied as a company and made it a priority since it's so key to building something durable and great.

How is Porch shaking up the home improvements industry?
Home improvement and home maintenance is painful. No one has solved this. No one has commoditized it. No one has made it just disappear which is tragic given how important time and your home is. Porch is using data to make the process of improving and maintaining the home as painless as possible. We're the first to take on the monumental task of organizing all the data in the home space. To date, we have insight into 130 million home projects from 3.2 million home professionals with $2.5 trillion tracked in home improvement spend across the US. This will allow us to tackle the problem at scale while making it personal for you and your home.

What advice can you offer women who are seeking a career in marketing?
Male or female; same advice. Don't think about what level or title you want to aspire to. Instead think about 1) what you want to be the best in the world at and 2) couple that with strong lateral thinking and 3) wrap analytics in your DNA. Specifically on the first point, marketing is a special discipline where functional or mix expertise is imperative to accelerate and move a brand forward. Commit from execution to experience to mentors to reading and become an expert. Secondly, it's not enough to just be the best in the world at Growth or Social or Content. Leaders in companies are looking at how you apply that to moving the business forward and rationalize the drivers of your inputs with the drivers of other tradeoffs in order to help holistically be seen as a partner at the table. After all, in any company, your role is to solve problems using your lens of expertise but also as a shareholder of the company using your horizon of knowledge and understandings to make it better off. The last point should be a no brainer by now, but I will say it anyways. Gone are the days of fluffy marketing. And in are some of the most analytical minds who are not only introducing people to a brand and building a relationship, but monetizing and growing and delighting them too. Be great at this.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I am very lucky to be completely in love with my job, working with some of the most amazingly smart and driven of people I've ever met. When you love what you do, life and work start to blend together. At the same time, I also understand how important and valuable it can be at times to just step away and fill my 'perspective tank' as my VP of Comms says. You get renewed perspective when you force yourself to slow down. Outside of family and friends, for me it comes back to traveling, cooking (my team is always surprised to hear this), and reading. These are moments when I can reflect on the work we are doing, but also moderate the pace a bit.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
It's huge. From the very early days at Porch we have encouraged people to understand the benefits of mentorship. Mentorship gives you expertise and empathy. Great mentors think about the universe in a way that is broader than what you are focused on. It's a sign of self-awareness. The world is full of really smart people who have different experiences and perspectives. Life-long learning is important; great mentors help make that possible.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Elizabeth Holmes, CEO and founder of Theranos. She's operating and innovating at an incomparable scale impacting the way millions live.

What do you want Porch to accomplish in the next year?
One of my top priorities is making Porch an amazing place to work. I believe that with any company, your first customers are your employees. Along with building a great product that solves real pain, we want to build a workplace where people are truly engaged and run up to work every day.