Part 2 of a series of interviews that highlight successful people in tech and the things they do outside of work.
Shash Mody: Climb Every Mountain
Shash Mody is the VP of Revenue and Growths at Lyric, a hospitality tech company in San Francisco. The company is an innovator in the hospitality space, focusing on design, technology, and community to create beautiful, stylish travel experiences for their customers. Lyric recently announced a $150MM Series B round led by Airbnb. Prior to joining Lyric, Shash led the launch of major initiatives at Amazon such as Prime Now and Wholesale Books. Shash currently lives in SF with his fiancée.
Every leader knows they need a strong team alongside them to be successful. While many think of a mountain peak summit as a personal achievement or a bucket list item, for Shash, it has taught him everything about trusting others, teamwork and humility. He carries and practices the same values on the mountain with his friends as a mountaineer, as he does in his workplace as a Vice President at a hyper-growth startup company.
When did you start climbing mountains?
I was born in India and went to boarding school up in the Himalayas. To get from my dorm to my classes, it meant that I had to run up the mountain. It was just part of everyday living at that time. I started hiking when I was 11 years old as part of our boarding school curriculum. Twice a year we had to climb for 5 days every semester as part of an experiential education system to learn to be self-sufficient, but also to create a team mindset. Everything about mountaineering is a team sport — setting up camp, supporting each other, having buddy systems to ensure that everyone is okay. You learn to be loyal and to collaborate. You learn when to stop and how to succeed.
Which mountains have you climbed?
I‘ve climbed Kilimanjaro, Mont Blanc in the Alps, Mount Rainier and Mt. Whitney. I climb a mountain every year — to raise money for charities and to bond with friends. Before Lyric, I was in Microfinance. I worked in villages across Africa and SE Asia to bring financial empowerment to women through access to finance. I believe in empowering others to improve their own lives — and through fundraising for organizations that help the disadvantaged.
What do you have to do to become a mountaineer?
A lot of it is grit, being part of a team, and a few technical skills such as Ice Axe arrests, tying a knot and being part of a rope team. But equally important is knowing when to say no to summiting and knowing your own and your team’s limits. Mountaineering is hard and it is about overcoming pain and adversity to achieve your goals.
Have you ever had to turn around and not make it to the summit?
….does it feel like a failure when that happens?
Some people do mountaineering for the summit. For me, it’s about the journey and the bonds that are created during the climb. As a leader and a mountaineer, it’s important for me to cross the finish line with as many others as possible, rather than being one of the only people to reach the summit. I carry that same philosophy across work and sport. I help lagging teammates come down the mountain if needed because that is more important to my life philosophy than the actual process of reaching the summit. Now don’t get me wrong! It requires a battle with the ego to know that you still have the strength to get to the top and be so close but choosing to give up that personal achievement for the sake of a struggling team-mate. As a mountaineer, it’s important for me to practice my values and be able to drive down ego for the journey itself.
Have you ever told anyone to go ahead without you and leave you?
Absolutely. And I’ve walked people down the mountain when they have had exhaustion or injuries. It’s all about being true and open to your community and team so you’re never putting anyone at risk. You need to place faith in fellow mountaineers and ensure that you are protecting yourself and your team in whatever manner possible. There are many things that can lead to questionable judgment. But you need to know when to stop and acknowledge when you need help.
How do you think mountaineering helps you with leadership?
Mountaineering is a team sport. The skills are very translatable values that can be brought to the work environment. For example, the ability to give and take timely feedback is what develops highly effective teams; these are the same values you can practice on a mountain. Another one is checking your ego at the door. You can’t come in with a “me first” attitude into a work environment or into a climb. Finally, while climbing you’ve got to keep a pulse on the weather, turnaround times, and fatigue. Similarly, in the workplace, data-centric decisions maximize the predictability and probability of success.
What mountain is next for you and when?
Next summer! We’re thinking Mt. Shasta.
Do you have an interesting side hustle? What motivates you to give your best both on and off the clock? I'd love to meet you and learn more about it! Get in touch with me at [email protected]!