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Career Confessions: Suryabala Shenbagamurthy

Tell us what you do in one sentence?

As an advertising tech specialist, I build automation tools to engage with customers online. I am also the co-founder of Fivegrid, on a mission to make digital marketing simple and accessible for all.

Best day in the history of your career?

When the very first customer signed up to Fivegrid. It’s an incredible feeling when a customer finds value in a product that you developed sacrificing Friday nights and weekends. In the past, I have had a few false starts in launching a startup. Either the idea did not gain traction or I simply lacked expertise in the domain. But when I launched Fivegrid during the pandemic, I found a purpose-driven mission.

I also have good memories from my time in the agency world, like my first client pitch. I was an expat and working with an independent agency in New York. I was a bit nervous, but after receiving positive feedback from the team, I was overjoyed and called my dad to share the experience. He was super proud.

Worst day in the history of your career?

One year into my role as a digital manager in a media agency, I was nominated to present at a media industry event. I was thrilled about the opportunity and the agency leaders were super supportive of this initiative. My direct manager however did not feel the same. She made a few uncomfortable remarks. I felt humiliated and belittled.

Looking back now, it was the same day when I realised that I am not – and shouldn’t be – defined by my job title or employer. I am my own person, brand, and I should focus on working with people who appreciate my talent and contributions.

What’s your professional motto?

I still remember when I submitted my application for a masters program at the New York University at the age of 20; no one believed that I would get in – not even my family members! But I gave it a shot, worked hard for it, and when I got in I proved them wrong. This was the start to many more adventures in both my professional and personal lives.

So I would say, “don’t be afraid to take risks.” You never know, you might find your true calling.

What advice would you give your younger self, just starting out?

When I was young, I was lucky enough to find my passion in digital media and traveled the world to make my dreams come true.

But after almost eight years in the industry, I have realised that a passion without purpose is like a hamster on a wheel. So I would ask my younger self to take a moment to find values that I resonate with most.

Like goodness, wellness and gratitude. And prioritise decisions that bridge my passion, purpose and bring better meaning to my life.

So much wisdom! Do you have any other tips for Mavens' readers?

Don’t settle for a career path that’s decided for you. Know your worth, be courageous, and define a path that you’ll be proud of 20 years from now.

Also, if you’re looking to kickstart your side hustle, need career advice, or just want to say hi, feel free to reach out on LinkedIn.

Suryabala Shenbagamurthy a.k.a Surya is an ethical digital marketer, data privacy advocate and tech specialist. She helps brands unlock the full potential of digital media channels and focus on customer first strategies. Surya is also the co-founder of Fivegrid, a simple platform to connect with customers across multiple digital touchpoints.


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