IWD 2023 — What it’s like working with Swetha

Hebbia
3 min readMar 8, 2023

I called my mom excitedly after my first call with Swetha.

I told her that I had never experienced such a captivating 30 minutes on a Zoom call.

That her energy literally poured out of her screen and into my room.

That if I didn’t know that she was also a Stanford graduate, the first ML engineer at Brex, and one of the most credible people I had heard talk about NLP — I would have also assumed she was leading a Go to Market function based on her incredible ability to sell the product, and innate capacity to connect quickly with others.

I am taking International Women’s Day as an opportunity to share what it’s like to work with one of the most intelligent, dynamic and empathetic leaders I have ever encountered — who also happens to be a woman.

When I entered the workforce my mom gave me a word of caution — she said that given my general disposition and personality [as a woman] people might say “Oh Lainie — she’s nice”. She told me that I don’t want people to lead with “nice” — I want them to lead with “smart”.

Her words have stuck with me throughout my career.

When I was interviewing at Hebbia, our CEO George told me that Swetha was one of the smartest people he’s ever met.

Now working very closely with Swetha for the past 3 months — I maintain that anyone who spends time with Swetha, would also open by saying that she is one of the smartest people they’ve met.

Swetha distills complex topics into cogent explanations.

She clearly delineates tasks for a large team, and tracks them to completion.

She anticipates challenges, and proactively solves for them.

I learn from Swetha everyday — and not only because she is brilliant.

I take lessons on how to lead with empathy, how to be resilient in solving complex intellectual challenges, how to wear many hats — and establish incredible trust in all of them.

To borrow from Swetha’s cogency, I will share one anecdote:

At the end of each week, our team does a retro where we recap what we accomplished that week, share kudos, and discuss how we’re tracking on personal KPIs (we call them Creed items).

A few weeks ago, the engineering team reflected that, under Swetha’s leadership, they shipped more meaningful changes to our app experience than one could believe a team could make in a single week.

Then Swetha shared that in that same week, she somehow managed to context switch and take 35 recruiting calls.

Then during kudos, almost every member of the team gave kudos to Swetha. For helping them solve a tough problem, prioritize differently, have a meaningful personal conversation…

When we got to our personal Creed items — Swetha’s was: “never drop the ball”.

It was clear that she had juggled more balls that week than imaginable, and not a single one was dropped.

Happy International Women’s Day — here is to continuing to spend time around exceptional women, and to pounding the table loudly to share how exceptional they are.

And by the way, Swetha is also nice..

This post was written by Lainie — leading Product at Hebbia (pictured with Swetha below).

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