The real cost of conducting mission-driven business ft. Jeanne Ross and Kumud Kalia
Play • 24 min

More than ever, brands are conducting bigger-picture business. Besides the bottom line, the importance of leading with purpose, fulfilling their workforce, and making a real impact on the world are driving decisions. But in the hierarchy of decision-making, what does leading with a mission really mean, and are businesses willing to sacrifice to uphold it? Organization theorist Jeanne Ross decided to find out and talks about her findings in discussion with Kumud Kalia, Chief Information Officer at Guardant Health.


Key Takeaways:

[0:53] Mobile technology, AI, and the internet have dramatically increased the speed of interaction. As a result, customer expectations have skyrocketed. One fast-growing industry is BioTech, and what more urgent need for digital transformation than saving lives?

[3:04] Kumud is a High-Tech Veteran and has led IT departments at major companies such as Cylance, Inc. and Akamai Technologies. Now, as CIO of Guardant Health, he is part of a team leading the efforts to serve millions of patients around the world.

[4:31] Adoption is one of the main challenges in any new technology. At Guardant Health, there is an urgency for doctors and oncologists to adopt their offerings. Kumud talks about building trust with doctors through data and FDA approvals, so they can see that investing time and effort into learning will pay dividends as a result.

[6:51] Kumud describes the cross-functional teams at Guardant working as fast as possible to save lives. Although the people come from different departments, they each know their clearly defined mission and common objective. They can also work independently and accept accountability for setting their own goals and outlines.

[9:25] Why don’t they hire more people? It’s still hard to find the right people to join the team.

[10:11] Kumud talks about what he looks for in recruitment. There is still a war for talent, pandemic or not.

[13:51] Growing cross-functional teams that are autonomous but aligned takes management a long time to get right.

[16:01] Kumud and Jo discuss technical debt in fast-growing companies. There is a balance to getting off the ground initially, but using systems that won’t create too big of an obstacle in the future.

[18:44] People and culture can also be an aspect of technical dept. Kumud remarks that our agile teams will help us with technical debt, but it may be tough to recognize.

[20:26] Kumud and his team at Guardant are always thinking about how to have the largest social impact.

[21:41] Jeanne is optimistic that leaders will thrive in a new environment that relies on digital technology, and we should be excited about learning and opportunities ahead.

[23:12] What makes your work meaningful to you? What is the mission behind your work and does it define your company’s choices from the top executives to the janitor?



  • “People don’t do things just because you tell them. They need to feel it. They need to believe it.” - Jo
  • “For us, value is defined by the patient experience.” - Kumud
  • “If you are going to hire smart people, you’ve got to let them do smart things.” - Kumud
  • “The war for talent is only half the challenge of scaling a rapidly growing company.” - Jeanie
  • “The fastest path is not always best for future long term scaling.” - Kumud


Continue On Your Journey:

Guardant Health

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