01/22/2015 11:03 am ET Updated Mar 24, 2015

Women in Business Q&A: Redickaa Subrammanian, CEO, Interakt

With more than 15 years of experience as a global advertising, marketing, and technology expert, Redickaa has used her strategic insight and hands-on leadership to guide Interakt's growth from a startup organization in 2006 to a globally deployed digital communications company of approximately 200 associates with operations on four continents.

As Interakt's chief strategist, she specializes in helping global companies deliver their brand promise inside/out by aligning all audiences and messaging, internally and externally. She has worked with some of the world's most respected brands, including Citibank, Ecolab, Lenovo, Nalco, Sony, Hewlett-Packard, Acer, HSBC, Motorola, Levi's® and Estée Lauder Companies.

Redicka earned her MBA at the State University of New York at Buffalo and received the 2013 Gold Stevie Award for Female Entrepreneur of the Year.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I believe that leadership is about constantly accepting change and winning against all odds. Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other. My parents were both excellent role models, intelligent, inspiring and encouraging of my interests. My dad's job as a senior government official constantly took us to different places, which required me to adapt and adopt every two years from first grade onwards. My mom strongly reinforced my belief that women can accomplish anything that we set out to do.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Interakt?
I started my career as an advertising copywriter, and then grew to be a client account manager before moving onto the world of multimedia in 1995.

My entrepreneurial journey began in 2004, when, as a global creative practice director in an international technology solutions company where I gained a great deal of exposure and insight in this field, I decided to venture out on my own to pursue my passion for content and my vision of the future of digital communication.

The venture that started out in a coffee shop in Singapore with the support my business partner Dakshen R and a total of $6,000 to invest has evolved into Interakt Digital Group, now a thriving, growing enterprise of nearly 200 employees in 10 offices worldwide.

Despite numerous acquisition attempts by larger global agencies, I have chosen the more challenging, but infinitely more satisfying path of independence guided by three core values: curiosity, passion and drive.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Interakt?
Choosing to stay an independent agency was one of the greatest challenges and most rewarding business and personal decisions I ever made. Remaining independent in the Asia-Pacific market, an environment where most small agencies get swallowed up by bigger fishes, was especially challenging. We turned down some acquisition offers in favor of staying true to our company, its vision and purpose.

When the US market crashed and the global economic turmoil hindered the company's growth, there were times when key members worked without salary. We kept ourselves completely engaged so that a single negative thought would not wear us down. Our sales pipeline was almost drying up during times of global recession; we had the toughest times during 2008-09.

As the US economy slowed to a standstill, we sustained our operations through work from the Middle East. When the Middle East went through a slump, our Indian operations shored up our profits. Working across markets has not only given clients the cost and time arbitrage, but also helped us pass through tough times.

We've always managed to pull through the challenges, each time coming out stronger than we started. Ten years later, we are thriving.

We are passionate about what we do. The driving force behind a business like ours cannot be only about making tons of money or selling services as fast as possible; you need to have faith in your idea and a real passion to make it happen. My dream has always been to create something that will leave a mark on the industry or our profession, something that will remain long after I've gone. Staying focused and seeing the positive impact Interakt has been able to make on brands both large and small has kept us going strong for more than a decade now.

Achieved 300% growth in the US market. This included working with global brands Nalco and Ecolab in niche areas such as air, water and energy systems. For example, using Interakt's signature inside/out approach and her highly developed business strategy skills, I led the development and delivery of Nalco enVision, an enterprise-wide sales and service data and communications platform that included automated sales and service processes, a client-facing portal, a global sales training program, and comprehensive internal communications.

Achieved 125% growth in Asia-Pacific. This included expansion of Interakt's engagement with beauty giant Estee Lauder Companies and its array of brands with innovative consumer boutique sites for the travel retail segment, digital asset management, and in-trend mobile reports for C-Level executives.

Led the development and launch of Resulticks, the world's most fully integrated omnichannel marketing automation platform. Created by marketers for marketers, we expect Resulticks to revolutionize how CMOs and practitioners meet the challenges of an omnichannel world-- connecting deeply and personally with their customers, leveraging big data for practical advantage, and spurring growth.

What advice can you offer to women who want to start their own business?
A few pieces of advice for people who follow this path
• Love what you do
• Learn to live dangerously
• Never give up
• Stay resilient.

Resilience is a much-needed trait to survive and thrive in startup world. Hold fast to your convictions and damn the consequences. After all, it is about realizing your dreams and making a difference."

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Mentorship need not be from just one individual. Every single person you interact and transact with teaches you something. Life teaches you and time tests you.

The essence of the principles that have guided me throughout my career:
• Take the lead and challenge the status quo.
• Follow others only if it makes irrefutable sense; never adopt a strategy or tactic simply because everyone else is doing it.
• Have the courage to challenge the client to do what you know will work for the brand (and love the brand so much that you will know.)
• Then go all out to make it succeed.

When things seem tough, I recall that inspiring Steve Jobs quote: "Stay hungry. Stay foolish." And then I always add, "Stay independent."

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I honestly do not know whether I maintain a work/life balance. My family should ideally answer that. Both my husband and my daughter recognize and appreciate that my life is not mine but more for the benefit of others. To lead is to serve, nothing more and nothing less. Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
There are some specific markets where people seem to prefer interacting or doing business with a man rather than a woman. But apart from these tiny hiccups, I do not consider being a woman entrepreneur a hurdle in any way.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Charlotte Beers - assumed leadership of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, the world's sixth largest advertising agency, during a period of rapid industry change and organizational crisis. Beers, the first outsider CEO, engaged and led a senior team through a vision formulation process. She transformed Ogilvy from just a "beleaguered" creative agency to a brand stewardship agency. Among the traits Beers brought to Ogilvy & Mather was what she called her "lethal impatience" for progress and her ability to persuade people to a vision, "the ultimate ingredient in leadership.

What do you want Interakt to accomplish in the next year?
We launched our new omnichannel marketing automation platform, Resulticks, in September. We are confident it will have a major impact on the future of marketing automation.

I would also like to see us lead the sea change that's coming in the traditional marketing agency model fueled by the advances that we and others are making in technology and the evolution of our client offerings. Additionally, I expect to see our US operation expand significantly, alongside continued growth in the Asia-Pacific market.

Further, I feel it's important that our company continues to use our skills to promote social causes and principles we believe in strongly. With our India Next Campaign, we encouraged voters to get involved, learn about the issues, and vote during the last election cycle. Our work in promoting computer literacy among underserved populations aligns with our core capabilities and our commitment to helping develop future generations of communicators and creative technologists. We will continue our work towards these goals.