Nahema Mehta was running a start-up when an opportunity she least expected presented itself. Her mission to make original works of art accessible to the masses grabbed the attention of executives at Absolut, who, at the time, were looking to expand into a lifestyle brand by launching a product category beyond vodka. After being pursued and recruited by the corporation and its leaders, she became the inaugural CEO of Absolut Art, an online platform that allows clients to discover and purchase limited-edition pieces from artists around the world at a groundbreakingly low cost.
When I sat down with Nahema, her passion for and knowledge of the subject matter was instantly palpable. As we chatted about her background, travels, and career path, it was clear that she had accomplished so much all before the age of 30. "This has always been so much of who I am that it felt like a very natural extension," she said. The depth and breadth of information she shared was inspiring, especially for a young professional like myself. Keep reading for her invaluable advice and you'll be on your way to CEO in no time.
On starting young:
"I think there's a real beauty in being young and a little bit bright-eyed and naive. If you've done your homework and you know enough to go into the field, the fact that you're young is only giving you an advantage."
On seeking advice:
"Take a chance and talk to people about what you're thinking about doing. People love to help. You will be shocked by how many say 'OK this is my advice, here's two friends you should meet.' So when you're feeling ready, take the plunge and remember that it doesn't have to be perfect."
On finding mentors:
"It's great to understand your strengths first, but the most important thing is to figure out what you don't know, acknowledge it, and surround yourself with people who can teach you and who are smarter than you. Because if you're the smartest person in the room, I truly believe you're in the wrong room."
On taking risks:
"I swear by the mantra, 'in order to break the rules you must first master them.' There's something sexy about the word disruption, and people are so into it, and I think there's a reason for that. You want to challenge the norm, but there also has to be a respect around why the norm happened."
On setting yourself apart:
"I feel like when people have an idea, they feel like they can't talk about it because they're worried someone else will steal it, but that's the worst mentality to have. Ideas are a dime a dozen, and everything is in the execution. If you're executing it in a unique way that's individual to yourself, no one can replicate it."
On becoming educated:
"It's great to hire experts, but you should always know enough about any field that you're hiring for to call bullsh*t. When I started out, I would trade French lessons for coding lessons. And it wasn't because I wanted to become this master coder, but it was because I wanted to be knowledgeable in hiring and show respect for that field and the people who are working with me."
On paying it forward:
"No matter where you are in your career, there are always people who are three, four years behind where you are. Everyone is always so focused on how they're going to do the next thing, but always take a step back and think about how you can pay it forward. Once you do well for yourself, you have to do well for others."