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#35: Padma Warrior, Founder and CEO of Fable — The reverse journey of grown-up to start-up, what to unlearn to become a founder, how to get your initial hires onboard, and rituals that build culture


Padmasree Warrior is the Founder, President and CEO of Fable, a mobile-first company that brings stories to everyone, anywhere. Previously, Padma was the Chief Executive Officer of NIO U.S., Chief Development Officer and Board Member of NIO Inc., a manufacturer of smart, electric, and autonomous vehicles. In this role, she scaled the company from start-up to a successful IPO NYSE:NIO in 3 years.

Prior to NIO, Warrior served as the Chief Technology & Strategy Officer (CTSO) for Cisco until September 2015. In this capacity, she was charged with aligning the company’s technology and business strategy to business results. She was in charge of corporate strategy, mergers, acquisitions, venture investments, and strategic partnerships. Previous to that, she was the SVP and GM for Cisco Enterprise segment and co-led Cisco’s worldwide engineering organization. Prior Cisco, she was EVP and CTO at Motorola. Under her leadership, Motorola was awarded the 2004 U.S. National Medal of Technology.

Padmasree Warrior has been widely recognized for her creative, visionary leadership. Forbes has named her one of “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women” for three years running. 

Our conversation was truly fascinating! We discuss her reverse journey from grown-up to start-up, what she had to unlearn from a large corporation to become a start-up founder, how you can get your initial hires onboard, and the rituals that build a strong company culture.

Tune in for valuable insights!

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Key highlights in this episode

  • What inspired Padma to become an entrepreneur?(03:36)
  • What she had to learn and unlearn when she went from being in a large company to becoming a start-up founder (06:14)
  • Tips to help you when hiring team members for your start-up (09:28)
  • What Fable does (14:45)
  • Why Padma started Fable (15:45)
  • The definition of company culture (22:48)
  • Why investing in company culture is important for your start-up (23:36)
  • The difference between hiring for experience and hiring for expertise (28:37)
  • The ‘Fika’ ritual and why it is a powerful ritual for developing the company culture (33:12)
  • Why she bans talk about work inside the Fika ritual (36:03)
  • What it actually means to bring your whole self to work (40:40)
  • How Padma made a mindset shift from a problem solver to someone who helps other people solve problems (44:35)
  • The decision-making framework she uses in her staff meetings at Fable (49:20)
  • The difference between being on a board and being on a management team (52:30)
  • 3 Things you should consider before you become a board member (54:36)
  • What Padma has learned from her board roles at Microsoft and Spotify (56:31)
  • Her experience with the impostor syndrome (59:38)
  • What Padma wishes she had known earlier on her journey (1:02:58)
  • Her advice for other founders as they embark on their journey to grow into leaders (1:04:05)


Notable Quotes

  • “Don’t always reach out to people selfishly; reach out to people and offer your time so that you can help them. Overtime that comes back, and they will pay back.” (14:15)
  • “Culture influences who you hire and how you hire.” (24:53)
  • “The more you trust people, the more they raise themselves up.” (28:05)
  • “The skillset you accumulate to be a success in a large company oftentimes is not transferable to another large company.” (29:18)
  • “The first hundred people hire the next thousand people.” (31:56)
  • “Culture is built by allowing for spaces and people to discuss nonwork things at work.” (36:09)
  • “You connect as people beyond your job when you get to know the person behind the job.” (38:22)
  • “The biggest transition for leaders is going from problem-solving to helping people solve problems.” (44:07)
  • “People often confuse decisiveness with dictating things. You can be decisive and still be very collaborative.” (49:00)
  • “You have to be confident to take risks.” (59:43)


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