Staff Spotlight: Bittu Ahlawat, SVP of Product Engineering

By MBO Partners | December 3, 2021


For more than 25 years, MBO has led the charge to keep the independent economy moving forward. And now we are thrilled to give you an exclusive look at the individuals who have made our company what it is today. We are happy to launch new series which highlights the team that power our platform, many of whom you’ve met, and others we hope you’ll enjoy getting to know! Please enjoy our featured series: the Staff Spotlight.

This month we spoke to Bittu Ahlawat, a SVP of Product Engineering who is leading MBO into the future of product development. Under his guidance, MBO has empowered our clients to do the work they love, the way they want, each and every day. And, if there’s anyone in our company who’s motivated to try new things and take chances, it’s Bittu. Read our exclusive interview with Bittu to learn more about his dedication to deeper understanding.

In our exclusive interview, Bittu shared advice, personal stories, and struggles on how to always keep trying even if you fail the first time. After reading his story, you’ll understand why he is without a doubt an inspiration for anyone in the workforce.

When first sitting down with him, we wanted to know why Bittu’s passionate about the industry he is in. He said:

Technology has changed the face of mankind for good and will continue to do so for eons to come. Our labor industry helps enable individuals to live meaningful lives. I get to do both together here.

Then, he dished out his favorite quote (one that he thinks his work in technology relies on):

“Companies rare die from moving too fast, and they frequently die from moving too slowly.”

– Reed Hastings

He added that his favorite part about working in this industry was:

Getting to work with an awesome team. Everybody is so focused on building the best possible experience for our customers and doing whatever it takes to get it done. It is very inspiring.

He continued to tell us that two major influences and role models he has looked to when developing his career were Reed Hastings and Steve Wozniak. He explained both by saying:

For Reed Hastings (Netflix): I love the engineering culture he created within Netflix that has permeated throughout the big tech companies.

And Steve Wozniak (Apple): Jobs may get the love for Apple’s success but there is no Apple without Woz’s genius

After understanding why he was passionate about the industry, we dug into what makes him effective in his role today.

I am a fairly people-oriented person. I try to leverage my good listening skills to help navigate complex, sometimes emotionally charged, situations within teams and cross-functionally. Also, I’m a strong believer of delegating ownership effectively to enable autonomy and grow the future leaders of the company.

He then told us that at MBO he lives by many of our core values. He told us:

We are invested in each other’s success. In my short tenure here already, I have been amazed by my colleagues on how much they want me to succeed and the distance they are willing to travel with me to make it happen. I love this about our culture. It is rare.

Then, he added in some color about what gets him excited each day coming to work:

We are trying to build something that has a profound impact on the lives of many around the globe. We have the ability to provide opportunities that transform the lives of the individuals and their family. I want to enable this for millions around the globe. This is what makes me get excited on Mondays.

Next year, he said, he has some lofty goals for MBO’s success, saying he plans to:

Launch a unified platform that serves the needs of all of our customers.

After seeing Bittu’s passion and dedication for his job, we wanted to know a bit more about his journey early on in his career path. And what he told us will inspire and encourage anyone who is facing obstacles or hurdles in their own career route.

We started by asking him what was one of the most challenging parts of his career have been. He told us that:

When I worked at one of the previous companies, I had to lay off a large team because the product strategy wasn’t working. This was very tough as I had built the team from scratch and had lot of good hardworking people in it. Through no fault of their own, they were put in this situation. This situation led me to change my mindset where I am now constantly asking myself if we are winning or losing in what we are doing at a macro level. This allows me to change directions quickly before we head deeply into the wrong direction.

To get through challenging times, we also wanted to know what traits or strengths he relies on most in order to help him throughout his career:

Two strengths: Integrity and communication
Two areas of improvement: Time management and patience.

I am fairly good at connecting with people and able to traverse even the most difficult conversations. Also, I don’t compromise on my ethics when I am in a situation where my own moral center isn’t aligning with the other party.
I can get a bit impatient when launching new things because I want to see them sooner rather than later. This can mean sometimes I push myself by over indexing on time spent working. I have caused a few unnecessary burnouts on myself due to this in the past.

All MBO Employees take the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment upon starting at the organization. Those interested in learning more can purchase their own evaluation in our App Store.

After learning this, we wanted to understand if there was any particular accomplishment, where he used his integrity, that shaped his career thus far.

When I was working at Ebay’s innovation and incubation group, I was responsible for expanding the mobile offering internationally. Given the early days of smartphones, it required a lot of experimentation in LATAM, APAC, and EMEA to figure out what worked and what failed. This was the first time in my career where I got to expand my horizon from thinking technically to thinking strategically. Achieving success in launching international offerings led me to ultimately pursue the leadership path that has led me here. 

He added that, in order to continue growing, he challenges himself to constant growth. He shared:

I am fairly self motivated person. No one is going to demand from me than I demand of myself. In the tech space, there are new things being released every single day and the opportunity to expand my knowledge is a great motivator for me.

And when asked what advice he has received from others that affected him most, he responded:

There is a cost to becoming great. As an individual professional, you will have to give up some things/habits to move ahead. Personally, I had to pay a huge social cost in order to make professional progress.

We then wanted to know if he had any advice for young adults entering the workforce.

Be comfortable with the uncomfortable. If you are in a role where you are not being challenged, you are not learning and growing. If you find yourself in a comfortable spot, find ways to get uncomfortable.

Finally to end our time with Bittu, we wanted to know if he had a dream career he was still aiming to achieve. But to our delight he told us that:

I am already in my dream career. I enjoy being an engineer and being on the forefront of technology. There isn’t any other field I would choose over this.

Eager to learn more about or submit a member of the MBO team for a future spotlight? Drop us a line and share your suggested submission. We’ll continue this series throughout 2021 and beyond.

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