The Moment | Diraj Goel


We believe that life is a collection of Moments. Some ever so big, some fleeting, some small. It is in these Moments and the choices we make within them, that shape the people we become and what our lives will stand for.We are reaching out to the most interesting, inspiring & successful leaders around the world to ask them about their Moments. In the spirit of our number one value, collaboration, our goal with this series is for you to experience development and enrichment from today's most inspirational leaders.

Diraj Goel is a technology obsessed entrepreneur that has held several high profile leadership roles within the tech industry in Vancouver. Most recently Diraj has taken his years of experience within the corporate world to fulfill a life long goal of running his own business. What we love most about this inspiring techy is the vision of his business, GetFresh Ventures. It is built on the premise that purpose driven companies can and should be highly profitable enterprises. And lets be honest, what we also love about Diraj is his killer style and incredibly adorable daughter.

Diraj, tell us about the moment...

You realized you were in the presence of a great leader/teacher...
I am frankly drawing a blank when thinking of a single leader or teacher who fundamentally shaped my world view. Not because of a lack of great leadership in my life, but an abundance. I have had the opportunity to work with and lean on several amazing leaders and teachers as well as several more leaders who had their challenges; however, they all equally taught me a great deal.


There was my early business partner and mentor who helped me redefine my ambitions from one measured by currency to one by value provided. His mantra was that “excellence and great customer experiences would guarantee success regardless of the business you were in. Pursue purpose, the money will come”. Several years later, I had the opportunity to work with a serial and well storied international entrepreneur who showed me that the world was malleable, if you were willing to understand it and had the passion and pursuit bend it to your vision. That impossible was only in the minds who thought so. And years later even, my final conversation with a senior executive of a company I had spent a considerable time at, highlighting my people oriented approach to leadership was flawed and required a more forceful hand to get things done. The lesson there was not in the guidance provided but in my disagreement with, and my willingness at that point to stand up for values I believed in. 

The one experience that has stood out, I encountered with a CEO of a startup early in my career. She had invited everyone in our head-office in Boston to her home for our holiday party and when I arrived, she greeted me and everyone else who was from visiting or local offices by name. Although I had only met her a couple times prior to, she had mastered the ability to engage at a personal level and gave a then junior IT guy an elevated sense of being. It was then that I came to understand the power of empowerment, even in the smallest of gestures.

You knew you were on the right path in your career...
I’m still trying to figure out if I’m on the right career path. I have always wrestled with the desire to be logical and structured on one hand and the other, to be completely free spirited and wantonly creative. 


I remember my Dad’s face, who built his career as an engineer at Texas Instruments, that after a lifetime of pursuing technology related personal projects and schooling, I was going to drop out of computer science and pursue fashion design. Then dropping out of university altogether after stints moving between business, math and psychology faculties without settling on any one that could hold my interest long enough. Throughout the rest of my career, I moved between high growth startups to multi-national orgs going through transformations, from being an entrepreneur to climbing the corporate ladder. From scaling companies from within to working with companies consulting on their growth.

Today, after leaving my last executive role, I’ve decided to finally design my life to the way I want to live it, which has pulled me in directions I would have never imagined a couple years ago. I feel most at peace with my "why" when I wake up today than ever before while the fear of the unknown can be crushing at times. Today I work with, mentor and invest in young companies on rapidly scaling their companies with a people first data driven mantra, while doing the same for the startup I founded.

You failed...
I really wish there was a single moment of failure. In fact, currently I have a working assumption that I am failing at about 60% of the things I’m doing while the rest 40%, are things that I haven’t yet realized as failures. 
There have been moments where I have felt like an utter failure, and they were during periods when I felt alone with the challenges I faced. During a major technology project at Vision Critical, I realized the change we embarked upon was much larger than we expected. We had run over schedule and over budget, with no clear end in sight. We eventually corrected though the episode left me feeling inferior and out of depth. It took a while for me to regain from the misstep, in my confidence and the trust I had with the leaders. And taught me a powerful lesson on understanding that the needs of the people involved outweighed the desire for technical efficiency. 
It’s those lessons that have taught me that failure is inevitable, and necessary for personal growth, as long as I am able to reflect on and decide what works and doesn’t work for me. The experiences of failure allowed me to reflect and garner where my approach went awry or where my values stood in the way of the path of least resistance.     

You chose something different than what was expected of you...
Having worked through two tech bubbles, I learned quickly how lucrative equivalent opportunities down south were compared to Vancouver. I was always ambitious in pursuing the greatest opportunities, no matter where they took me and moving away was always in the cards. Being an immigrant from Singapore, I was already experienced in picking up a life and moving across the globe. In all cases, I chose to turn down job offers that took me away from the place I had grown to love and truly call home. Vancouver has an abundance of motivated and innovative leaders, and I am motivated and passionate about helping these leaders learn, grow and scale to make Vancouver a sought-out place to start a venture.

You wake. And the ritual you have to start your day...
Well… my ritual ebbs and flows really to the schedule of wife’s and my newborn baby. Prior to, I had a strict regimen of 515am wake-up followed by a gym or workout class to get my mind and body going. I generally will not start work until 9am since those early few hours of fasting from the world, are my time for introspection and reflection.  Wherever I am in the world, taking 15 minutes to myself and setting my intention for the day has helped me stay focused.  Since having a baby, my well-oiled regiment had to take a back seat.  Now my time for introspection and reflection are during the few moments of awe I get to spend with Milan, as she brightens her beautiful smile to me every morning. I now get about 2 days into the gym and the rest is some mix of wake up, quiet, breakfast and work. I have been promised this gets better over time.

You made your best hire...
I’ve been lucky to have met and worked with several highly intelligent and ambitious people in my career, those that I have learned from and have pushed me to excel as a leader. This individual was quiet, though determined and highly motivated. More than anything, he had a passion to be better every day and to push himself through every challenge. This wasn’t immediately obvious to me as he was fairly green and new to his role.  In the relative short time I worked with him, he moved mountains and transformed the team I lead of 100+ to one that was fully integrated and working in cohesion. More than anything, he taught me the power of getting back up every day to pursue a vision of excellence, no matter the obstacle – personal capabilities, team dynamic, organizational constraints, or any of the other stresses that one encounters in a corporate environment. That the power of vision can compel people to ram through obstacle after obstacle with seemingly endless energy. For that, I’m forever thankful for meeting him on my journey. 

You felt the most successful in life...
When I got my first big role, a Director role at Vision Critical.  That title was part of my vision and felt getting that position was validation for all my hard work.  For someone who never completed traditional education, it felt rewarding to be able to prove that grit and determination can pay off.  My version of success has greatly changed since, it is no longer attached to a title, rather a feeling.  


I remember distinct events where I have outwardly stated, “This is the best life.” These have ranged from the times I have spent with my wife and family on a vacation somewhere in the world, to being at events with friends or family enjoying times of respite from everyday stresses or even simple nights on the couch where my thankful for the love my wife and I share for our little one. Professional successes have their place, however I have rarely held on to those as significant life events but a matter of a means to succeed at life with my family and my purpose at that point in my journey. I am always looking forward to the next event where I’m compelled to call out the day as “the best life”.

You received feedback that was hard to hear but worth listening to...
Early to mid in my career, my motivation to succeed drove me to always pursue outcomes more than the journey with the people I spent time with. That meant my approach in lots of cases were focused on getting shit done at all costs, even if that meant burning out my team or breaking down relationships. It wasn’t until a point deep in a global technology project for the company I was working with that I saw the strain in the eyes of one of my senior execs during a 1:1. I knew at the time that he had been working late nights and weekends for weeks, as was the rest of the team, and we had just hit a major setback. I was livid, upset and about to go off on a rant, when he apologized for the setback and asked for support on fixing the problem. I learned from him that the team were putting in all their energy and time into the project, not because it was a project that they were particularly enthusiastic about, but that they were determined to not let me down. I had lost sight of what was truly important and who I was doing it for. I had been blindly pursuing the outcomes without concern of the people it impacted including myself. That conversation led me to shift my leadership style to focus on the journey and the evolving together as much as the outcomes we pursued.  

You chose to walk away from someone or something...
I recently chose to walk away from my corporate life as a technology executive to pursue my passion for building high performing teams for purpose driven organizations. I departed my last role due to a conflict of values which led me to understand that the values I stood for superseded my desire to climb the corporate ladder. That I would be limited in transforming the political paradigm in companies from within given my role coming from an operations and technology function. That my focus needed to be with the younger companies who were still in the process of building their culture and ethos. It is my belief that people build companies and with a model for building a place where people can grow and pursue their passions, you can build great companies that scaled exponentially faster than their peer group and could withstand significant turbulence without losing its core. It is rare to encounter companies driven by a purpose and passion to improve the collective good and I intend to change that. 

Bit of more than you could chew...
Pretty much everything I have taken on has been a bit more than what I could and should have chewed. For the longest time, the feeling of being an imposter and inferior pushed me to work harder, smarter and faster than my peers. Today, that feeling is something I have reconciled as normal to maintain a growth mindset, especially as I’m setting an example for my daughter. 


To a degree, I believe we should always be lesser than the situations we put ourselves in to ensure we are constantly growing and learning. It’s during times of turmoil, that we push ourselves past our abilities – and sometimes that means taking on things you have no business doing.  It’s always been my attitude to say yes to things that were outside my comfort zone to ensure I was never at a point of complacency or mediocrity. 

Saw yourself & your true potential...Unfortunately, I don’t believe I have yet achieved my true potential. It’s only till recent that I have been able to flex my wings mentally, professionally and personally that I am not yet sure where this renewed freedom will lead. After 20+ years as a professional, I would have expected to be in the groove of my true potential by now and really hit my stride. Starting over just shy of turning 40 was not something I expected to do, but I have learned that I am capable of much more than I was afraid to pursue. Check back with me in 5yrs. I may have a better story then. 

You understood advice your parents gave you (what was it?)...
Early on, not sure out of desire to be independent or to prove my capability, I was determined to conquer every challenge by myself. Needing help meant that I weak or incapable. My parents did their best to get me to see the fallacy in my thinking though I always relented. I finally understood when I was at my lowest point professionally.  Help and support came from those I assumed cared less, and they showed up for me. I realized then that help wasn’t something we just gave, but needed to receive as well to build lasting and intimate human relationships. My relationships today are now stronger because of my willingness to be open and transparent of my challenges and weaknesses and being open to support.