“Respect your time.” As you grow and advance the ball in your professional & personal endeavors, the time that we have to ourselves becomes more and more limited. Demands on our time grow more numerous, and the decisions as to how our time is prioritized become more difficult. I’ve learned that the secret is identifying a core set of 5 ways that your time should best be used, and using those 5 ways to guide your decision on how to spend your time and your attention. The great majority of us cannot respond to every reach out, and certainly cannot make everyone happy. However, a happy and productive version of ourselves will confer the greatest benefit onto the world. So set your “time principles,” stick with them in your prioritization … and voila, you will be happier, more productive, and more beneficial to the world around you!
As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Chithra Durgam.
Dr. Chithra Durgam is a leader, an innovator, and a champion for female empowerment in business. Since early 2019, she has been hard at work developing a groundbreaking skill for voice platforms, which initially assisted all categories of medical providers in making their practices more efficient, and improving patient communication & tracking. More recently, Dr. Durgam has expanded her voice skill to benefit business owners and celebrities, via her company Blue Check Skill, equipping them to interact with customers & fans more easily, and also providing fresh new experiences that are not available on any other medium … and she does all of this while maintaining a busy and successful dental practice. You can learn much more about Dr. Durgam here: https://drdurgam.com/.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
Although my career path has been circuitous, it is an interesting one! As a dentist in private practice, I realized that my biggest gift was amplifying my brand through social media. I ended up creating videos on the Musically app with much success. I then landed an opportunity to be featured in the book “Crushing It” by Gary Vaynerchuk. Due to the overwhelming response arising from that feature, and the impact of my social media, I was motivated to be first on the “next” platform. I saw the future as voice skills, on voice assistants. I created my skill “The Dr. Durgam Experience,” and now I help other celebrities and large businesses create their own voice skill on voice assistants to amplify their brands through owned content. It is satisfying to know that I can help brands become more profitable by monetizing digital content and physical products in an innovative way.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
The voice skill work that I have dedicated myself to in recent years is on the cutting edge of the industry, and there appears to be nothing else like it available today. Blue Check Skill will provide the most direct connection between brands & celebrities and their fans & customers that has ever existed on any medium. This sounds like a bold take, but consider all of the other options, and their various limitations. Voice technology has the capability to achieve universal reach and targeted customization, combined with efficiencies in implementation and updates. This makes voice arguably the most friendly mass-scale method available to businesses and celebrities that we’ve seen thus far, even surpassing all social media platforms.
Initially, my skill dramatically enhanced efficiencies in medical offices of all types, greatly improved patient education, slashed costs in a wide cross-section of categories, and therefore reduced the cost of healthcare overall. When video is also incorporated on the skill, the familiarity and comfort that patients have with receiving health care (particularly younger patients) increases, and therefore those patients are more likely to be in better health overall. This skill has a real chance of catalyzing a positive culture change across the greater healthcare industry, as a whole. When ported over to larger scale businesses & notable celebrities, and used as a fundamental tool, the scope, diversity, and effectiveness of fan / customer relationships will be taken to a level via voice technology that we’ve not yet experienced to date.
Apart from voice, I’ve also helped healthcare professionals and business owners succeed by breaking “cookie cutter” social media and traditional customer service practices. Every situation is different, but I can help businesses that are in industries that traditionally wouldn’t use social media to make an impact on their businesses … do just that!
For example, with my dental practice, I’ve leveraged the use of social media to make it less intimidating for people of all backgrounds to go to the dentist, creating a warm & friendly brand for my office. This has resulted in a lot of clients, particularly children, feeling much more comfortable with coming to my office, and even asking their parents to switch to me as their dentist.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest mistakes usually turn out to not be mistakes at all. For example, I would sometimes ask a lot of questions, or even repeat my questions in multiple ways. This came off as humorous, awkward, or even annoying to a lot of people. However, over time, I was able to better connect the dots, and I was eventually reminded to surround myself with patient people, and ask questions early on. I’m so happy that I don’t look at some of those awkward moments as mistakes anymore!
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
My parents are my most prominent mentors. My father has always been so experienced in finding creative solutions to problems and understanding future trends. My mother has the utmost attention to detail and has always been my North Star in terms of managing responsibilities. One specific example would be when I rented my first office space, and my parents were visiting me. They helped me to transform the space to its full potential with some paint, interior decorating, and renovations. Whenever I have a big event in my life, my parents have always supported me personally, as well as professionally.
Aside from my parents, there are so many other people who have contributed my life. I try to learn from the strengths of others, and share my strengths with them. This enables all of us to grow together.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
I believe that disrupting an industry is almost always a positive. It either results in real positive change, or it tests the industry and verifies that the industry is already performing, at least in part, at a near-optimal level.
In the relatively new and rapidly developing voice industry, I feel that the disruption that has occurred up until this point has been strongly positive. The advent of social audio across many platforms, with voice skills being used with various voice assistants, has created a network that allows some one’s voice to seamlessly reach and impact a wide and diverse base of users, without the users having to see, read, or touch anything. This has never been possible before, and access to this network is open to an unprecedented number of creators.
This disruption has provided more access to information to underserved populations. It also allows creators to own more of their public content, with the time that it takes to push that content out to users and fans being made shorter and more efficient, week-by-week. Platforms typically own content, but with voice assistants, creators own their content again and guide the narrative. This is a huge disruptive change! Once more people are aware of this change, creativity and development will pour into the voice industry.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
- “Respect your time.” As you grow and advance the ball in your professional & personal endeavors, the time that we have to ourselves becomes more and more limited. Demands on our time grow more numerous, and the decisions as to how our time is prioritized become more difficult. I’ve learned that the secret is identifying a core set of 5 ways that your time should best be used, and using those 5 ways to guide your decision on how to spend your time and your attention. The great majority of us cannot respond to every reach out, and certainly cannot make everyone happy. However, a happy and productive version of ourselves will confer the greatest benefit onto the world. So set your “time principles,” stick with them in your prioritization … and voila, you will be happier, more productive, and more beneficial to the world around you!
- “Take time to work on yourself.” This advice goes hand-in-hand with “respect your time,” however it deserves its own mention. During recent years, I’ve found myself occasionally worn down from the myriad of demands in my life and various challenges placed in front of me during my journey. I’ve come to acknowledge that yes, challenges will always be there. For most of us, we will never reach a super-relaxed, and comfortable existence (at least prior to retirement). So, step one, above anything else, is ensuring that you are working on yourself, so that you can be the best version of you, for the betterment of yourself and anyone that you come into contact with. Is this a selfish approach? Absolutely not — the best “you” means that you will be doing the most for others. Do not set aside your own health & wellness for an extra task or another assignment … you will be caught in a game of diminishing returns!
- “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been.” This is a famous Wayne Gretzky quote that has been used ad nauseum by many of the top businesspeople in North American over the past two decades. I’m not much of a hockey fan, and I’m also no fan of latching onto frequently-used quotes … however, I’m making an exception with this one. This succinct statement from the greatest hockey player of all time is something we should all absorb and follow: don’t worry about where your industry is NOW, because that will lead to mixed results, at best, and oftentimes find failure & disappointment. Rather, trust your instincts and your experience, and get to where you think your industry is headed BEFORE it gets there. That’s what I’m trying to do today with Blue Check Skill and my work in voice technology, in general. And I truly believe that the puck is about to be sent my way.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
My voice skill and approach, originally developed for the medical industry, has been successfully exported to sectors outside of health care. I’m still passionate about continuing to innovate with voice skills inside of the medical world, but I also will continue to push the boundaries across a more general landscape. In this world that has been so restricted by COVID, and likely will still have to endure lingering impacts from the pandemic, the possibilities for voice innovation are endless. Effectively deployed voice skills and products have the potential to bring us all closer together, while at the same time not increasing physical person-to-person interaction. Look for me to be on the cutting edge of these deployments, pushing both the pace and the ceiling as much as I can.
Thinking more globally, I am diligently working on voice, allowing businesses and celebrities to interact with customers & fans more easily, providing brand new experiences that are not available on any other mediums. Groundbreaking voice skills are now more important than ever, in light of COVID and its long-term impacts on the world. Exciting possibilities are on the horizon, and voice skills have the opportunity to bring us all together, from the largest and most popular celebrities to the humblest and technology-modest retiree.
Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?
“The Intelligent Investor” by Benjamin Graham is a practical classic which shares great concepts about value investing. When investing, many looking for highly profitable sectors like technology; however, I believe the ability to properly assess value and be patient with value stocks to allow for compound investing is not discussed enough. It also reminds me of the importance of patience in the outcome as a business owner. Working hard to provide the best outcome but not be so beholden to the outcome that it creates problems or chronic stress.
The book has impacted me in my everyday decisions. I have learned to work towards long term wins, as opposed to focusing on instant gratification. I continue to provide free high-value content in my voice skill on Alexa, “The Dr Durgam Experience.” Although I’m not being compensated for this content, the value from it continues to compound, which inevitably helps amplify my brand and establishes a foundation for potential monetization in the future. If I would have been focused on only monetizing in the beginning, the skill would have quickly lost traction, garnered low reviews, and been quickly dismissed as too commercial. I believe that the compounding of time, money, and resources is a great combination to achieving success.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“When Someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time” — Maya Angelou.
I think at times performative allyship rears its head with red flags in business partnerships. I am intuitive enough to acknowledge when there is a disconnect between the words and actions, yet I don’t address it quickly enough. I have learned over time to believe people when they show themselves, and do not wait for the third or fourth time to address it.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Imagine changing the direction of someone’s life! I encourage everyone to take opportunities to help those who are underserved. Many times, we receive requests in our DMs to help others with mentorship or a simple task, but we think we are too busy to help. A recommendation to help a student get into school can make a huge impact when they have nobody else to ask. Sometimes, a few words of encouragement can convince someone that they have a chance to achieve their dream. Reconsider spending 5% of your time or money helping others, whether it is a bigger tip the next time you go to a restaurant, or giving a 15-minute free consultation to a new business owner. These acts can be hugely impactful, and many times the receiver is immensely grateful.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
It was my pleasure! Thank you for having me.