We had the good fortune of connecting with Vaijayanthi Iyengar and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Vaijayanthi, how do you think about risk?
My approach toward risk is relatively pragmatic through a lens of probability and consequence. We tend to think of risks as this lose big vs. win big situation, but honestly, I consider taking a risk an intelligent gamble of opportunities. I always ask myself a few questions: How will this risk impact my life? Will it be a unique opportunity, and is there a future in which this opportunity will present itself again? Will this risk be the impetus I need to grow? Do I have the information I need to assess things properly?
And while these define my internal motivations to take the risk, I also look externally. Who is sharing the risk with me? What is their acumen? How well do I understand their motivations?
This personal checklist has held me in good stead. It’s helped me realize my American Dream of building something of my own. I moved to the US with a corporate career in IT, but entrepreneurship has been a forever goal. And while it sounds risky to leave a stable job with the promise of growth, I knew that I had the support system I needed and the freedom to take the plunge now.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
While I am a core technologist and run a design agency focused on strategic, insightful, robust, and people-focused design solutions, I recently took on a new role. I am now co-owner and partner at NTER, an escape room company with locations in Plano and McKinney. NTER is a fun, family-friendly, narrative-based entertainment avenue that encourages curiosity while putting a smile on people’s faces. It is an opportunity to escape into a new world with your friends, family, or even colleagues and discover how you can work together to return to reality while challenging yourselves. I 100% agree with Scott Nicholson, a professor at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, who calls escape rooms a “collaborative adventure!” Because that is precisely what NTER is.
During the pandemic, I realized how screens had started to define the nature of our relationships and how we perceived each other. It brought to my attention the very isolated nature of bonding. I have always loved to work at the intersection of people, technology, and spaces. So to me, it was a no-brainer to invest in and run an escape room company. It’s a space that would allow me to design experiences and foster bonds in the real world while leveraging my know-how in building digital products.
My business partners and I have known each other for a long time and shared this vision. Working with other driven women is a game-changer in so many ways. We bring different skill sets to the table, which makes for an accomplished team working together holistically to build a great experience and a company rooted in inclusion, diversity, and transparency. It’s what makes NTER a flourishing and proud women-owned business.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Honestly, if my best friend were visiting, I would first ensure we get some alone time, which 100% means that the kids would be my partner’s responsibility for the weekend.
I love spontaneity and look out for unique opportunities, so I may not plan the whole week. We may take it one day at a time, but I’d start here: an escape room session with my bestie at NTER, of course. We are both curious people who love to best a puzzle, so what could be better than a round at a space I am building and growing.
Plano is home to a beautiful riverfront, my favorite place to relax and chill. The best thing about it-it’s just five minutes away from NTER. So, the moment we have exercised our brains, we can head out to the riverfront, eat and drink at one of my favorite restaurants, and stroll along the boardwalk.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are so many people who have positively impacted my personal and professional life. But there are a few people whose names I have to take. Like Jayantha Salagundi, whose tech and business guidance has helped me step out of my comfort zone and encouraged my distinct point of view. His belief that I could make it as an entrepreneur helped me realize the dream with more clarity.
My professional relationship with Rebecca Destello was perhaps the earliest friendship I formed after moving from India to the US in 2014. Striking up a relationship with a peer like her opened new doors for me. She introduced me to the UX Illuminati network when I moved here. She encouraged me to embrace and enjoy differences in a completely new environment, question conventional stereotypes, and create impact through candid and organic conversations.
Of course, there is one person who I could never thank enough, my life partner- Aditya Kelkar. He has not only been my biggest cheerleader but is also a significant influence and mentor. His rational thought process and sincere interest in learning from diversity have inspired me immensely. Being a working mother does come with challenges, but my partner has never allowed these challenges to impede my career path. Kudos to my husband, who questioned conventional parenting roles and took on the mantle of a SAHD (Stay-At-Home-Dad) when my kids were young.