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Head and heart: How empathy guides Intuitive's Neeta Mhatre

Neeta Mhatre

For Neeta Mhatre, to make the right decisions you need both head and heart.

Early in her career, she found herself leading a team of more than 300, making decisions that cost millions of dollars and impacted countless lives. It was a position that would be nerve-racking to even the most experienced executive, but Neeta wasn’t fazed.

“At that young age, spending millions of dollars was a very hard thing for me to swallow,” Neeta said. “If I let that get to my head, I would not have made good decisions.”

So how did she succeed? “I think about the contributions you can make, and the quality of the impact you can make in people’s lives,” she said. “Essentially, I reminded myself that there are things more important than just the number of zeros after the dollar sign.”

Making connections

That focus on the human element is a mindset that has carried Neeta far in her career, and it’s what eventually lead her to join Intuitive. 

After earning her degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Mumbai, Neeta moved to Los Angeles to begin a new life with her husband—a love she lost to leukemia just six short months later. She then relocated to Northern California to be closer to family, earning her MBA from Santa Clara University and launching her career with a focus on helping people. 

While working at Siemens Healthineers, Neeta attended a talk by Intuitive’s Catherine Mohr at a women in technology conference about the da Vinci Surgical System . She was “immediately and completely enamored” with the technology.

“I saw that they were looking for a senior director to start a program management office,” she said. “And since I had done that before, I thought, ‘This is so great. I’d love more than anything to help contribute to that!’”

Flash forward to today, and Neeta now serves as the Vice President of the Global Program Management Office (PMO) at Intuitive, playing an essential role in managing the company’s future. In the time since the PMO launched, the cross-functional practice has grown from around 10 employees to more than 80 employees today. The team is now crucial to operations, driving portfolio management, process improvement, and program execution across all of Intuitive. 

“When we started the PMO, it was like everybody was in their own kayak,” Neeta explained. “People were already doing what we do, separately, but with the PMO, it was as if everyone suddenly started rowing on the same vessel. It shows how much faster and farther we can go when we row in sync.”

Looking past the numbers

Unsurprisingly, Neeta helps harness the power of people to drive change in other ways, too. When Peter Geng, a design engineer at Intuitive, approached Neeta about establishing the Intuitive Pan-Asian Community (InPAC) employee resource group at the company, she enthusiastically supported the idea. She now serves as the co-executive sponsor for the group, alongside Dr. Jaime Wong, Senior Vice President and Senior Medical Officer.

“The ERGs are really a grassroots effort,” Neeta explained. “Our employees are very interested in making an impact, and this is one way we can collaborate across the company to innovate, share ideas, and celebrate and share our cultures with each other.”

In fact, the people and culture at Intuitive overall are what Neeta cites as the reasons she remains as excited today to work at Intuitive as her first day in 2015. “I’ve never actually been at any one role for this long before,” she laughed. “But the patient-first philosophy that this company has really resonates with me and what I believe in.”

“The leadership of CEO Gary Guthart and the whole team, the incredible empathy with which we work—that's the number one priority and the guiding principle for how we make our decisions.”

Looking toward the future

Today, Neeta is proud of what her team has accomplished and the PMO they’ve developed, and she continues to look at how to expand and improve for patients and customers. 

“At our all-hands last quarter, Gary called PMO the circulatory system for the company,” she said. “And that’s definitely true: We keep things moving, we help remove blockages, we help keep the body healthy—so heart, head, and all.”

And Neeta is, of course, by no means finished. She views every day as a new opportunity to improve and grow: “I’m always asking: ‘Hey, how can we bring you new value?’”

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Neeta Mhatre

Neeta Mhatre serves as the Vice President of China Operations and Strategy at Intuitive, playing an essential role in managing the company’s future.

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