SAJ 3795-sWHO SHE IS: Sheila Jambekar, Sr. Counsel in charge of Product Compliance at Zynga

WHERE: San Francisco Bay Area

SUCCESS STORY: Mother of 2, heading up the Product Compliance team at Zynga, loving what I do


KIDS: Maliha (6) and Deaglan (4)

SANITY VICE: Cooking with butter

RECENT SMART READ: Daring Greatly by Brene Brown (I generally dislike “self-help” type books, but a dear friend gave me this book and it was a surprisingly good read)

BEST TIME-MANAGEMENT TIP: Do as much a possible the night before — pack lunches, pick out clothes, shower, etc.

BETTER WAY TO SAY WORK-LIFE BALANCE? “Learning the art of air traffic control” – knowing which “planes” are running out of gas and need to land, and which ones can circle a bit longer…

5+ Questions for Sheila

1. What’s it like to be part of the legal team at a gaming company? Can you give us some examples of the things you work on — a day in the life?

Being part of the legal team here is a lot of fun and intellectually challenging. Online social gaming is a new industry where consumers are interacting with our products in ways that were not envisioned even a decade ago. The law is racing to catch up so it is in flux and feels like it’s changing all the time. This means I am constantly learning, figuring out how new laws will impact our products and services, and helping our product teams navigate this changing legal landscape. Some days I’m helping our marketing team navigate using social media to market our games in compliance with the law in the morning, keeping tabs on new privacy legislation at lunch, and reviewing legal briefs in the afternoon.

SAJ 38442. You told me on the phone that you left a law firm after having children because the job was “too jealous.” What did you mean by that?

The firm I was at was comparatively good about allowing for flex time and other alternative work arrangements, but like most other law firms, we billed out our time on an hourly basis. What that means is that the more time I spent working for clients, the more money I made for the firm. So, not surprisingly, the job wanted all of my time. Before I had kids, working weekends and late into the night was commonplace. Once I had kids, that just wasn’t going to cut it anymore. At a job that will beg for all of your time, you need to set boundaries so that work doesn’t swallow up all your family and personal time. I struggled to set and maintain those boundaries at the firm after having kids since they had not been there before. I enjoy being a lawyer, but the stress of feeling guilty about spending so much time at work and the anxiety over what was not getting done when I spent time at home took away that enjoyment. So, when I had the opportunity to make a fresh start at a new job, I took it.

3. I love that when you interviewed at Zynga you were very clear about the schedule you would need to accommodate your family life and balance it with your work life. Can you tell us a little about what you asked for, and how you brought this up in the interview process?

To be clear, I was in a good spot when I was interviewing at Zynga. I had a good job and was doing fine. That combined with the soul searching that I had previously done when I left the law firm gave me the courage to be authentic during my interview process with Zynga. In most interviews, there is a point when the interviewer asks if you have any questions for them. That is when I took the opportunity to mention that my husband and I share kid drop-off and pick-up duties, and so I wanted to know if my having to leave the office early few times a week would be okay. I always reassured my interviewer that I would be available to get back online on those evenings after the kids were in bed and would generally get into the office earlier on those days. But, I wanted to know honestly if that would work for the company. It was a “no judgment” question. If that would not work, it would be better for everyone for the company to pick another candidate.

zynga photo4. What has been key to making what you asked for work during the time you’ve been there?

Asking. The key to making what I asked for work is actually asking in the first place. By asking about it at the outset, everyone went into the relationship with their eyes open. My colleagues know what my needs are. I also recognize that the company and my colleagues have needs. They want to know that I will carry my weight. So I also work really hard when I am in the office and will log on after the kids are in bed as necessary. That has earned the trust and respect of my colleagues.

5. What is the media missing about working moms, in your opinion?

I don’t really like the term “working mom” because it implies that there are moms out there that don’t work. Being a mom is work. That said, mothers that also work outside the home seem to get portrayed in extremes either as frazzled basket cases or perfectly together and managing to do it all. The first stereotype is embarrassing, the second is demoralizing. Reality is really somewhere in between.

5+ What advice do you live by as a working mom?

Be authentic with yourself and decide for yourself what constitutes “success” – what do you want your life to be? Instead of focusing on what success looks like, think about what you want it to feel like when you’ve achieved success. Keep that in mind and let it be your guide. Particularly as a moms working outside the home, we get bombarded all the time with mixed messages. If you decide to take yourself off the fast track to spend more time with your family, it means you’re doing a disservice to your gender or squandering your talents. If you stay on the fast track, it means you’re selfish and doing a disservice to your family. Trying to fit into everyone else’s definition of what you should do or should be striving for in your life is a recipe for frustration and anxiety. But if you return to what your definition of success is, it will help you regain focus and drown out the chatter.

Learn more about what Zynga is doing to support working families and read about another one of Zynga’s leading ladies, “Mags 3.0.”