Five years ago, Sanam Saaber was a happily employed lawyer until she took a call one day, expecting to speak with a client, and discovered a Box recruiter on the line. Three weeks later she began her journey at Après corporate partner Box as an in-house attorney responsible for helping take the company through its IPO.
Today, as Senior Director, Legal, she manages 11 legal professionals and is responsible for the practice groups and teams for commercial transactions (aka customer deals), vendor legal (aka what Box buys), litigation, commercial privacy, new products and crisis management.
She’s also the mother of three-year-old twins Arya and Austin. Here she tells us about her work-life “flow,” the culture at Box, and offers an exercise on the value of how questioning the rules is key to our career path.
1. How would you describe your personal work-life balance, and what is the key to making it work?
Let me first start off by saying that as a working mom you never feel like you are making it work but somehow, magically, on a daily basis, the assignments all get done, the meetings happen, the kids are clothed, fed and happy, and the dog gets the attention he needs, too.
So the best way to describe my personal work-life balance is, in a word, “flow.” By flowing between when and where I work, I’m able to flow between the things that are the most important in my life.
That said, I work very hard to make the flow happen, starting my day with international calls and emails around 5:30 a.m., then fixing breakfast, packing lunch, playing with and dropping off my kids at 8:30 a.m.. I take calls in the car and then it’s off to the races with meetings, projects, one on ones, and negotiations until 5 p.m. when I get back in the car and take more calls.
After pick up the kids and I go home, prepare dinner, eat, talk, play or take the dog for a walk, do bath time, story time, and snuggle time. I’m back online supporting Asia-Pacific hours until 12 a.m. or 1 a.m.
Then it’s rinse and repeat with weekends reserved for my kids, family and friends.
2. When we spoke you were at home because one of your children got sick and you had to leave midday. You told me you got the call and turned to the CFO in a meeting and said, “I have to go,” and everyone understood. Is that indicative of the culture at Box?
Very much so. That day was the first day that I was sitting in for my General Counsel in a large quarterly company operations and status meeting. Of course, right before I am to present, I get a call from the school that my son has a high fever.
What is amazing about working at Box is that I knew that my decision to go take care of my child would be 100% supported and I did not even give it a second thought. That night I posted this picture on Instagram:
I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from my Box colleagues, both men and women, providing encouragement and offering to do pickups or help anytime.
3. You mentioned that you calendar preschool drop off (love this). What are other examples of what you calendar or things you do to set boundaries, and do others on your team do this too?
I wish that I could take credit for this but I started doing it because my boss calendars his sons’ practices or drop-offs.
This small gesture is so indicative of our Box culture and one of our values, which is “Bring your _______ to work,” where you as the employee fill in the blank.
In our legal team we bring our whole selves to work and make sure we are comfortable being transparent about what we need, whether it’s blocking time for kids, training for a marathon, writing a book or practicing our craft.
4. You told me you think people get in their own way sometimes from a career perspective. How can we get out of our own way?
We assume parameters and limitations placed on us by others or ourselves. We are not curious to question why things are the way are and challenge that they can be different. We need to think outside of the box (no pun intended) on how we approach our career.
Take this exercise I give in my negotiations presentations that helps drive this point home. Don’t cheat by looking ahead!
Here is the answer:
Many people assume certain rules in this exercise but the way to complete it is to realize that you can extend the lines beyond the corner dot and think in the white space.
This is the exact same way you should be approaching your career. Think beyond the boundaries and in the white space. Try to understand what you can provide, what you want, and what is needed to get there. Be sure to ask a lot of questions along the way to validate that the assumptions you have made are actually true.
5. Is there anything else you would like to share?
Don’t be afraid to speak up about what you need to make your life work. The biggest thing I do to set boundaries is simply telling people when something doesn’t work for me and offering an alternative.
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