People 17 February 2017
There's (unfortunately) not many women in Silicon Valley who sit toe to toe with the CEO in the boardroom and control the company checkbooks. Kim Jabal is a trailblazer for female CFOs in tech with a background at Google, Path and now as CFO for website and eCommerce platform, Weebly. Did we mention she's also a single mother of two boys? Here's 10 tips from Kim Jabal, who appears to be juggling it all.
1. When considering new career opportunities, she looks not just at the company and the role, but at the boss
My two best mentors over my career were also my bosses. When you are choosing a job you are often also choosing a mentor. Seek opportunities in a company where you have the opportunity to work for someone who is experienced, a great manager, and willing to teach and mentor. Spend enough time with that person while interviewing to feel confident that you can develop a great working relationship
2. She has young children and a busy life outside of work.
There have been many times during my career where work became all-encompassing for brief periods of time. But in general, I’ve always made time for friends, family, and fun. And sometimes this has meant that I deliberately chose companies where I knew this “balance” would be encouraged and not uncommon. I love working with people who are well-rounded and have many interests outside of work.
3. She lets herself off the hook
The key to work-life balance is to let yourself off the hook on at least some things. For example, I prioritize family dinner with the kids. I am almost always there unless there is a legitimate need to stay in the office. And I prioritize time with the kids on the weekends. However, I absolutely never volunteer for field trips or the carpool lane and I don't usually make it to routine doctor appointments (having help at home is key to making all of this work). My kids often eat cereal for breakfast and that's ok. I rarely throw parties. On the flip side, at work, I have finally realized that I will never get to the bottom of my email inbox so I've started to let myself off the hook just a little bit. I've “trained” my colleagues to call/text if anything is time sensitive as I'm not checking my email inbox all week-end. I have refined (although not perfected) the art of focusing on the most important/impactful activities versus the most urgent, and of being more proactive vs reactive.
4. She was the lone female software engineer at her first job
My first job out of college as a software engineer gave me valuable technical and managerial skills...and taught me how to be successful as a woman in a male dominated field. In my mid twenties I had to manage a group of all white, older men at a copper mining company. They were not thrilled with my presence so it was a very intimidating and challenging experience. But in the end, I won their trust and our efforts were a success and it really built up my confidence as a manager. A few years later I had a similar experience while working at an oil and gas company in Argentina - same challenges, but with a language barrier as well. Successfully making my way through a workplace with virtually no gender diversity built up my confidence and inspired me to pursue business school and to transition into a career in finance.
5. She’s not afraid to date
Just because you have a demanding job and kids that you love, you don't have to put your personal life on the shelf. It's important to me to make time to hang out with friends, date, meet people, and talk about something other than my job or my kids. You can and should make the time - in the stories jar of rocks, pebbles, and sand, it's at least one of the pebbles if not a rock!
6. She loves traveling for work
I love traveling and exploring new places, experiencing new cultures. I particularly love to travel for work because you have the opportunity to interact with people in a way that you wouldn’t be able to as a tourist. You get to know people in the office and you learn a little bit about how they live their lives. When I’m traveling solo, I will always find a restaurant for dinner on Yelp and eat at the bar. It’s a great way to meet people and learn more about the place I am visiting. And determine if the city has good food or not!
7. She loves food and wine but prioritizes healthy eating
Eating and drinking are two of my favorite pastimes without a doubt. But I try to eat sensibly and drink in moderation whenever I can. Michael Pollan says, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.". This is pretty much my rule of thumb. I eat the same thing for lunch every day at work - a huge arugula/kale salad with black beans, avocado, carrots, cucumbers, and nuts. I try not to eat many sweets because I find them so addictive! I don’t keep any junk food in the house (to the dismay of my children) and I generally try to eat 3 good meals plus an afternoon snack but nothing after dinner except maybe a glass of wine.
8. She bikes to and from work every day
Finding time to hit the gym or a SoulCycle class is usually hard to fit into my schedule. But, fitness is very important to me. So I’ve incorporated exercise into my daily routine. I bike to and from the train every day during the week and on weekends I walk the SF hills or hike the Santa Cruz mountains. I also love boogie boarding and mountain biking and skiing with my kids. In general, I am pretty disciplined and make sure that I get 30-45 minutes of movement every day. My rule of thumb is “low bar but high frequency”.
9. She’s on the board of FedEx and Change 2 Mind
Serving on outside boards has been an amazing experience for me. I find that I learn things on the boards that I can bring back to my core job and vise-versa. I love the contrast between my exciting young tech company and a world class public company like FedEx. Meanwhile, Bring Change 2 Mind is focused on reducing the stigma of mental illness. I lost my brother to suicide so this cause is important to me and the board gives me the opportunity to make a small contribution to the effort.
10. Her favorite female leader is Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin (Veuve Cliquot)
One of my favorite female leaders is Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin, otherwise known as Veuve Cliquot. This is a woman who, born in 1777, eagerly took the reins of a sizeable business conglomerate after losing her husband at age 27. She focused the business on champagne production, invented the riddling process which is still used today, and created one of the best known champagne brands at a time when marketing and branding barely even existed as a concept in the industry.
I am just amazed by people who lead and achieve great things against all odds.
Courtesy of Pursuitist.com
3 Min Read
"How did you ever get into a business like that?" people ask me. They're confounded to hear that my product is industrial baler wire—a very unfeminine pursuit, especially in 1975 when I founded my company in the midst of a machismo man's world. It's a long story, but I'll try to shorten it.
I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up—even if it involved a non-glamorous product. I'd been fired from my previous job working to become a ladies' clothing buyer and was told at my dismissal, "You just aren't management or corporate material." My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.
Over the years, I've learned quite a few tough lessons about how to successfully run a business. Below are five essential elements to keep in mind, as well as my story on how I learned them.
Find A Need And Fill It
I gradually became successful at selling various products, which unfortunately weren't profitable enough to get me off the ground, so I asked people what they needed that they couldn't seem to get. One man said, "Honey, I need baler wire. Even the farmers can't get it." I saw happy dollar signs as he talked on and dedicated myself to figuring out the baler wire industry.
I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up.
Now forty-five years later, I'm proud to be the founder of Vulcan Wire, Inc., an industrial baler wire company with $10 million of annual sales.
Have Working Capital And Credit
There were many pitfalls along the way to my eventual success. My daughters and I were subsisting from my unemployment checks, erratic alimony and child-support payments, and food stamps. I had no money stashed up to start up a business.
I paid for the first wire with a check for which I had no funds, an illegal act, but I thought it wouldn't matter as long as I made a deposit to cover the deficit before the bank received the check. My expectation was that I'd receive payment immediately upon delivery, for which I used a rented truck.
Little did I know that this Fortune 500 company's modus operandi was to pay all bills thirty or more days after receipts. My customer initially refused to pay on the spot. I told him I would consequently have to return the wire, so he reluctantly decided to call corporate headquarters for this unusual request.
My stomach was in knots the whole time he was gone, because he said it was iffy that corporate would come through. Fifty minutes later, however, he emerged with a check in hand, resentful of the time away from his busy schedule. Stressed, he told me to never again expect another C.O.D. and that any future sale must be on credit. Luckily, I made it to the bank with a few minutes to spare.
Know Your Product Thoroughly
I received a disheartening phone call shortly thereafter: my wire was breaking. This horrible news fueled the fire of my fears. Would I have to reimburse my customer? Would my vendor refuse to reimburse me?
My customer told me to come over and take samples of his good wire to see if I might duplicate it. I did that and educated myself on the necessary qualities.
My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.
Voila! I found another wire supplier that had the right specifications. By then, I was savvy enough to act as though they would naturally give me thirty-day terms. They did!
More good news: My customer merely threw away all the bad wire I'd sold him, and the new wire worked perfectly; he then gave me leads and a good endorsement. I rapidly gained more wire customers.
Anticipate The Dangers Of Exponential Growth
I had made a depressing discovery. My working capital was inadequate. After I purchased the wire, I had to wait ten to thirty days for a fabricator to get it reconfigured, which became a looming problem. It meant that to maintain a good credit standing, I had to pay for the wire ten to thirty days before my customers paid me.
I was successful on paper but was incredibly cash deprived. In other words, my exponentially growing business was about to implode due to too many sales. Eventually, my increasing sales grew at a slower rate, solving my cash flow problem.
Delegate From The Bottom Up
I learned how to delegate and eventually delegated myself out of the top jobs of CEO, President, CFO, and Vice President of Finance. Now, at seventy-eight years old, I've sold all but a third of Vulcan's stock and am semi-retired with my only job currently serving as Vice President of Stock and Consultant.
In the interim, I survived many obstacles and learned many other lessons, but hopefully these five will get you started and help prevent some of you from having the same struggles that I did. And in the end, I figured it all out, just like you will.