Interviewed by: Gina Smart and T'Juana Albert
Sarah, you are a true pioneer at GumGum! You’ve had so many roles here which began with you being the only woman amongst the guys. Can you tell us what some of those were and what that was like?
When I started, we were in a small shared space. At that time it was myself, Ophir, Ken, and Vaibhav. Originally, I was hired to be the Account Manager for Publishers and Advertisers, and my primary job was to manage accounts after they signed with us. Working with “the guys” was really weird at first because where I worked before I had mostly women on my team and we would talk about hair, makeup and other girl stuff. Then, I came to GumGum where they didn’t talk about those things, which was really different. Here it was more about technology. So, whether it was lunch or during our daily coffee walks, we’d only talk technology which meant I was constantly learning about apps, websites, other tech companies, and other tech-related things. It totally changed my perspective and thought process! They also always respected me as an equal, which made me feel even more valuable.
Even though it wasn’t “officially” part of my job description, I performed other roles at GumGum. I was also the receptionist, office manager, personal shopper, accounting/finance personnel, business development, sales, and marketing. I was hired on August 23, 2010, and we didn’t really hire for about a year or two, except for Greg and couple of people here and there, so I did many things back then.
What were some of the traditions of old versus today, what do you miss and why?
I know we can’t do many of them anymore because we’ve grown so much – like we can’t really all have lunch together every day…I know I don’t have time (smile). But the lunches and everyday coffee walks were really nice. And though we have tried to revive the coffee walk, it isn’t the same and of course it can never be the same because you have to put some things on the shelf.
There are many “Silent” Mentors here at GumGum, meaning work ethic and action speaks volumes, and we believe you are one of them. As such, what advice that you would give to the women of GumGum about leadership and what strategies have you adopted to maximize your success?
I respect people who work hard and don’t try to cut corners. To me if you work hard and have drive, then you will do well.
How have you handled and what advice would you give someone who’s had to deal with a strong personality in the workplace?
I actually take UCLA extension classes, which has been really helpful. Also, what I find to be the most helpful is being direct and willing to talk things out right away, but make sure to be careful with your approach. It’s important to be self-aware and understand the full situation. Some people and situations may be sensitive, so you may have to approach it in a way that doesn’t appear mean. You should try to help them understand that you’re on the same team. Also, remember there’s more than one side, so try to identify with the person and make sure you try to see it from their side. It’s also important for the person you are talking to, to know that you do see it from their side. As a quick example, there was one person awhile back who was really upset with me about how I handled a situation and they told me in a very hurtful way. The conversation really affected me, and that’s when I decided to start taking classes outside of GumGum to help learn how to tactfully approach difficult situations. I realized there were some things that I needed to work on. Even though that persons’ approach was not an experience I want to repeat, I took out the valuable pieces and understood what I needed to work on. So, just remember that even though others may need to work on their approach, there is still value you can gain from the conversation and every individual can always improve and work on them themselves.
Is there one person who has been your biggest influencer at GumGum? If so, who and how have they helped/supported you along the way?
That’s a really tough question because there are many, such as Phil, Vaibhav, Ken, Greg and of course, Ophir.
- Phil: I think Phil has taught me a lot about how to see things in so many different ways and from different perspectives. He has also guided me with how to be better at my job and how to grow in my career.
- Vaibhav: Vaibhav has really strong morals which I respect. We think similarly, but he has more experience than me, so he is able to teach me easily. I also appreciate how he not only takes in criticism, but he knows how to apply it. He’s always so curious and he always wants to learn more.
- Ken: When I started, I would always ask a lot of questions and Ken would turn it around on me and ask “Well did you read this?” or he’d say “Did you check there?”. He’s very good at making you take responsibility for your actions/learning.
- Greg: Greg has moved up so fast in the company. I can’t say there’s any one specific thing; overall, he’s just so honest and always guiding me. He’s an executive but he has always been so humble. Back when I was the “acting” receptionist he would actually be my back up when I wasn’t at my desk. He was never above it and that’s really special.
- Ophir: Ophir is a visionary, and it’s been interesting to see how he works and thinks. Truly, GumGum would not be here today if Ophir wasn’t here that’s for sure.