Women in Business Q&A: Kim Jabal, CFO, Weebly​​

Kim Jabal is an Internet and social media executive with over 20 years of finance, operations, and IT experience at high growth companies across various stages of development, including Google, Weebly, Path, Lytro, Goldman Sachs and Accenture.

Kim is currently CFO and head of analytics, people operations, and legal at Weebly, an Internet/eCommerce platform for small businesses. Prior to joining Weebly, she spent two years at Path, a mobile social networking company (sold to Daum Kakao), and a year as VP Finance at Lytro, a start-up focused on building the world’s first consumer light field camera.

Prior to her focus on earlier stage companies, Kim spent two years at Goldman Sachs in technology investment banking and eight years at Google, building and growing several financial planning and analysis teams, in support of sales, product, and engineering. She also led investor relations for two years, during which time the company ranked on Institutional Investor's "Most Shareholder Friendly Companies" list for the first time. During Kim’s time at Google, revenues grew from $1b to $36b.

Prior to launching her career as a finance executive, Kim spent eight years with Accenture designing and building IT infrastructure and software applications for global companies located in the US, Switzerland, and Argentina.

Kim holds an engineering degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign as well as an MBA from Harvard University. She is a member of the board of directors of FedEx and of Bring Change 2 Mind.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

There were a few early experiences that have shaped me as a leader. 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.  I now draw from a broad range of experiences in various industries and job functions when leading teams and making decisions.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Weebly?

I learned a lot about growing and scaling a company - and about management and leadership - while at Google.  I learned about making tough strategic decisions at Lytro and Path.  And I learned how to code in very ancient now outdated languages while at Andersen Consulting. These all come into play for me regularly at Weebly.  Understanding the challenges of software development helps me to connect with our engineers and to ask the right questions.  

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Weebly?

There have been so many highlights - an amazing team, a culture that truly "walks the talk" with respect to its core values (my favorite one being "radical respect"), a really interesting and dynamic space in which we can make a real difference for entrepreneurs, a flexible workplace that is very supportive of parents, and a deep commitment to attract and retain the very best employees.

The challenges include the usual "growth pains" as we have doubled in size over the last few years.  Figuring out when to preserve quick and easy decision-making and when to put in place more structure and process.  Figuring out just how "stretch" the stretch goals should be.  Also, preserving the core values while allowing for changes to the culture as the company grows.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?

Please come join us!  Tech is a fantastic place for women.  Although we still have a long way to go in terms of true equality and diversity (especially at the top), I do believe that a culture of innovation also tends to be one that is by definition open to new and different ideas...which women often bring to the table.  One tip for anyone considering tech is to develop a base set of analytical skills early on, regardless of what role or job function you are considering.  Tech companies thrive on data-driven decision making so having that analytical training is critical in any role.  Lastly, know that tech often means high growth which means it’s usually a full time job plus. It can be demanding and super hard to balance work and outside commitments e.g. parenting. But hang in there. If you can’t fully lean in for a few years, just stay in. It gets easier as you get more senior in your career. I remember teetering after I had young children on whether I should drop out of the work force or try to juggle it all. I’m so so glad I never left.  

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?

The delivery and timing of a message is as important as the content.  Learning when and how to effectively communicate an idea is as important as the development of the idea itself.  Learning how to influence others takes time, experience, and practice.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

I think the key is to let yourself off the hook on at least some things.  For example, I truly 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.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?

We often hold ourselves back, in ways we don’t even realize.  However, there are structural issues at play as well.  Until there are equal leave times for both maternity and paternity, until there are more leaders that have priorities outside of work (whether children or partners or otherwise), it will be hard for anyone trying to balance multiple priorities to be respected and to succeed.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?

I think mentors are enormously important.  They help you to easily see yourself in a place of more responsibility, more leadership, and more power.  I think my lack of professional mentors as a child really held me back from dreaming about what I could do with all my love for math and science (nope, never dreamed of being an astronaut or an engineer until I got to high school - that’s debatably too late!). 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. Don’t just pick the job, pick the boss. A good boss is also a great mentor.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

This is a bit unconventional but 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.

And of course I greatly admire Sheryl Sandberg, who has been a mentor and friend to me for many years.  I think she has fundamentally shifted the landscape in terms of restarting the dialogue around feminism and in terms of encouraging women to strive for higher goals - to lean in!

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