My approach is always to focus on what I can do and what I cannot. I am a big believer in that women in general need to ‘let themselves off the hook’ and not strive for perfection in everything. Superwoman sounds good in theory, but we all need help, a break and to be more forgiving of ourselves and others.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place. As a part of my series about how women leaders in tech and STEM are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lauren Zajac. Lauren Zajac is Chief Legal Officer/Data Protection Officer for WorkHuman. As vice president, general counsel and data protection officer, Lauren oversees all legal, regulatory, and compliance affairs. With more than 15 years of experience, she has served as legal counsel for a broad mix of high-growth public and private companies. She is based in Massachusetts and is a mother of three.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Ihave a family background in technology, my dad was an executive in software companies from the time I can remember. Even though I did not have a technology degree, I have a degree in English literature from Boston College, technology was what I knew, and I wanted to somehow be involved with it. I decided to go to law school and once I got to my second and third years, I focused on every class I could take that would support being an in-house lawyer for a tech company; copyrights, trademarks, corporate law. I was fortunate enough to get my first job out of law school with a software company in Boston and I have been in-house in tech for my whole career.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?
The most interesting stories that have happened to me have happened while working at Workhuman. There are several memorable moments of support, camaraderie, and recognition that I have been fortunate enough to have personally received and I have also watched others receive. Before I joined Workhuman, I did not truly appreciate the impact that a ‘thank you’ can have. Often the Chief Legal Officer/General Counsel position is one that is full of hard decisions and sometimes not the most popular ones; it was only when I started to receive regular recognition that I was able to settle in to the tasks at hand and to do that with an authenticity that I hadn’t been able to exemplify in previous positions. As a result, I have found more personal success and have created lasting friendships with my colleagues that help sustain me in a meaningful way.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Workhuman has recently launched an initiative called “Thank you Healthcare,” it is our way of recognizing, thanking, and amplifying that recognition for those on the front lines of this Covid-19 pandemic.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
When I first came out of law school and was hired as a junior counsel, I worked for a general counsel that taught me everything I needed to survive that first year, Chuck Schmidt was that general counsel and he has continued to be a mentor for the majority of my career.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let us move to the main focus of our interview. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman in STEM during this pandemic?
I am divorced and live with my 3 children so being a single parent after being married for 17 years without a doubt has been my biggest challenge. Balancing the demands of doing my job from home with multiple zoom calls per day, managing my teams, overseeing two middle schoolers and one high schooler as they navigate homeschooling, it has been a lot as it is for most parents. Keeping my children’s spirits up as their lives are upturned is my biggest focus but it is always a challenge to think of new activities and ways to combat boredom for 15- and 12-year old’s.
Can you share what you have done to address those challenges?
I have ‘deputized’ each of my children with a responsibility or area of the house and although they may sometimes complain, having a responsibility has helped. The other thing I have done with them is to try to be as authentic with my own responses to the pandemic with them and in front of them — I think it helps them to understand that this is an uncertain time for everyone and moves toward normalizing it a bit for them.
Can you share the biggest work-related challenges you are facing as a woman in STEM during this pandemic?
I think that any parent in STEM is dealing with the same challenges; the new normal, having to be employee and teacher (among other things), how to take steps forward when the path ahead is so uncertain. It is hard to find the right balance not unlike how it used to be especially for working moms.
Can you share what you have done to address those challenges?
My approach is always to focus on what I can do and what I cannot. I am a big believer in that women in general need to ‘let themselves off the hook’ and not strive for perfection in everything. Superwoman sounds good in theory, but we all need help, a break and to be more forgiving of ourselves and others. I grew up in a house that was rarely untidy to a stay-at-home mother and I tried to emulate it all too much when I was a younger lawyer but the more I’ve practiced just letting some of that go, I’ve been able to focus more on being present both at home and at Workhuman.
Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?
Create good self-care routines, it is just like the oxygen mask on a plane with a child traveling with you, if you do not have a great store of energy, how will you care for others? I meditate daily and continuously explore mindfulness — it helps!
Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place for long periods with your family?
As I said before, practicing mindfulness and taking a moment to meditate while clearing my mind helps tremendously. Trying to stay centered and balanced is of the utmost of importance for both my mental health as well as that of my children. We take moments out to let one another know what we are grateful for each night at dinner. It helps keeps things in perspective. I truly believe in practicing gratitude daily.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons to Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
- Our children will have witnessed a massive effort of human cooperation
- There is a much broader acceptance of the absolute need for human connection
- We will be better prepared for these situations
- There are many areas of the planet healing
- Likely you have caught up on that show you always wanted to watch on Netflix.
From your experience, what are a few ideas that one can use to effectively offer support to their family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Together time: not every minute but part of the day should be spent together. Make it a priority to block everything else out and just enjoy “togetherness.” We may never get this chance again like this. I always encourage my kids to breathe when they start to get anxious and then breathe with them — we have used this a good amount over this period. It helps calm any anxieties and fears that they may have or be projecting.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Balance is the Key to Everything.”
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!