POWER MUMS: Sandra Lopez, marketing strategy director, Intel

Our first international Power Mum challenges assumptions about working mums and wants men to contribute to the debate.

by Christine Armstrong
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013
Sandra works full-time at Intel, Santa Clara, California, USA. She is married to a creative professional who has a more flexible schedule and has one daughter, aged three, called Raquel. She commutes an hour each way to work and travels extensively in the first quarter of each year. Her daughter attends school every day.

Tell me about your role

It is very challenging. Both the marketing industry and the company are transforming, and there is a lot to keep up with, a lot of reading to do. I work 7am until 7pm, and when I’m at home I am still ‘on’: as an employee, as a student, as a mother, and as a wife. I thrive on comprehending the business and its marketing challenges and opportunities as well as understanding consumer psychology and external market dynamics.

I am very engaged at work and the challenge for any working mum is to be that engaged at home. My daughter deserves that. There is no balance, I don’t believe in it. But I wasn’t cut out to be a stay-at-home mum. I wouldn’t be fulfilled working eight-hour days, a part-time job, or as a stay at home mum.

Tell me about your day

I get up at 5.15am and I have an hour to catch up, get connected with what is going on, check my emails and see what I missed in Asia and the morning in Europe. Between 6am and 7am is time I spend with my daughter, getting her changed, getting breakfast and getting ready for the day. Between 7am and 7.30am we are on our way and I or my husband will drop her off at school, where she stays till about 5.45pm. She has a long nap there in the day, which explains why she goes to sleep late.

I chose a really great school for her because in the evenings and at the weekends I want to share culture with her – neighborhoods, nature hikes, creative activities and museums – so I need them to take care of her ABCs so we can dedicate our time to the world outside.

I finish about 6pm and head home and arrive around 7pm. I often take international calls on the way. At 8pm my daughter, husband and I eat dinner together and talk about three good and three bad things that happened to us that day. Between 8.45 and 10pm is time to get ready for Raquel’s bedtime and have her bath.

When she has gone to bed – at about 10 pm - I spend some meaningful time with my husband, talking. I go to bed about 12.30 but my brain is always working. I couldn’t do this without a husband who is a 100% participant and who really understands what I do.

Wow – you don’t sleep much...

I catch up on sleep during the weekend: from Friday at 5pm to Sunday at 5pm I don’t check my email, so if there is a crisis someone has to call me. Unless there is a big project - then I have to get a babysitter. I work out in the mornings during the weekend: that time is ringfenced. Twice a month, I meet someone for an industry dinner to catch up on trends and market dynamics.

What systems do you have in place to make it work?

I have an evening plan for my daughter when I lay out her clothes for the next day, and a morning one where I plan her food and pack her backpack for school.

You prioritise the things that matter in your life and that changes at different times. A kid creates a different dynamic. When she was two I was afraid we were losing sight of our own marriage and it is important to maintain an active and healthy marriage. So we try not to talk about work in the evenings but to talk about things of interest: the city, plans, the weekend and things like that.

Recently, we went on Pinterest and talked about all the cities we went to together before we had our daughter, as we share an interest in travel and photography. We thought about how fortunate we were to have been to all those places.

One thing I did that has really helped was to set up a network in San Francisco called Power Play, where a group of mums with senior jobs can meet at that the park during the weekend with their kids.

It has a dual purpose: we provide each other with working mum tips and tricks and we get to spend time with our kids. I invited some women I know and asked them to invite other women they know. It has been a great support network.

How has having your daughter changed your perspective?

My daughter helps me understand myself more as a person. She has taught me the importance of life, of appreciating the moment and being engaged. I enjoy my work, I love my husband, my daughter is amazing, I have a strong support network that keeps me going.

What do you think corporations or the US government might do to help working mums?

I think the US should give people up to six months’ maternity leave and financial support for that because the first six months is important for bonding with your child.

But you know, I think it is the males in organisations who need to change. While I appreciate how Sheryl Sandberg has used her role to drive a dialogue, it is still the females who are driving the conversation - the men are not as engaged. You have a kid and come back from maternity and they are asking ‘will she be committed?’, ‘can she cut it?’. Mothers are just as passionate as their male counterparts and shouldn’t be judged.

Thriving or surviving?

In a way, I feel I am surviving. Once you’ve chosen the ‘corporate America’ track, people ask ‘what’s next?’. There is pressure to move forward, get a bigger home, get ahead.

But if I look at my life, I’m thriving. I love my life, my job, my city and my support network and I like our small house!  But I do feel judged by other mums. They think maybe I’m not doing a good job of raising my kid because I work more than a full-time job, my husband and I still go out, and part of my job requires traveling and frequent business dinners. But everyone has a different view on parenthood.

We should be respectful of our individual viewpoints. More importantly – we should be supportive of each other.

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