In her 13 years at Intel, Sandra Lopez has overseen the company’s brand repositioning, built new organisations in the company, and applied her background in fashion — inside Intel’s sports group. She’s been named one of the 50 most powerful women in tech by the National Diversity Council and one of Latina Style’s top 10 Latina executives of the year, and she’s spoken to NBC News on the Silicon Valley boys club.
We talked to her about the surprising ways her background has played into her tech career, and how to responsibly manage a team.
Location: Wherever work takes me; headquartered in Santa Clara, CA and live in San Francisco, CA.
Current Gig: VP of Intel Sports, Immersive Media. We’re ushering in the next generation of storytelling.
Current mobile device: iPhone 6s (work) and iPhone X (personal)
Current computer: Dell Latitude with Intel Core i5 vPro processor and a MacBook with Intel Core i5
One word that best describes how you work: #JustDo
First of all, tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today.
As a little girl, I wanted to be a fashion designer and start a business. It wasn’t until a psychology class in university that I realised I was more intrigued by how people choose to express themselves, and how companies interact with consumers, than by designing a collection.
This fixation (as well as an interest in fashion) landed me a job as a buyer for a large fashion retailer. While I thought I would be in fashion for several years, I found myself exiting the industry within 12 months. I quit within 24 hours after being told by an executive that a glass ceiling existed within the company. I was devastated, but it was a blessing in disguise.
Living in Silicon Valley, and intrigued by technology, I decided to take the plunge into the tech world as a marketer. Marketing was such a broad discipline that I attacked my career by going deep within each centre of excellence — advertising, channel marketing and retail — ticking off each discipline by seeking growth opportunities within a company or at new companies.
A turning point happened after joining a large software company in New York, where my then-boss was keen on establishing a new discipline: Integrated marketing. It was through her that I learned the value of taking a leadership position and making big bets.
Since then, I have pursued leadership roles that enable me and my team to establish new ways of conducting business or the creation of new markets. When I decided to join Intel’s new business initiative, we had limited resources, and my team needed to get creative. We decided to embark on influencer marketing while it was still new, before it was a “thing”.
As part of this team, I was given the opportunity to join the wearable team and establish the fashion wearable business at Intel. From there, I used my experience to partner with leaders in Intel Sports to establish a new generation of storytelling platform: Immersive media.
Today, I build and create new initiatives and businesses. In a way, it is what I always dreamed of as a little girl.
Take us through a recent workday.
My day starts at 5:30AM and ends when the business dinner is over, sporting event has ended, or when my work is done. I attempt to go to sleep by midnight. I focus on accomplishing three main things every day:
Active listening and participation in meetings. Typically, my calendar is packed with back-to-back meetings from 7:00AM to 5:00PM or later, depending on my global colleagues. Being an active listener is critical because it not only communicates respect for the other, it also ensures you empathetically understand the person’s position.
It’s not always easy to put your device away, but I strive to do that and to actively participate. If I disagree with the person, I would rather have the partner or person hear it directly from me versus whispers in the hallway or within the industry. It is my responsibility to represent my team and the voice of my customer in the meeting. If I don’t, I have failed at my job. Long days with several meetings isn’t easy, which makes my next point critically important.
- A focus on my well-being. Without my health, I would not have my career. I start every morning with my first 20-minute transcendental meditation session and warm water with lemon. It’s even on my calendar. When travelling, I use the time it would normally take me to commute to work out. I have found working on my well-being is a requirement for success.
- Giving back. I am a byproduct of Intel’s protégé program, so giving back is very important to me. Every day, I wake up and know that I am a role model for the next generation. My everyday actions serve as examples for the next generation, including my eight-year-old daughter. There are days that are rough and I want to give up, and then I think about those that came before my generation and tell myself: If not us then who?
What apps, gadgets or tools can’t you live without?
Google Maps and Waze, due to how much I commute and travel. An extra five minutes not stuck in traffic means more time with my daughter.
What’s your workspace setup like?
I have an open cube desk, but in reality I live out of my work bag. All I need is my computer, phone, journal, pen and Bose headset. I move from meeting room to meeting room to office building to restaurant. My car is my office too, and I often joke that United Airlines is my office as well.
Take us through an interesting, unusual or finicky process you have in place at work.
It is not a process but a simple request: Be kind. I love Maya Angelou’s quote, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” If my team members treat individuals like individuals, each person is uniquely different, it will result in respect for one another, ultimately increasing business productivity.
Who are the people who help you get things done, and how do you rely on them?
Recently, a colleague of mine asked how I get things done and have time for multiple jobs. I simply responded, “Great team and partners, great infrastructure with my family and friends, and a great network.”
As for relying on them, I trust they will deliver on their part of their bargain; I will deliver on mine. And when I need help, I ask for help!
How do you keep track of what you have to do?
I live by my calendar. If it isn’t scheduled it won’t happen. I also live by my journal and by lists. Every month, I break down my to-do list by week and day. Given the dynamics of the market, my list is very fluid. But crossing out some of my to-do items every night is so gratifying.
How do you recharge or take a break?
Transcendental Meditation every day. During the week, when we do not have a big sporting activity on the weekend, I put my work phone in a drawer and focus on family. I also take family holidays at least twice a year.
What’s your favourite side project?
I am writing a book dedicated to the next generation of women leaders with tips and tricks on how best to survive corporate America as a woman.
What are you currently reading, or what do you recommend?
Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
Steve Kerr — I admire his leadership.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Never stop striving to become a better version of you.
What’s a problem you’re still trying to solve?
The injustices in the workplace for women. From abuse of power, to pay inequality, to simply being mansplained. We have lots of work to do and every day we will roll up our sleeves and fight on.
We've asked heroes, experts and flat-out productive people to share their shortcuts, workspaces and routines. Want to suggest someone we should feature or questions we should ask? Let us know.