Love Your Job, Love Your Family: Zinc CEO Says You Can Do Both
Thousands of available tech apps address the needs of mostly white, male Silicon Valley tech workers. None were addressing the needs of deskless workers who are field officers, delivery persons, remote workers in construction, healthcare, transportation, hospitality, manufacturing and scores of other service industries.
“Tech people make tech for tech people in the bubble,” says Stacey Epstein, CEO of Zinc.
So she has been out to change the efficiency and access of these deskless workers—who she says account for up to 80 percent of the global workforce– for the last two and half years.
“You go into a hotel and a lot of these workers are using radios and walkie talkies, that are loud, clunky and expensive,” says Epstein, now at the helm of the digital application service company that has more than 50 employees.
Founded in 2013 as CoTap, Zinc offers a platform for employees that replaces existing digital tools throughout much of the company, including email and texting, inventory updates, video sharing, voice, data integration and more.
At the helm of Zinc, following leadership roles at SAP and ServiceMax, Epstein says she is out to change the workplace culture of her own company as well as the access to all of Zinc’s customers.
“I want this to be a place where we like to come to work,” says Epstein, a mother of two girls, a first grader and a fourth grader. “We want to give people the opportunity to have fulfilling lives.”
After graduating from Emory University with a degree in English and Journalism in the early 90s, Epstein says she moved to San Francisco and was intending to pursue broadcast journalism. Her first job, she says, was as “an administrative assistant for an administrative assistant” at Oracle in 1992.
“It was very small compared to what it is now,” Epstein says. “It was a dynamic place to work and I saw all these people moving up and I thought, none of these people are smarter than I am.”
Convinced she needed to learn to code, she took an evening course at University of California-Berkley in coding and “it was misery, but I passed,”’ she says.
As she was ambitious, Epstein says, she got a new position every six months, and stayed at Oracle for six years. After that in 1998, she was in sales positions in startups, before going to Success Factors, a cloud-based employee management system. It was acquired by SAP in 2010.
That was after her first child was born in 2009, when she says, “I was at a crossroads and deciding how to have a big job and be a good mom.”
After a few months off, she joined Service Max as chief marketing officer. She left in 2016 and it was later bought by GE for more than $1 billion.
“I was thinking what I was going to do, maybe I wanted to be a CEO,” Epstein says, “but it wasn’t a driving force.
“The authors found that women CEOs do well when they are promoted from within their companies following a long period of grooming by their predecessors. Given the paucity of women atop large companies, those predecessors are, of course, mostly male, although female predecessors likely would have a similar impact,” Buchanan writes.
The low percentage of women CEOs in this country speaks to a pipeline and also a succession plan when women leave the top spot.
“Several high-profile female CEOs announced they were stepping down last year, including Marissa Mayer at Yahoo and Irene Rosenfeld at Mondelez. Following these exits, the number of women leading Fortune 500 companies plummeted by 25 percent between 2017 and 2018,” writes Julia Carpenter in CNN.
“This year, we’ve already lost Denise Morrison at Campbell Soup Co., Meg Whitman at Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Sheri McCoy at Avon. After 32 women made the list in 2017 — a new record for women in the C-suite — female CEOs now make up just 4.6 percent of top executives.” Carpenter writes.
Epstein is familiar with the statistics and familiar with the challenges of being a woman in the C-suite.
Friends who were venture capitalists told her about CoTap (that later became Zinc) and she joined the company as CEO. But, she wants to be clear, her path to the top was not a straight, direct route and it was not at the expense of her family life.
“I think a lot of women think they have to choose between being a good mom and having a big job, when nobody would ever ask a man if he was going back to work” after he becomes a father, Epstein says. “It is not part of our vernacular.”
What needs to happen in the workplace culture and in American society are flexible working hours and support for family.
“Marianne Harrison, the first female President and CEO of John Hancock – one of the largest life insurers and fastest growing asset managers in the U.S., with over $450 billion under management in 2017,” recently told Forbes, “As a mother of four, it often has been a challenge to balance the demands of the job while raising a family. And there is no doubt that as a woman, I’ve had to work harder to prove myself in this industry. But that has made my achievements all the more rewarding.”
“I am home every day by 5:30,” Epstein says. “These are the years that matter and that is a priority for me. After they go to bed, I get on the computer.” She adds, “The world would be a better place if we have more present parenting.”
As one of a small percentage of female CEOs in this country and globally, Epstein says she does feel a responsibility to be a role model.
“The more successful Zinc becomes, the more clout I have. For me, it’s to set an example and encourage women. That’s what gives me satisfaction,” Epstein says. “Even if it’s in small ways.”
About the Author
Michele Weldon is editorial director of Take The Lead, an award-winning author, journalist, emerita faculty in journalism at Northwestern University and a senior leader with The OpEd Project. @micheleweldonwww.micheleweldon.com