Women in Leadership Q&A with Jinal Shah
Vice President - Marketing
EA Creative’s Women in Leadership conversation series recently connected Chief members Jinal Shah with Sandhya Jain-Patel and artwork by Eunjoo Byeon, an NYC-based graphic designer and frequent collaborator. Through interviews and artwork we are committed to showcasing women in leadership positions who are making history today. Please send us a message on Linkedin, e-mail us, and share socially to nominate someone in your network.
Sandhya Jain-Patel: Where do you work and what is your current role there?
Jinal Shah: I am VP of Marketing at Feather, the furniture rental service that provides access to stylish, built-to-last furniture without the commitment or upfront costs of ownership. Feather’s mission is to transform humanity’s relationship with material goods to create a healthier and happier planet. Feather is backed by Kleiner Perkins, Cobalt, NEA, Bain Capital, SV Angel and others. In my role, I’m accountable for growth, brand, creative, and communications. We are a young brand, so as a member of our senior leadership, I also share the responsibility of overall business strategy and developing company culture.
Sandhya: What was a defining moment in your career which has led to your current role?
Jinal: I’ve made a few strategic pivots in my career that have helped me expand my skill-set, interests, and leadership experience. These pivots are what prepared me and led me to my current role. It wasn’t just one moment - I started my career as a journalist and pivoted to digital marketing inside an agency. After spending the majority of my agency years at world-renowned J. Walter Thompson, I pivoted into a role in e-commerce that required me to develop a GM type mindset. All these pivots have helped me build the necessary leadership experience and both brand and performance marketing experience that led me to this role.
Sandhya: When was a time in your career where it was clear that being a woman made your job more difficult? Are there any times it was easier?
Jinal: Yes, there were several times that I’ve faced this in my career. Here’s what I learned from it. In the workplace, like most of us, I grapple with multiple identities: a woman, an immigrant, an Indian – all of those identities have shaped who I am and what I bring to the table. I’m damn proud of it and I see this diversity as an asset. Every time I am in a situation where being any of those identities makes my job more difficult, I choose to stay focused on my strengths and remember to assert my voice and knowledge to ensure I am heard and respected.
Sandhya: Have you had a mentor or sponsor who has helped you in your career, and how did they do that? How have you been able to do the same for someone else?
Jinal: I have been fortunate to have incredible mentors and also a team of peers who I’ve been able to confide in and get advice from on a regular basis, especially through some of the challenging times in my career such as career pivots, narcissist bosses, etc. It has been very helpful for me to know that the challenges I faced are not unique to me, and that my peers have experienced or, are experiencing them simultaneously as well. We have an informal forum—usually text or SOS phone calls!—and my peers focus on listening to me, they ask thoughtful questions, and help me arrive at a different perspective to the situation. I am also part of a beautiful organization called Future Women X – it is a global tribe of senior leaders across all disciplines led by a group of killer executive coaches.
I’m very grateful for the mentors, peers, friends and resources I have been able to cultivate and invest in. I try to do the same for others. I am affiliated with mentor programs through the CFDA and Parsons. I have also been very active for the last 6-7 years through the ANA’s Advertising Education (AEF) program which connects marketing executives to university students. Lastly, I make it a point to be available for peers and acquaintances who need a thought partner to talk through how to navigate careers. I learn as much from giving back as I do from asking for help.
Sandhya: Who is a historic or living woman that has inspired you?
Jinal: I’m inspired by Padma Lakshmi and Rose Marcario. As an Indian immigrant, Padma has been a tremendous role model for me from afar. I admire that she isn’t afraid to use her voice and her platform. As a woman in business, I’m inspired by the integrity and passion with which Rose Marcario leads Patagonia. Rose is a values-driven leader and she’s set a brilliant example of how social good and capitalism can thrive together
Sandhya: Is there something you would say to your younger self?
Jinal: And kill the suspense? I wouldn’t be where I am had I not made the mistakes or decisions I did.
Sandhya: What haven’t we asked you that we should and what would your answer be?
Jinal: You mentioned that you’re inspired by Rose Marcario’s leadership at Patagonia. What similar values do you try to instill in your role at Feather?
At Feather we are constantly inspired by Patagonia’s commitment to sustainability, and we have made significant steps towards sustainability within our own business operations. In addition to our model, which allows us to keep furniture in homes and out of landfills, we’ve also recently made a commitment to offering carbon neutral deliveries to our customers. We did the work to evaluate our carbon footprint across our domestic operations which include our HQ and our deliveries. We are offsetting these carbon emissions (about 2500 tons of CO2) by investing in reforestation projects in areas that focus on FSC-certified wood which is what we use in a lot of our products.
We believe that our customer cares about the environmental impact of their everyday decisions, and we want to give them not only a great service, but an opportunity to have a positive impact, as well.
Sandhya: How is the pandemic affecting your work and daily routine?
Jinal: It has changed, like everyone else, but also infused me with more gratitude than ever before. My team has demonstrated tremendous grit and perseverance in face of daily ambiguity and business challenges which the pandemic has presented. I’m very privileged to lead the team I have and also my colleagues—Feather has created a very collegiate culture—especially the last few weeks, taken extra care to focus on the mental-wellbeing of the team. My favorite part of the routine is the weekly ‘All Paws’ where we sit together on Zoom with our pets and catch-up on non-work stuff. It is the most serene hour in the work week!
Sandhya: As difficult as it is, has the isolation and social distancing had any unexpected benefits?
Jinal: Absolutely. I believe collectively, we are all experiencing a gentle pause on the chaos of our lives and our minds. Our homes have become so much more meaningful in the last few weeks. Personally, I feel more connected to my friends and family in India and here than I ever have before. From a work perspective, I’ve been intentional in the kind of leader I want to be - decisive, aware, empathetic, and ruthlessly focused. The time to reflect has been invaluable.
Sandhya: Are there specific ways you have focused on staying positive throughout this temporary new reality?
Jinal: I’ve always been a glass half-full kind of person. Channeling any gloom into creative projects has been very up-lifting. Taking my dog, Rey, on long, secluded walks in Central Park has been the highlight of my days – to watch nature unfolding itself around me in all its resplendent glory. But mostly, it is the daily engagement with colleagues and friends over Slack and Zoom that keeps me focused and reminds me that this too shall pass.
To learn more about Jinal and keep up with her work at Feather, follow the links below.