Mona Sabet: A day in the life of a tribal leader

Mona Sabet: Tribal Leader, Deal Maker, Diversity Advocate, Entrepreneur, Business Executive, & Seasoned Attorney

Today I woke up at 6:30 am.

The first thing I did was… Get my kids up!  It’s a school day!

My morning ritual includes a combination of making sure the kids get off to school on time, checking email that came in from the night before, and going for a run 2-3 days during the week.  On weekends, I sleep in a bit longer and run a bit longer.  I love weekends!

I started working at 8:00 am.

My biggest challenge was… Today, the team got together in our ‘war room’ to work through the kinks in a new system we were in the final phases of launching. When you have to drive such a large complex change initiative, I believe it’s necessary to sometimes get everyone in a room together for a day to hammer things out live and get alignment face-to-face. Before technology convinced us we could do everything remotely, teams always planned on working in together face-to-face to drive large projects to completion. In today’s world, it’s hard to convince people to invest a day of their time coming together and focusing on one project. I started my day writing out the structure for the day up on the white board and convincing the team to put aside their emails and focus on identifying and prioritize the problems we needed to work through together as a team.

I celebrated…  As we tackled tasks, we wrote them on the white board. Every time we closed out a task, regardless of the size, we put a big red check mark beside it and gave ourselves a shout out. I rang an imaginary bell in honor of Silicon Valley tech lore! It made our long day a bit more fun, and reminded us we were making progress!

What I love most about my work is that I get to exercise the professional skills I have developed over decades in an organization whose mission I have been passionate about for decades!

At the Anita Borg Institute, we envision a future where the people who imagine and build technology mirror the people and societies they build it for. It’s a mission for diversity, which has been a mission of mine since the day I walked into my first college Engineering class and identified only seven other women in the room of 180 people!

Did you have a plan for your day? Did it go as planned? I am mildly compulsive about walking into every day with a plan. I believe in using my calendar not just to set up meetings with other people, but also to define what I’m going to accomplish during the day by myself. It’s a rare day that has a gap in my calendar!

I’m also a bit fanatical about looking about what comes up during a day and making sure that I have prioritized my activities appropriately. I’m not afraid to move things around to make sure that I’m focusing on what is really moving the needle that day.

This particular day, however, went as close to as planned as a day can reasonably be expected to go! Devine!

I want to recognize a close friend of mine, Mallun Yen, who came to my rescue today. One of our kids has been going through a really rough time, experiencing a great deal of stress and anxiety. Mallun is EVP of public company RPX. She took time out of her crazy day to check in on me to see how I’m doing. We only talked for five minutes, but it just takes a few minutes to remind me that I’m not alone as I take on the challenges of being a manager and a mother, all in one day.

The great story behind this is that Mallun and I met a decade ago when a group of us, who at that time ran Intellectual Property departments in large tech companies, were looking for women with similar roles. Together with five other women, we founded ChIPs, a non-profit that has grown to produce the leading conference on intellectual property in the U.S., boasting participation from the private sector and the judiciary. This is a relationship that started through networking and has grown into a critical friendship in my life.

To commute I drive to work. Sadly, there’s no other reasonable way to get there from here – yet! But things are changing every day, and perhaps the next generation of ride sharing will help me get over the separation anxiety I’d feel today without a car.

For lunch I ate a large salad.

A personal activity I do just for myself is… to keep my sanity, I run. My favorite poster is an old Nike poster I have in my house that says “There are clubs you can’t belong to, neighborhoods you can’t live in, schools you can’t get into, but the roads are always open.”

I am passionate about creating change by fighting the enemy called “stereoptypes.”

I do this at The Anita Borg Institute...
First, by getting together 15,000 women who live roles traditionally defined by male stereotypes – all in one place – to paint a new picture that says – THIS is what the tech industry looks like!
Second, by featuring over 600 women on stage speaking about their expertise and about what the audience can do to advance their own careers and diversity in the industry.
Third, by creating a community so that we can help our community amplify their voices and they might help us amplify our messages.


I can’t live without coffee, dry martinis, and my family – not in that order.

I went to sleep at 10:30 pm.


Mona Sabet works as the Vice President and General Manager of the Grace Hopper Celebration at The Anita Borg Institute.

She is an accomplished executive and entrepreneur, with decades of experience in corporate negotiations and management, combined with a strong science, legal and business education, all against the personal backdrop of being a westernized middle-eastern women. After a long and successful career in law, she moved into significant executive business roles with Coverity and then Cadence Design Systems. And after helping Cadence articulate and implement the company’s mission through a targeted acquisition and partnership strategy, she changed up her life again and co-founded VIBLIO, a new software company that helps make your personal videos the glue to building your personal communities.

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Mona loves working as part of a small, dynamic team to drive business and personal growth. In her career, she has driven corporate growth through new product marketing initiatives, acquisitions, patent strategy, and talent management. Mona has also spent over 15 years focused on developing the personal growth of professional women in the community, through organizations like Leading Women in Technology, Hipower and ChIPs. She keeps teams aligned with each other, with overall strategy and with regulatory and contractual restraints. In all of this, Mona seeks to build close communities of people with which to share ideas and collaborate.

Mona holds a degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Toronto, and a law degree from the University of Western Ontario. She also holds a certificate in Computer Information Systems from UC Berkeley Extension and completed the Director’s College Certificate at Stanford Law School.