Interviews / Marketing & Advertising

Balancing the Grind with Anati Zubia, Head of Marketing at Quora

Anati Zubia, is the Head of Marketing at Quora, a Q&A platform that empowers people to share and grow the world’s knowledge.

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To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I am the head of marketing at Quora, the question-and-answer website headquartered in Mountain View, CA. I have spent 20+ years in marketing, but over the last decade, I’ve focused on building awareness and generating demand within high-growth SaaS and technology brands.

Growing up, I wanted to be the First Lady of The United States—at least until I realized that I’d actually have to be married to the President. My parents owned and operated a small real estate business and introduced me to sales and marketing at an early age. From drafting Homeseekers ads as a preteen to earning Rotary International’s top marketing student designation in high school, I fell in love with the business world pretty quickly.

My passion for business and marketing led me to balance my studies at Western Oregon University while also jump starting my career, taking on marketing and communications roles at The Mill Casino Hotel and then later with the Oregon State Legislature.

I have always been fascinated by the internet and technology, especially since it is intertwined with digital marketing. After I moved to Phoenix to marry the love of my life, I decided to dedicate my talents to the technology industry, taking up a role with Logicalis, an international IT solutions provider.

That was ten years ago, and since then, I have helped a handful of tech brands grow to $100M+ ARR, built best-in-class marketing teams, secured multiple funding rounds, and successfully championed several acquisitions.

What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

Is this where I tell you about waking up at 4am for a daily routine of hot yoga, self-affirmation, and reading the paper with a green smoothie in hand? To each their own, but don’t be too disappointed to find out that I’m more of a hit-the-snooze-and-snuggle-my-cat kind of gal.

Generally, I work from 8am to 5pm with a break for lunch and a walk, with one or two nights each week blocked out for international office hours. As a remote-first company, Quora dedicates 9am-3pm Pacific Time for “coordination hours” when most employees are expected to be available for meetings and impromptu communication.

Remote-first companies offer flexibility, but the trade-off is that there are usually a lot of meetings every day, and my typical day is no exception. These meetings range from regular all-hands and team meetings to more intimate 1:1’s and work sessions.

Quora’s culture of high performance across a remote workforce relies on connecting virtually. For my role as a department head, regular communication with my direct team and across the organization is especially important in facilitating successful outcomes.

Right before the clock hits 5pm (most days), I have a ritual of reviewing the day and preparing for the next before I log off and start my evening. I do this as a mental transition to disconnect for the evening, knowing I’m well-prepared for tomorrow.

My spouse also works remotely, so we usually cook dinner together while catching up on the day. I enjoy a variety of after-work activities, from playing video games, dance classes, reading a book, exercising, writing for my travel blog, or working on arts and crafts projects. I’m also a night owl, so it’s not uncommon for me to finally call it a night just before midnight.

What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

At one time in my career, I had a leader who tried to convince me that “work-life integration” was the gold standard for success—where someone could be perfectly happy sitting in a lounge chair on the beach, working on their annual budget.

I saw firsthand how that ideology hurt people as they pushed through stress and exhaustion, ignoring its toll on their mental and physical health. If someone is so “successful,” why are they still always working?

To me, achieving work-life balance begins with enjoying my work, a mission that resonates with me, and a company culture that reflects my values. This doesn’t mean work is always sunshine and roses, but it does mean that it creates and nurtures a sense of fulfillment. I am incredibly grateful to have found that within my current role at Quora.

Although work isn’t the entirety of your life, it occupies a significant portion. If you don’t put boundaries down, it can quickly overshadow the other important things in life and suck the fulfillment right out of it.

If you start dreading work, the scales will always be tipped to recovery mode, making striking a work-life balance impossible. So first and foremost, find the center in work that brings you that warm sense of fulfillment and protect it.

I maintain my balance by setting (and enforcing) realistic boundaries with workloads, colleagues, clients, and other demands. If you are working in a global, remote environment like I am, this is especially hard to do at times. I’m nowhere near perfect, but I regularly try to recognize when I’ve slacked on respecting my boundaries, and the balance is shifting. I use these steps to keep myself in check:

  1. Evaluate: If time is my most valuable resource, are my investments distributed correctly?
  2. Plan: What needs to change? What is preventing me from balance? Am I capable of following my current boundaries?
  3. Communicate: Who should be informed? Who can I ask for help? Who will help me stay accountable?

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In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

Is it a cliché to talk about how the pandemic forced us all to change? Like many, it disrupted my entire routine, but honestly, for the better.

I used to have a long commute to and from an office daily, listening to podcasts and trying to find the last thread of zen in rush hour traffic. After work, I’d drag myself to the gym, rush through dinner, and try to maximize the time in the evening to spend with my husband and on activities I enjoyed. It worked, or it did at the time, but the pandemic ripped apart my routine and forced me to rethink patterns and habits with more clarity and control.

In the past year, I’ve taken a more proactive approach to my health. I stopped treating the activity of preparing a meal and exercising as a checkbox in a list of chores. Eliminating my commute with remote work allowed me to refocus that time, making these both activities that I can plan thoughtfully and start to enjoy.

This allowed me to dedicate time with my spouse each week planning and preparing healthy meals together. I’ve added more variety to my workout routine to keep it fresh and exciting. And my mom would even be proud to hear that I’ve started taking my vitamins daily.

Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

I’m a voracious reader. I consume at least 100 books across multiple genres throughout the year, with the intent of making at least 25% of those professional development books.

So whether you are a marketing professional or not, here are ten excellent leadership and professional development books that I’d recommend, in no particular order:

  • The Confidence Code by Katty Kau & Claire Shipman
  • Radical Candor by Kim Scott
  • Think Again by Adam Grant
  • Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez
  • The Dream Manager by Matthew Kelly
  • Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service by The Disney Institute
  • The Mountain Is You by Brianna Wiest
  • Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People by Anthony Greenwald & Mahzarin Banaji
  • 101 Essays That Will Change the Way You Think by Brianna Wiest
  • It’s About Damn Time by Arlan Hamilton

If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

As an Indigenous woman of the Coquille Indian Tribe, I admire the Indigenous leaders taking up the helm of leadership and change while remaining true to their cultural values and traditions.

If I were to select one person today, it would be Deb Haaland, the 54th US Secretary of the Interior. She has a powerful grace even while balancing such incredible responsibilities for The United States, the Indigenous community, the Laguna Pueblo people, and her family. I could learn so much from her.

Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Ultimately it is important to remember that every person and every situation is different. No two people have the same work environment or lifestyle, so it’s essential to find a work-life balance that works well for you.

Keeping an open mind toward new ideas and taking the time to self-reflect can help unlock potential avenues of productivity and happiness. Don’t forget to take the time to appreciate this crazy adventure called “life” and focus on your well-being with good self-care habits. You’ve got this!

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.