When Sharon Zezima and Eve Saltman first met as law students in the late 1980s, neither imagined that 25 years later they’d be working side by side at a hot tech company in Silicon Valley. But in 2013, when Sharon joined GoPro, the well-known camera-maker and content enabler, as its first general counsel and built a team from the ground up, Eve was looking around and contacted Sharon about her plans for the GoPro legal team; it turned out that Sharon was looking for someone with exactly Eve’s background.
Orrick made the task easier: Sharon’s first job out of law school was as an employment lawyer in the San Francisco office. That’s where she met many of the women lawyers who form her core professional and personal network, including Eve, now Sharon’s No. 2 at GoPro; Wilma Wallace, now a VP at The Gap Inc.; Julie Henderson, now a public affairs VP at the University of California; and Kenzel Hagaman, now Head of Legal, Commercial at energy company Advanced Microgrid Solutions. "I am a connector, and I place a high importance on building relationships," Sharon explains, referring to this group of women. "Their effect on my life has been pretty big."
Even prior to meeting and forming long-term friendships with a core network of professional women they met at Orrick, Sharon and Eve had been traveling on parallel paths: Sharon’s father was a lawyer, as was Eve’s grandfather. Eve, a Georgetown Law grad, had dated one of Sharon’s University of Chicago Law classmates. Eve started as an IP litigator in Orrick’s Silicon Valley office in 1990, a year after Sharon joined the firm. They were, and are, avid readers. They even had their daughters six months apart.
At Orrick, Sharon and Eve had different influences. Sharon worked closely with employment partner Lynne Hermle, and Eve’s mentor was litigation partner Jeffrey White, now a federal judge in the Northern District of California. "A lot of what I know today as a lawyer traces back to Jeff," Eve recalls.
By 2000, Sharon and Eve had both gone in-house – Sharon in the gaming industry and Eve in software first and then to other high-tech companies. Two years later, while they were honing their corporate counsel skills, a 20-something named Nick Woodman was surfing in Indonesia and asking himself how he could make a better surf film. Out of that quandary – and a lot of hard work – came GoPro, which he launched in 2002 as Woodman Labs. GoPro’s first digital HERO camera was introduced in 2006, and subsequent generations of the HERO camera have been wildly successful.
GoPro HERO cameras are legendary in the world of extreme sports; these tiny, high-definition video cameras, which shoot amazing photos, are rugged and waterproof. Fans include surfers, skiers, skaters and cyclists who mount the cameras everywhere imaginable to record adventures; family and travel adventure content is now proliferating on social media as well. GoPro plans to release a signature drone later this year.
But in 2013, after 10 years in existence, GoPro had no in-house lawyers. Enter Sharon, who’d spent 11 years working her way to a leadership position at interactive entertainment company Electronic Arts as VP and Deputy GC, and Marketo, which she led through an IPO as GC – which was an especially meaningful experience, since GoPro was preparing to go public and was forming a strategy around media and entertainment.
As Sharon began setting up shop at GoPro, Eve was working for OnLive, a private company in the nascent "cloud gaming" space in Silicon Valley, and networking with GCs in hopes of transitioning to a public company. When Eve heard that Sharon was looking for someone with an IP background, Eve says she called and said, "Hey, is that job still open? I’m interested."
Today, the two have a symbiotic professional relationship, built on absolute trust and respect. "Sharon is personable, has lots of integrity and is wicked smart," says Eve, calling Sharon her mentor. "We’ve created a great partnership and I’ve learned a lot from her." Sharon returns the compliment, calling Eve "one of those perfect fits. She is a very knowledgeable lawyer and a pillar of strength. I can throw anything complex at her and she manages it."
Sharon and Eve hit the ground running. The company filed its first S-1 about four and a half months after Sharon arrived and about three weeks after Eve’s first day. Getting through the IPO was job one, but there were also many competing priorities. At first, Eve recalls, "We had to clear the tracks so there were no obstacles to launching the next-gen HERO cameras. And there were a lot of rocks to pick up." Sharon recalls that an early challenge was to execute "a sophisticated new strategy on patents, trademark and copyright."
Since 2013, Sharon has tackled a variety of matters: IPO and public company readiness, board and other corporate governance matters, multiple acquisitions, and building a worldwide and world-class team from scratch to support the company’s business. To counsel the company on launching a drone, she gained a deep understanding of regulatory issues.
Eve describes her GoPro role as making "informed, calculated risk assessments." She oversees litigation, compliance and the team that manages GoPro’s growing IP portfolio; her team also supports the groups that make the company’s flagship HERO cameras and other hardware, and gets them to market. She works closely with the HR team and the finance team on GoPro’s corporate securities matters, and supports Sharon on corporate governance and other board matters as Assistant Corporate Secretary.
Because GoPro culture is rooted in authenticity – the product must feel authentic to skiers and surfers – Sharon focuses on making sure that her team members understand the concept and build it into their work. (Sharon herself has worn the GoPro while making Thanksgiving dinner, and swimming with dolphins in Hawaii). Authenticity also means having personal priorities. Sharon is devoted to mentoring, and to that end, she co-founded the Salonnieres, a professional women’s network, and has volunteered with groups like Women’s Initiative, a nonprofit that teaches low-income women entrepreneurial skills, and Aim High, a nonprofit that provides enriching summer learning programs to low-income middle schoolers in the Bay Area (where she sits on the board alongside Orrick partner Larry Kane).
Another part of Sharon’s ethic is honoring her pals, and she obviously hasn’t let work get in the way of that. She nominated Eve for The Recorder’s 2015 In-House Impact Award, and Eve was one of six recognized for in-house achievements.
Both women are living proof of the importance of building and maintaining strong relationships. It comes as no surprise that they offered similar advice to up-and-coming lawyers. As Eve put it: "Find great, smart people wherever you are, and work hard."