EVP & CHIEF PEOPLE OFFICER, ELECTRONIC ARTS
Mala Singh serves as Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer for EA where she focuses on developing EA’s talent and cultivating the company culture. In this role, Mala oversees HR Business Partners, Talent Acquisition, Learning and Development, Total Rewards, Diversity, Inclusion and Outreach as well as Workplaces and Employee Services. Mala plays an integral role in redefining and evolving the People strategy at EA. With a focus on incorporating data analytics, innovative approaches to people practices and doubling down on the worker experience, Mala is passionate about creating environments which empower people and teams to do their best work. This in turn propels the company forward to reach new heights in delivering amazing player experiences. Under her leadership, EA has also strengthened their commitment to build inspired, inclusive, and diverse workplaces.
Prior to this role, Mala spent three years as Chief People Officer at Minted where she helped to define the culture and grow the creative and technical teams during a high-growth period for the startup. Mala’s diverse career began in the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, where she serving in Human Resources roles in Asia, Europe and North America. She previously spent five years in various HR leadership roles at EA. Mala earned both her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Art History and her Master’s degree in Human Resources Management from Rutgers University. Mala lives in the Bay Area with her family.
Something I do really well is remain calm in the middle of the storm – whatever that storm is. In my career, I’ve dealt with so many different contexts, situations and settings. In moments of crisis, it’s important to be a leader who shows up as a grounding, stabilizing force who can get the team focused on what we need to do to solve the situation.
I’m genuinely curious and interested in learning about our people, their experiences, their challenges and how those elements relate to what we want to accomplish as a company. I am the best version of myself when I’m balanced in pushing hard for change but also being incredibly supportive on the road to getting there. I believe that as people managers, as leaders, we need to relentlessly push for change, innovation, and taking the next step, but also ensure that we are supporting and empowering our people along the way.
If you’re going demand greatness from your team, you have to actually support and prop them up in achieving that greatness. Today, my team is striving to get to a much stronger place with our people practices. I’m the best version of myself when I’m painting a compelling picture of our future but also rolling up my sleeves and getting in there with the team to do the heavy lifting to get us there.
From a business perspective, my aspiration is to transform our people function at EA to be best-in-class, harnessing both achievement and support of the goals of the business, but also creating the best place to work where people can really realize their potential. My aspiration is to power the company through its people, but also create the most amazing environment where people really can do their best work of their careers.
As a personal aspiration, I just want to have an impact. At some point there will be a phase in my life where it really is all about giving back. Currently, I’ve started to work with some nonprofits and focus on women and girls. I want to play a meaningful role in helping this become a more gender equal world, and getting more women and girls to play strong roles in society, politics, and everything.
I think my biggest success so far, and while it’s not over yet, is that I’m raising globally conscious kids. They travel, they are open, they are curious. For example, when we spent eight days in Japan,my kids didn’t have a single Western meal during the entire time, it affirmed that they are growing up with a genuine appreciation for other cultures and different experiences They walked away from the Japan trip with a list of all the other places they want explore.
I am also incredibly proud that my kids are growing with parents who are not in gender-typical roles. One thing my daughter, she’s eight, has been annoyed with lately, is that people keep assuming that her mom will pick her up from school. As the breadwinner for the family and with a husband who is at home with the kids, she’s annoyed that people keep assuming that it’s her mother picking her up and not her dad. She says, “I’m lucky. I have my dad picking me up!
I am a proud product of immigration. I was born in Guyana, South America. I’m of Indian origin, three generations removed from India. My ancestors were indentured servants during the British Empire. When they abolished slavery, they moved Indians to many of the other as laborers. Entire villages of people of Indian descent moved to places like Africa, Fiji, England, the Caribbean, and British Guyana.
After British Independence, Guyana deteriorated in pretty dramatic ways and most Guyanese citizens who had any means, left. My family left Guyana, and we settled into working-class New Jersey just outside of New York, into what was a very difficult situation. We struggled financially, we were the only kids of color in our school system at the time, both parents were gone working most of the day and overall, life was super-challenging.
The difficult decision was my parents’ to uproot and leave everything behind, to start a new life in a different country. That one decision set my life on a path that is dramatically different than the path I would have had if we stayed in Guyana. While it was painful, I am grateful every day that they made the hard choice to immigrate.
When presented with the obvious, choose the different. A career ultimately is a set of decision points and choices you make throughout your journey. I think it’s very important to make choices which stretch you and make you uncomfortable. The more you change, the more you grow.
For instance, at EA, we’re in an industry that is poised for disruption and innovation. There aren’t people who we can recruit who have done this before. So, we have to bet on people who have had lots of different kinds of experiences in their career. I believe that the best way to get to true innovation and different thinking is by putting yourself in situations where you have to diagnose, learn and adapt. You develop agility,
I continue to be inspired by the leadership team here at EA. I think we have a really unique, special group. I can go through one by one, every single person on this executive team, and what I learn from them, and not just in terms of our business and the work we have, but as human beings and what we do.
On the personal side, I have this cadre of incredible women, who I was exposed to in my twenties, and we just became close friends navigating many of life’s important milestones together. They’re all doing amazing things. They’re amazing leaders, they’re amazing moms, and they just inspire me really, really deeply.
In terms of the political spectrum, I would say the person I look up to the most is probably Michelle Obama. Just the power and impact she has and the grace with which she wields both of those, while always operating from a place of incredible high integrity, I think that’s something to be admired.
And of course, I could talk about all the scions of leadership and inspiration through the ages.
But, there’s also my inner circle at work and there’s my close personal friends, who I call my own little personal Board of Directors, that continue to inspire me.
I’ve been to close to 50 countries. Travel is my favorite thing to do in the world, at any given point in time. I’m happiest when I’m either on a trip or planning a trip.
It’s really hard to choose among favorites, but the one that has always stuck with me was Myanmar, circa 2002. As part of a closed society at that time, it felt unspoilt and wasn’t heavily touched yet by western culture. I spent ten days there with my husband and a friend, and we didn’t run into another American the entire time. It was really unspoiled from tourism and remote at that point in time. Myanmar has a lot of challenges now, but it was really an incredible, incredible place.
We went to Bagan, which is this incredible plain of thousands of Buddhist stupas and temples and the only way you could see it was by bicycle or horse cart. We had a chance to really interact with the people in a very close way, and they were deeply spiritual, warm, kind.
The places I enjoy the most are often times the places that are not touched by modern society – where people are salt of the earth and focus on the basics of life. I find that intriguing…people living life very differently than I do. It gives me perspective.
Another favorite place, and one where we spend a lot of time, is Point Reyes, here in California. With it’s rolling hills and dairy farms it’s very low-key. It’s nice to just take the kids and unplug, and spend our afternoons walking through the meadows with the cows, breathing in the fresh air and exploring
Right now, one of my favorite products is Unravel Two, which I’m playing with my daughter. It’s one of our EA Originals games that players can choose to play single player or co-op. My daughter and I have been playing couch co-op, and what’s so special about playing with my eight year old, is that there’s just these deepmessages about collaboration. The warmth and spirit of that game is awesome. I really love that game.
My second favorite product is my KitchenAid mixer because my 10 year old and I love to bake and we bake together. We’re using the mixer a lot these days, as he’s also learning a lot about entrepreneurship. He does bake sales on the corner by our house regularly, at least once a month.
My other favorite product is Audible. I spend a lot of time on Audible. When I’m traveling or even when I’m not, I really like to listen to books. Time-permitting, podcasts and audiobooks are something I really enjoy.
My deepest passion as I work right now, is helping girls find their way in this world and maintain their voice throughout all of the societal pressures to diminish their voice.
Another passion of mine is traveling to new destinations and experiencing other places. If I were to list all of my passions related to travel, it would cover all the places, destinations, and experiences that I want to have.
Great article –> https://thefutureorganization.com/ea-chief-people-officer-hr/
How does EA compete with other organizations for the best talent?
Mala says they don’t compete with Google, LinkedIn and other similar organizations with a focus on compensation – that, she says, “is a race to the bottom.” Instead, they look at supporting their mission system and finding people with a similar focus. They also provide a manager that supports them, surround them with people they admire, have fun with and want to hang out with. In addition, they provide opportunities to learn and grow – providing different experiences. The quality of leadership, learning and growing, this is how they compete. “I refuse to compete on ‘perkage’. How do we care for our people while they are here?” It is based on the quality of the work.
How did the trend towards a focus on mental and physical well being of employee begin?
“We used to think about work/life balance – this a false concept,” Mala says. It is really the idea of managing our whole selves while at work. Also, talented people, the skills in our environments are polarizing. The jobs are becoming more specialized. Because tech is available – those skills and great team members are highly in demand. So in order to compete for the same people, you have to bring a different experience for these people. This is why EA is moving in that direction.