10 Questions with Sam Hellfeld

Sam Hellfeld is the chief legal and risk officers at Sleep Number

1. Briefly describe a typical day for you at the office. 
It starts with a much shorter commute as I’m primarily working from home given COVID-19. Typical day includes meetings with my teams and cross-functional partners, collaborative and individual work time to advance our initiatives, and dealing with new matters that always come up, which make this job dynamic and engaging.  

2. What is the best part of your job?
Two things: being a part of a purpose-driven company with a mission to improve lives by individualizing sleep experiences; and working with a talented, high-integrity team to creatively solve problems and manage risk throughout all aspects of the business.  

3. Has COVID-19 changed the way you work? If so, how?
Yes. Simply put, I do a lot more video conferences with cameras on. Working remotely wasn’t new for Sleep Number; we had invested in the ability for many team members to work remotely before COVID-19. Our “work for your day” philosophy was an advantage that enabled us to pivot quickly and continue to operate efficiently during all the twists and turns of this pandemic.  

4. Why did you decide to go to law school?
It was a natural next step being a political science and history major. Plus, I was told law school would be a good fit because I liked to argue (which I dispute). 
5If you weren’t a lawyer, what would you be?
A psychologist. I enjoyed studying psychology in college and think it would be nice to work with people and help them navigate their challenges. Sounds like being a good lawyer come to think of it.   

6. You attended college and law school in California. Did you experience culture shock when you moved to Minnesota?  
I was born in New York and raised in Southern California. I moved to Minnesota after my wife, who is from Minnesota, got into medical school at the U of M. I experienced some culture differences, but not culture shock.  I had visited Minnesota many times before to see my wife’s family and I found the “Minnesota Nice” culture to be similar to the laid-back vibe of Southern California. My first winter in Minnesota, on the other hand, was a shock.  

7. How do you spend your free time?
Mostly with my family. We have three kids. Our oldest is 11 and we have twins that are We like to get outdoors—hike, bike, skate, ski, golf, and anything on the water. 

8. What book is on your nightstand?  
I recently got into audio books and started with literary classics I never got around to before. I’m currently listening to Don Quixote. The narrator, George Guidall, is great and brings the characters to life with different voices. I never knew, the book is hilarious, and I’ve been laughing out loud each time I listen to it. 

9. What is the best advice you’ve received? 
The best professional advice I received is to be concise. Our CEO likes to say “if you’re explaining, you’re losing” which really lands the point. One of the judges I clerked for early in my career was known for spotting the winning brief in a stack by pointing out the thinnest one—“thin to win” as the saying goes. I’ve internalized that advice over the years as “listen long and speak short.” 

10. Do you have a New Year’s resolution or personal goal for 2021?

My goal is to deliberately start and end each day being grateful and not taking the simple things, like my health, for granted.  
Managing Editor
Elsa Cournoyer

Executive Editor

Joseph Satter