Meet Vlasta Sambolek, Our Senior Legal Associate
Curious to meet the people behind Native Teams? Today, we’re diving into the vibrant life of Vlasta Sambolek, our Senior Legal Associate at Native Teams.
Vlasta’s journey from dreaming about architecture to embracing law took a twist of serendipity. Now, as she navigates the legal challenges at Native Teams, her role comes with a blend of organised chaos and creative problem-solving.
Read the whole interview to learn more about Vlasta and learn why life shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Enjoy! 🙂
Hi, Vlasta! We’re so happy to catch up with you today! How are you doing, and where are you at the moment?
Good morning from snowy Zagreb! Winters in Zagreb have not been so snowy in recent years, so this morning’s first snowflakes surprised me a little bit.
Imagine a Saturday morning, snow on the tree branches, the sun reflecting on the white surfaces, people mingling on the streets, some already returning from the Trešnjevka market with bags full of fruits, vegetables and local products. There are cafes, cute crafts shops, small parks hidden between buildings, and, not so eye-pleasing, the Tin Ujević library.
This library, where I am sitting right now, has been my second home for years. I studied here for the exams, and then for the bar exam, but I still like to stop by and walk among the rows of books, and randomly flip through the pages.
On the counter in front of me are written verses by our great Croatian poet, the first real Croatian bohemian, after whom this library is named:
Tonight, my forehead gleams
and sweat drips in each eye;
my thoughts blaze through dreams,
tonight, of beauty I shall die.
First, let’s get to know you a bit better! Could you briefly introduce yourself and share what inspired you to pursue a legal career?
I very much like the words such as serendipity, gem, breath, naughty, principle, flavour. For no apparent reason, obviously. 😊
My mom says that one can always find me where there is good food and happy people. I also like to hug my friends.
After reading the article 2, paragraph 1 and 2 above (couldn’t resist 😊), it is reasonable to ask if this is really someone who practices law on a daily basis?
Well, my big wish was to study architecture or history of art, but due to a combination of uninteresting circumstances, I finally decided to study law. At that moment, I just wanted to study something that was challenging enough (at that time I had not yet accepted that challenges can have another, not so positive side), and that after my studies I would have enough room to play with “what I want to be when I grow up”.
Although it turned out to be a good decision in the end, art, in all its forms, is still to this day the one thing that truly inspires me.
You’ve been part of Native Teams for almost a year and a half now, and your current position is Senior Legal Associate. What motivated you to join Native Teams?
I had several notes on my wish list at that moment, three of which I was not ready to compromise on.
First, the high potential of the product that the company is developing and that the need for such a product is evident (without the need to prove it), now and in the near future. In terms of the audience, the product should have a global reach and have the ability to adapt to changes in society.
Second, work without the classic formalities that are usually associated with work, such as keeping work records, insisting on a certain place of work, or the exact beginning and end of working hours. I deeply believe that each of us achieves our highest potential when we play by our own rules, by the rules that suit us naturally.
Third, to become part of an atypical modern legal team, which insists on diversity of knowledge and skills, openness to new ideas and a human-centric approach in providing services.
Me at Native Teams today: checked, checked, and checked!
Can you walk us through your working day and tell us what responsibilities your role entails?
First things first, I don’t start the day without Marko’s “Dobro jutro” message, every day, it’s our little tradition.
I usually start the day by assigning tasks within the legal team and determining which tasks are our priority that day. After I’m done with that part, I start responding to inquiries from the team, clients and users. Basically, I consult anyone who asks for any kind of assistance, whether it’s legal advice, related to projects I’m involved in, or attending meetings with clients or other teams.
I always spend part of my time during the day working with the legal team. We try to ensure that all members of our team have full support whenever they have doubts about the cases they are working on or need some advice when solving problems.
Also, whenever we work on more complex cases, we try to approach them in an organized and dedicated manner, since in such cases teamwork brings special value.
After the hectic part of the day is over, I start working on my tasks that require more focused work or legal research. Or creativity, like this one.
Although my day might seem quite chaotic at first, I try to organize my tasks into meaningful contextual units. This way I don’t lose too much productivity due to frequent context changes.
What are some of the unique legal challenges faced by employers with remote teams and freelancers and, and how does Native Teams tackle them?
On a broader level, our vision is to offer companies the ability to hire independent contractors and full-time employees residing in virtually any country.
We are building an advanced ecosystem for our clients by integrating Employer of Record (EOR), payments, payroll management, tax management, and global mobility services, as well as a wide range of add-ons to choose from.
Using an EOR service involves various legal and compliance aspects, as it fundamentally involves outsourcing certain employment-related responsibilities to a third-party entity. This primarily includes:
- Onboarding and offboarding: The EOR follows the proper procedures for hiring and terminating employees, ensuring compliance with local employment regulations.
- Employment laws and regulations: The EOR is well-versed in the labor laws and regulations of the country or state where the employees are based.
- Tax compliance: The EOR is responsible for ensuring accurate payroll calculations, tax deductions, and remittances to the appropriate tax authorities.
- Anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies: The EOR has policies in place to prevent discrimination and harassment in the workplace, ensuring compliance with local anti-discrimination laws.
- Employment contracts: The EOR will typically handle drafting and managing employment contracts for the workers under their umbrella.
- Data privacy and security: The EOR handles sensitive employee data, and has robust data protection measures in place to ensure compliance with data privacy laws.
- Employee benefits: Depending on the jurisdiction, employees are entitled to various benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, or other statutory benefits. The EOR ensures compliance with these requirements.
- Global mobility compliance: The EOR complies with immigration laws related to work permits and visas.
- Workers’ rights: The EOR protects the rights of the workers and ensures they are treated fairly, including providing a safe working environment.
- Reporting and record-keeping: The EOR should maintain accurate records of employee information, payroll, tax filings, and other relevant documentation as required by law.
From a freelancer’s perspective, one of the main values we bring to them is certainly exposure to a diverse spectrum of clients from different industries and locations. This opens up opportunities to work on exciting projects, collaborate with international clients and get to know different work styles and cultures.
Handling payments and invoicing can be challenging for freelancers, especially when dealing with international clients. Native Teams platform simplifies this process by providing secure payment systems and automating invoicing. Freelancers can focus on their work, knowing that we will take care of financial transactions.
Having worked in the IT legal field, what are the key legal considerations that tech companies should be aware of with the rise of global hiring and remote work?
Remote work has become increasingly common, and employment laws have been adapting to accommodate this shift. However, employment law for remote workers becomes extremely complicated when hiring in different states, provinces, and countries.
Some of the main considerations any company looking to build a global remote team should address:
- Classification of employees and/or contractors
- Compliance with local minimum wage and payment frequency laws
- Payroll distribution for hourly workers and employees in their local currency
- Following location-specific tax rules
- Providing adequate health and medical insurance, benefits packages, vacation time, sick days and other time off regulations according to local laws
- Compliance with local rules on termination, notice period and severance pay.
The global companies don’t have to become experts in the legalities of remote hiring to onboard the perfect candidates for their team.
Instead of hiring a team of lawyers, accountants and payroll providers well-versed in domestic and international remote workforce regulations, EOR can handle compliance with global employment laws on behalf of such companies.
How do you see the relationship between technology and law evolving in the coming years, particularly with the ascent of AI and automation?
We have long since outgrown the debate about whether there is a place for AI in the legal domain – the fact is that AI, in one form or another, has been part of the legal domain, or at least tested in some aspect of it, for years.
We can notice a big shift in the role of legal teams in today’s companies, from advisory support to company management to an essential part of management, product and tech teams, navigating them through this, still insufficiently regulated, area where law and technology intertwine.
A message for all, especially the young legal professionals out there – acquiring technical skills is a necessity for any kind of legal practice today. Enrich your legal knowledge with new technological knowledge, learn about AI, data security, privacy protection, legal-tech, cybersecurity, even programming basics.
AI will certainly replace certain activities that lawyers perform on a daily basis, but this will not result in the replacement of lawyers by AI, but rather in the use of AI capabilities when performing tasks that are repetitive in nature or require the processing of large amounts of data.
Human skills like empathy, creativity, and complex reasoning remain indispensable.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self when starting out in the legal profession, what would it be?
I deeply believe that we become the people that others see in us, that our character is nurtured and shaped through the perspective of others. Therefore, I would advise every young legal professional to surround themselves with people who see potential in them, people with character, and well-rooted professional and personal values.
If at some point they come across some stereotypical washed-up rhetoric about what is expected of a “great lawyer”, to either ignore it or fight against it (preferably the latter).
You have a wide range of hobbies – from contemporary dance, music concerts, travelling, art, architecture and more. How do you balance your professional commitments with your diverse range of hobbies and interests?
I personally don’t see my interests as something I need to work on or something that needs to be balanced with any other activity that occupies me on a daily basis. These interests have been a part of me for as long as I can remember, and it’s hard to expect that to ever change.
My dad was a drummer when he was younger, so music was always lingering around the house from my youngest age. Then, as I was quite a playful child (to say the least), my parents enrolled me in a dance school at a very early age, hoping that I would lose some of my energy during classes. Well, it worked, at least the part with enrolling in a dance school 😊. This is when I began to better understand music and the beauty of movement.
Not long after that, my fascination with books began, and I started reading all kinds of books about other cultures, interesting personalities, architecture, travel, art history, etc. I read those books as if they were fairy tales, and not something I could actually ever see or visit.
That entire period significantly influenced me as a person, and regardless of what I occupy myself with on a daily basis, the universe somehow always brings me back to those beginnings.
You live in the vibrant city of Zagreb in Croatia. Which places would you recommend for someone visiting Zagreb for the first time?
We can start with a walk through Upper Town and visit some of the beautifully preserved courtyards of Upper Town houses. It is a part of the city where the spirit of Zagreb is still preserved.
Zagreb has a very dynamic street art scene to which a number of street festivals are dedicated. Murals by Lonac, Miron Milić, OKO and Lunar are the first that come to mind.
Then a walk along Krležin gvozd street, where you can still see several preserved residential villas with recognizable Zagreb architecture from the 20s and 30s of the last century. Don’t forget to visit the villa and the former home of Bela and Miroslav Krleža, one of the most important Croatian writers. It was a gathering place for artists and intellectuals of the era.
For those who want to feel what neighborhood life in Zagreb looks like, I warmly recommend going to Trešnjevka for coffee and visiting the market where you can try various Croatian local products.
Grab a bike and follow the guide of Zagreb’s Solar system. Discover small planet sculptures around city and explore Lower Town along the way.
For everyone who wants to get to know the city’s architecture a little more, just follow the footsteps of Hermann Bollé around the city and you will learn everything about the construction of Zagreb as we see it today.
For a night view of the city, I would recommend taking a bottle of sparkling wine and climbing to the terrace of the observatory on the Upper Town. You will take with you a wonderful memory from our city.
What’s the most recent music concert you attended, and how was your experience?
It was a Sigur Rós concert last summer in Šibenik, at the St. Michael’s Fortress. I have been following their work for more than a decade now, and this was my third time at their concert.
Their music has helped me through some pretty tough times and I am forever grateful that I stumbled upon their music.
Their concerts are more focused on creating a special vocal and visual experience for the audience, rather than “listening to music” in the standard sense of the word. I’m not sure how this is even possible after so many years of performing, but their concerts seem to be getting better and better. It was beautiful as ever.
What are your travel plans in 2024? Any new destinations you eagerly want to visit?
I hope to start this year with a coffee and a croissant in Paris. Santa left my parents plane tickets to Paris under the Christmas tree this year (I guess they take good care of their daughter 😊).
I’m thinking about spending some time in one of the Southeast Asian countries this year – we work remotely, remember? This is still on my New Year’s wish list, but since my list doesn’t include giving up sweets, coffee, or alcohol, I still have to put something on it.
I love being on the road, so I generally embrace any travel opportunities that life brings me. Last year, after perhaps a few too many glasses of wine, our Croatian team booked plane tickets to Cyprus. We really went on that trip, and had a great time together!
Have you come across any podcasts, books, or movies recently that you absolutely loved?
I have this habit of not reading book by book, but have several books open, so when I get bored with one, I can pick up another. Right now I’m kind of in a phase where I prefer to read books about how something is produced, or created, or the stories of people with whom I have absolutely nothing in common.
So now I’m reading Spring Cannot Be Cancelled by Martin Gayford, which is essentially a documented correspondence between David Hockney and the author about the artist’s creative process and his insights into art from all possible angles.
Then, another gem – Burp, The Other Wine Book by Bas Korpel and Jur Baart. They call it the “punk wine book”. This is a book about wine labels with great designs and special stories (and wine!) behind them. It’s a sweet feeling to come across a Croatian wine from Istria on that list – Piquentum, Crno Vino Vrh – you punk!
Another book worth mentioning that I read recently is definitely Kintsugi by Tomás Navarro. Kintsugi is essentially an ancient Japanese method of repairing broken pottery with gold lacquer. In a more abstract sense, it is a healing method of finding beauty in moments of vulnerability.
To be honest, I don’t have a habit of watching TV (I don’t even have a TV, for that matter 😊). However, I watch various Thai, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese and Filipino series (I won’t reveal the names so as not to embarrass myself too much).
I’m not a doctor, but it seems to me that the only way to recover from watching so many Asian series might be to visit at least a few of those countries. Well, it can’t hurt, I guess. 😊
Last but not least, is there anything else you would like to say to our readers?
Don’t take life too seriously. You don’t need to have a big dream.
When you achieve it (and if you do achieve it), you will see that this dream of yours is not so important after all. Meanwhile, your whole life could slip through your fingers.
The next thing worth pursuing is likely to appear somewhere on the periphery. So be careful not to miss it.