I understood the importance of inclusion and diversity from the very start of my legal career. When I began my first job practicing law, the firm’s office where I worked had more than a hundred attorneys, but there was not one woman who had made partner. I found this particularly challenging as a new associate because the firm expected new entrants to make their own way forward, finding interesting work, rather than assign them to a practice group or a partner who could guide them.
Interestingly, when I was in law school, about half my classmates were women. I’d always felt supported and empowered as a student. And that’s what made for a rude awakening when I set foot in the workplace. My initial experiences ranged from feeling the need to be over-prepared, to taking on work that no one else wanted to do, and flat out being ignored. I needed to outperform and outshine my male counterparts just to be on the same playing field at the firm.
Fortunately, I found a great mentor in the form of a senior associate who took me under her wing. This not only altered my perspective but my career trajectory. She gave me the opportunity to work side by side with her on commercial litigation. I learned from watching her negotiate with opposing counsel, manage complexity with clients, and hold her own as a female lawyer. Being able to observe and engage in discussions about the realities of work, culture at the firm, what partner track looks like, the challenges of having (and raising) children while pursuing a demanding career… all of this was pure gold.
Having a mentor show me the ropes, answer questions without judgment, provide advice and encouragement as I took on new stretch projects really set me on my way as a young woman working in corporate law. I was thoroughly inspired watching my mentor move up in her career, break the glass ceiling, and make partner. She demonstrated the “art of the possible,” as they say.
When I subsequently joined the corporate governance and law function of Teradata’s former parent company, the woman who hired me became my role model and ally. There have been others along the way, many of them men, who have supported me in my successful career journey. Great mentors are so important to helping you become the best version of yourself. Too often, you can get stuck or frustrated or overly critical of yourself. Mentors help you see past that. They push and challenge you to move and grow outside your comfort zone and help you identify and sharpen your unique skills and attributes.
Having had wonderful mentors and allies, I remain committed to being one. I pay it forward every chance I get. I feel strongly that women can and need to do a better job lifting each other up. When we share our stories from our career journeys (warts and all) and lessons learned along the way, they become a part of the stories and experiences of the future leaders among us.
Speaking of leadership, my own style is to really get to know people and help them shine within the organization by ensuring they feel challenged, understood, valued, and appreciated. I find that building high-functioning and inclusive teams is the most rewarding way to lead an organization. At Teradata, diversity, equity, and inclusion are foundational to how we operate and do business. So, my approach – striking strong working relationships based on mutual trust and appreciation – is a natural fit.
Frankly, it’s often the best way to move things forward and tackle the hardest, most complex, and demanding challenges facing us today. The laws and best practices in most of the countries we operate in are constantly evolving. And Teradata’s business is transforming, which means major changes to the scope and nature of legal support needed to help the company thrive and succeed in a dynamic and competitive global market.
With the challenges of the job also come tremendous opportunities. As the company’s Chief Legal Officer, I have the chance to really make a difference by helping the organization navigate and lead through this vibrant and changing landscape. Lawyers are trained to be critical thinkers who find solutions to complex problems that people can embrace. I’m fortunate that I get to use this faculty often. Leading the legal function at Teradata also brings me tremendous joy and satisfaction knowing that my day begins and ends with promoting accountability and “doing the right thing, always” as a company core principle.
Throughout history, and especially women’s history, triumphs big and small have been achieved through the combined power of passion, purpose, and initiative. I sincerely believe this to be the formula for a fulfilled life. As a woman and as a leader, I admit it’s easier said than done, as sometimes, you need to dig deeper to see how these attributes manifest. I, for one, like to reflect with gratitude each day on the things I did to help the “greater good.” In the workplace, this can be as small an act as lending a listening ear to a colleague who is frustrated or stuck on something, encouraging someone in a meeting by acknowledging her contributions, or having a tough conversation that breaks through a barrier to greater efficiency. It’s about recognizing and celebrating the small wins along the way to the bigger goals you hope to achieve. If you believe in what you’re doing, then you will have the drive and creativity to give it your utmost effort, and that will lead to the very best and outcomes.