Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Reflections and Gratitude

As I sit on the plane on my way home from visiting law school friends that I haven’t seen in a decade, I’m reflective of how much I have changed over that time.  I have had 5 different jobs at 5 very different companies.  I’ve gotten married, had kids and moved 1200 miles away from those very dear friends.  I’ve made new friends and new connections and I have grown tremendously as both a person and a lawyer.  But since this blog isn’t usually about what my kids are up to these days, for this post I’ll focus on the growth as a lawyer.

I’m a little surprised at how much I’ve learned, and how I can trace skill sets back to a particular position, company or experience.  My first out of school job was at back before it was a household name.  I learned a lot about technology, the internet and marketing.  I gained a lot of experience with trademarks and various laws surrounding marketing.  I learned about defamation and online trolls.  I even got a little exposure to how to respectfully deal with the alphabet soup of governmental agencies while protecting your client and looking out for the greater good.  From my boss there I learned about integrity and doing what you say you’re going to do.  I also learned what it’s like to have a great team surrounding you and meeting people who while their daily presence in your life may be brief their impact on you is ever lasting (yes, that’s you guys CJ, Keena and Nima!).

I moved to Austin reluctantly leaving a job I loved for the greater good of my family.  And quickly started working in a large microchip company you may have heard of, Advanced Micro Devices.  I worked there supporting a very fun group of procurement types.  I learned a lot about negotiations from them.  I gained a lot of experience in drafting and revising contracts.  And got more than a little exposure to how a contract management system can make the work of 3 attorneys doable for 1.5.  I was never bored and always busy, but I also learned that reviewing the same contract, with the same requests to modify by new suppliers day in and day out isn’t optimal for me.  I like more variety in my day and wanted to broaden my experience.

So when an ad popped up on my news feed looking for a company’s first in house counsel, I took a little of that youthful ego and applied. (of course I can do this, why not?  Doesn’t matter that I know nothing about ATMs, the banking industry, employment law or anything outside of negotiating contracts and supporting a very active marketing team!  Of course I can support an entire division encompassing the United States.) I hit the ground running in that job and learned so much in the first few months that looking back, I’m surprised my head didn’t explode.  I gained experience in employment law, managing litigation, creating contract management systems and protocols and lot of that “blocking and tackling” that is required when you’re the first.  I also learned a great deal about professional politics and working with very strong personalities, who had very strong opinions.  I discovered that I loved the variety, the work was interesting and there was definitely a lot of it.  But the politics was something I needed to get better at, half the job of a senior level in house attorney is managing people.  I needed more experience and few good mentors.

So when an opportunity came my way to jump into a similar role but at an internet e-com company whose organizational structure was more simple I took it.  I again delved deep into the blocking and tackling of setting up a legal department/function where there once was none.  I worked on improving my communication style with a group of very talented individuals.  I gained experience in larger litigation matters, creating IP management programs and started to wade into international matters with a UK presence.  I loved the technology and I loved the people.  But I also learned a very humbling lesson at the right time.  I can learn a lot about a lot, but I can’t be an expert in everything and there are some things that I can’t do.  I couldn’t make up for the lack of experience in certain areas that was shared by the team.  And I still needed to improve on my communication skills.  So I started a blog, started networking like a champ and have grown into a style of my own.  And I now understand that while you may have to adjust your style, if you have to change it completely for a job, it’s not the right job for you – no matter how much you love the work or the people.  I also know that it’s actually rewarding to step back and let someone who has the skills and style necessary to carry the company to where it needs to go. 

With my next move (and current gig) I have again taken on a lot of blocking and tackling and have utilized all of the skills each of my previous moves have given me.  I’ve put into practice the idea that matching my communication and style to that of my boss when selecting the job means as much as liking the technology and the company.  I’m getting great experience working with an equity backed company and the intricacies of dealing with the board, the fund, and the pace of constantly being in fund raising mode.  I’ve finally grown into that confidence I had taking on a role I should have run from, and I’m proud of who I’ve become and who I know I will continue to grow into.  And I owe a large part of that to the co-workers and mentors at each of the companies I worked for.  Many of whom may not even know they played that role for me.  So for everyone who I’ve crossed paths with on my professional journey – Thank you!  Hopefully I will make you all proud too and remember to pass on the great lessons you have taught me.

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