Networking is key. It is not enough to be a great professional, people has to know that you are. You have to be known and work on your personal brand.
Ana Valdivieso Vice president and associate general counsel for South Europe and Latin America Hewlett Packard Enterprise
In your opinion, is diversity championed enough in the Iberian legal market and what are the main benchmarks in place within your legal department?
I currently lead the HPE Legal Department for South Europe and Latin America. My team is mostly composed of women: 20 out of 24. Out of the eight members of the extended legal Team sitting in Madrid only two are men. So funnily enough, I would say that I have a “reversed” diversity issue. And believe me, sometimes it can be a real issue. Diverse teams are good because women and men bring different perspectives into the equation. As unbalanced is a team only consisting of men, as a team consisting mostly of women.
Now, I think the Iberia Legal market has a healthy women pool of talent. With a much higher percentage of women joining law school, there is great pool of young talented women joining the entry ranks in both companies and law firms. Whether these women progress and reach the management level is a result of a combination of things. We faced roadblocks, for sure. We could talk for hours about those. But I also believe that we sometimes are our worst enemies limiting ourselves immensely. My perception is that companies – for sure American ones – are focusing more and more on policies that help women progress: flexible schedule, flexible location, sponsoring and mentoring programs, etc. I am not saying that there is no room for improvement but I do believe that we are on the right path. Law firms are a different matter entirely. I think they clearly need a significant change of mind-set if they want to benefit from their diverse pool of talent.
To women willing to progress in their careers I always recommend three things: 1) Focus on networking. Both inside your company – or law firm – and outside. I think that is the one area where our male colleagues beat us … big time. They make the time, they like it and, thus, they are good at it. We do not. We focus on working hard and then coming back home to family, loved ones or other interests. Networking is a luxury, at best, or an annoyance in many cases. We need to change that mind-set. Networking is key. It is not enough to be a great professional, people has to know that you are. You have to be known and work on your personal brand. So you need to find a slot from time to time in your agenda. 2) Do not feel that a focus, at some point, on your personal life will ruin your career forever. If for a period of time you need to slow down and devote more time to your family, just do it. And when you come back, return full of drive, energy and with no complexes. I know balancing is difficult. But it can be done. Many women have done it in the past. So you can do it as well. It doesn’t go without sacrifices though. That, we all need to understand and accept. Men usually make those sacrifices more willingly. Women need to decide whether they want to make them or not. 3) Be yourself. Actually focus on being the best version of yourself. Do not lose the great traits that have made you a good professional. But look around and see what traits successful women and men have that would easily blend with your personal brand and then ask them for advice. Maybe even mentoring.
Last but not least, I have tried to make mine a motto that I once heard from a great Silicon Valley female executive: while progressing in your career, push and pull. Push hard to get what you want and, while pushing, pull some talented women along with you. That is something all women should do.
Are there any technological advancements that the legal team has adopted recently?
I think the HPE Legal Department is a pioneer in terms of the use of technology and big data to improve the quality of the services we provide to our internal clients. When John Schultz, our former General Counsel and today Chief of Legal and Administrative affairs at HPE, took over some years ago, he placed a big emphasis on tools, processes and strategies to help us optimize our resources. During that multi-year journey we have done a lot of thigs, and launched a significant number of tools and processes. One of the first solutions we launched was APTTUS a tool that allow us to manage our sales contracts workflow. To manage e-billing, we launched a tool called, Teamconnect. Currently we have a 98% eBilling adoption rate between our vendors and this has saved us a significant amount of time and money. At the HPE Legal Department we also capture the work we do on a daily basis in a tailor-made tool called TeamTime. The data so captured is key to help us understand what we do and how effectively we are allocating our time and resources. All that data is being fed into our business intelligence platform CounselCommand and is matched with data from our other tools as E-billing, Apttus. We use all that aggregated data to launch reports on things like cost of in-house support as opposed to outside counsel support for the same matter. Or how much time we spend supporting low added value matters or contracts as opposed to how much time we spend with High TCV. And that information is allowing us not only to be more efficient but also to showcase the value the in-house legal department provides to the business.
Looking at the wider industry in which Hewlett Packard operates, what trends do you see currently taking place and how do you see them evolving?
Data analytics and artificial intelligence are here to stay. The days where the in-house legal departments operated without metrics and reporting are gone. We need to accept that fact. It is true that lawyers have a natural resistance to the adoption of technology. But if we want to stay competitive and provide a best in class service to our internal clients in the most effective manner, the adoption of technology, big data and analytics is not an option. Particularly today, when all legal departments are asked to do more with less, the only alternative is, not to work more, but to work more efficiently and effectively. And only with technology this can be achieved.