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Olga Belyakova and Eva Talmacsi: Be brave and stay curious

The co-heads of CEE TMT at CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang talk about the key issues facing their clients, the firm’s ambitions for the region, and how to balance a successful team

What have been your greatest personal or professional achievements to date and why?

Olga: I believe my biggest professional achievement was, in fact, my decision to become a lawyer many years ago. After 20 years in practice, the profession remains my passion and for me, it is not only about prestige but also about the day-to-day intellectual challenges and unique opportunities to help clients.

Eva: Having had the opportunity over the years to advise on some landmark transactions in CEE and beyond, which shaped the landscape in the relevant industry sectors. From a more general professional perspective, never losing the ability to step up to new challenges and think outside the box.

What are the key issues facing CEE’s technology, media, and communications sectors? How is the firm responding to those challenges?

The 5G revolution is believed to transform our perception of connectivity and reshape the business beyond the TMT sector. CMS has recently produced a global Expert Guide to 5G which provides an in-depth analysis of the technology and its impact on other sectors. 

AI, robotics and machine learning are not only topics on which we advise our clients, but we also use those technologies in our everyday work across CEE.

Privacy and cybersecurity are also something that keeps clients awake at night, and we continue consolidating our in-depth expertise and practical experience on these issues in a number of region-wide guides and toolkits (including among others  Proptech Smart Office brochure; Data Law Navigator; GDPR eLearning) as well as providing 24/7 multi-jurisdictional support and hotline (CMS Breach Assistant app).

What are the firm’s ambitions for TMT in the CEE region? And what steps have been put in place to meet this?

The sector is a core in our strategy and our ambition is clear: maintain a leading position in the TMT space and offer innovative solutions for our clients. Many of our TMT experts have come from the industry and we often place our colleagues on secondments to the largest international TMT companies to make sure we stay ahead of the curve in major industry trends. 

Furthermore, being in continuous interaction with our clients and the wider industry is a vital element of our strategy and in addition to day-to-day assistance we provide support through our thought leadership pieces such as Cybersecurity challenge in Central and Eastern Europe report, Guide on Funding for films, television and other audio-visual works, and Expert Guide to 5G which all proved to be appreciated by our clients. 

What does innovation mean to you, and what are the key factors changing the way legal services are delivered?

Innovation is built into both the structure and strategy of our firm. At CMS, innovation means looking at what we do, how we do it, and then making it better. This could mean making changes that make our work faster, easier, happier, or more affordable – ranging from big, bold, market-changing ideas to small incremental improvements – they all count, as long as they make good sense for us and our clients. 

What initiatives, if any, does the firm have to mentor the next generation of female partners?

With 45% of our board comprised of women and over 32% of our partners being female, we are particularly passionate about driving gender equality with our people, our clients and in our communities. We have a large number of inclusive policies, initiatives, and programmes that underpin our commitment to developing the careers of all our people, including a mentoring scheme, regular female-focused board-ready workshops, online coaching, etc.

Are there any secrets to climbing up the ranks?

Olga: Professionalism should not be kept secret. To be recognised in the field one works in, communication is the core. People should liaise not only with clients – becoming their real business partner rather than just outside legal advisor – but, equally importantly, with their peers in the market.

Eva: Having a clear vision for your mid- and long-term objectives as a practitioner is key, but you can only achieve your goals within a supportive internal ecosystem and by continuously interacting with your clients and the wider marketplace in which you operate. 

How has the firm shaped your management style?

Olga: CMS’s culture is all about people. By encouraging innovation, new ideas, introducing the latest technologies and agile working, in my view the firm cultivates trust in people which I hope I have brought into my own management style.

Eva: I feel privileged to be able to work within a community which prides itself on being future-facing and innovative and promotes inclusion, integrity, and respect across the entire firm on a day-to-day basis. 

What would you say is the key to balancing a successful team?

Reaching a balance in successful team leadership assumes the combination of several factors, including: 

  1. creating a clear vision and realistic objectives for the whole team;
  2. keeping the team motivated, engaged, and valued by providing clear guidance, giving constructive and timely feedback, comments, and appraisals; and
  3. facilitating constructive and value-creating discussions within the team.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Olga: My ex-colleague once said to me that no one should be afraid of looking stupid by asking questions if something is unclear—even if everyone else in the room seems to understand the issue. Very often, people just wait for someone brave enough to voice the uncertainty and that can change the whole course of the discussion. 

Eva: Stay curious because curiosity keeps taking us down new paths.

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