Legal Outlook: Women in Tech, Episode 6

Legal Outlook: Women in Tech, Episode 6 (transcript)

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Transcript



Rebecca Clarke:
Hello, and welcome to Ashurst's Legal Outlook and this special mini-series on Women in Tech. My name is Rebecca Clarke and I'm a member of Ashurst's Digital Economy Team. This new mini-series was designed to celebrate women as part of our International Women's Day initiative. The theme for International Women's Day this year was breaking the bias, but it also provides us with an opportunity to celebrate the achievement of women and to inspire the next generation of lawyers.

Rebecca Clarke:
At Ashurst, I have the pleasure of working with inspirational female colleagues and clients. And with this in mind, I was delighted to speak with Amanda Moore, General Counsel of BAI Communications to discuss her career path, her experience of being a female lawyer in this sector, imposter syndrome, and much, much more. Amanda, welcome to this podcast series celebrating female lawyers in tech. Amanda is the General Counsel of BAI Communications, and we know each other as we have been working on some really ground breaking projects, such as bringing continuous 4G and 5G ready connectivity to the London Underground. But for those listeners who may not be familiar with your career journey, I thought I would take you back to the start and ask you to describe your path to General Counsel. Did you always know that being in-house in this sector was the right path for you?

Amanda Moore:
Hi Rebecca. Thank you for inviting me on this today. I started in private practice many years ago. Initially in New Zealand for a couple of years, and then I came over to London and I worked in a technology team in the city at DLA. And it was always impressed upon me when I was in private practice, how important it was to get some in-house experience because it just gives you such a different perspective on things. So when I moved away from DLA, I went in-house and I was living in leafy Hampshire at this point, and working at Motorola Solutions in their in-house team there. And I guess I just never really looked back.

Rebecca Clarke:
So, at least in the past, this sector has tended to be dominated by men. And I think arguably it still is. So I wanted to spend a little time talking about your experience of working in this sector as a female lawyer. Have you experienced any gender stereotypical challenges, particularly as a junior lawyer? And if so, how did you overcome them?

Amanda Moore:
Absolutely agree. It's a male dominated industry. It certainly was, I guess like many industries it's getting better. I was actually very fortunate when I made the move over here to London to DLA. I was actually working in a reasonably small team with three partners who were all women. So I was very fortunate in that respect that I was actually in the majority in that team. And I think that's probably helped me a lot with my confidence frankly, and being a woman and working in tech because I didn't feel outnumbered or unusual at that point.

Amanda Moore:
Yes, I still sometimes like to take the statistics in a meeting, and notice how many women there are compared to men, and just I think there's just a general awareness now of where there is not diversity rather than where there is diversity.

Rebecca Clarke:
Exactly. And I think both you and I on the last project we worked on, we both sat down and we were pretty amazed by the ratio of women on that deal. Not just from a legal perspective, but also from the technical and commercial teams as well. And it was really great to see such representation on some of these groundbreaking high value complex projects. Just moving on, but staying with the same theme, how do you think we can support and encourage greater representation of female lawyers in this sector?

Amanda Moore:
Yes, I completely agree with what you were saying previously Rebecca, about the mix of women on the projects that we've been working on together. So many of us not just in the legal side, but also our Services Director, our Commercial Lead, all over the team, there were women in there. I think that there's great representation of women often early on in careers. I think that you've hit on something there, and more in the retention side that the traditional models of working that were definitely dominant when I was coming up as a junior lawyer, I think we are genuinely seeing some change in that and that it's made it easier for women to continue on in their careers with their legal careers or just in general.

Amanda Moore:
That there doesn't have to be a single way of working, that it doesn't have to be necessarily nine to five. Or if you're working in a demanding job, it doesn't have to be 80 hours a week. It doesn't have to be the alternative of choosing to further your career to be seen to be in the office, to be seen to be doing these various things, to promote your career. Work life doesn't have to be like that anymore, and I think that is really important. And I think that's helping to retain women in tech and women in law, it's about showing them that there are different ways of working.

Amanda Moore:
There is a place for flexibility. There is a place for options. You don't always have to be aiming for the top of the tree, or be seen to be aiming for the top of the tree. I mean, I don't know how you are finding it Rebecca in private practice now, because I've been out of private practice for quite a long time. And since I've left I've noticed that there are different job titles now. There seem to be different roles available.

Amanda Moore:
When I was working in private practice, and this makes me very long in the tooth, you were a solicitor and then you were an associate and then a senior associate, and then you became a partner. Or quite often, if you wanted to have children, you became a PSL and they seemed to be the options, but what's it like in there now, Rebecca?

Rebecca Clarke:
I've benefited from working at firms that have always been quite progressive in terms of flexibility. So I've always enjoyed that. And that has really helped me as a mum to stay in law. And I also think that now the pandemic has also opened up that prospect for the younger generation being able to work from home so many days a week. I think that's great. There are also other avenues available to women. It's not just the PSL route. There is positions such as Counsel, which are open to women who decide, for whatever reason, that partnership either is not right for them just now, or they don't aspire to head towards partnership.

Amanda Moore:
I think that's very refreshing. There was very much a sense of there being a ladder when I was in private practice, and there was only one way and that was up the ladder or off the ladder. And I think it's wonderful now that there are more opportunities available. And I think that one of the things that's made this more achievable for everybody is that these options, they're not just for women, in the same way that we don't have maternity leave anymore, we have parental leave.

Amanda Moore:
Acknowledging that these are not benefits that are required for women, especially, everybody can enjoy them. And that's one of the things I think that has been quite a sea change in the last decade or so. And as you say, the pandemic, I mean you have to try and take the positives, don't you? From the bad things that happen in life, and the pandemic has certainly been an experience, but that really has brought such change in the way that so many of us, particularly in the professional sectors, we've been able to adapt very, very quickly and easily to working completely differently.

Amanda Moore:
And women have benefited tremendously from that and so have men. And I think that's wonderful because that's absolutely something that's good for everybody. And it's not just a woman's benefit.

Rebecca Clarke:
I wanted to briefly touch upon imposter syndrome, as I'm always amazed by how many highly successful women experience it. And as those listening will no doubt know, imposter syndrome disproportionately affects high achieving people who find it difficult to accept that they are as competent as others perceive them to be. Have you ever suffered or experienced imposter syndrome at any stage in your career? And if so, do you have any advice you can share about how to keep it at bay?

Amanda Moore:
Gosh, I think you'd probably go a long way to find someone who hadn't had imposter syndrome at some point. It is difficult. It's a crisis of confidence in a way, a feeling that you've somehow stumbled into the dragons cave. And at some point, while you are filling your boots with loot, the dragon's going to come back and I don't know, tear your head off. But I think I'd say two things about that. First of all I think it is entirely normal. I think it's human nature to sometimes feel like you can't quite understand how you've got where you are, perhaps you don't feel you deserve it. I think we should be kind to ourselves, that sometimes we're all going to feel a bit like that, or a lot like that.

Amanda Moore:
I think the way I've dealt with it when it's happened to me, and it's not just once it comes up sometimes, it can be situational or it can be seasonal, I don't know. I think as lawyers, we are hopefully good at being objective and I look and I go, "Well, I got a good degree from a good university. I got a good job. I got another good job. I did well at that job. I got promoted in that job." And if I look at the empirical evidence and go, "You know what, I am doing okay." And if I don't believe in myself, I can at least from time to time, that is, believe in other people who believe in me.

Amanda Moore:
And I think that's the way that I've dealt with it. And then you just fake it till you make it. All things pass, and that feeling will pass too.

Rebecca Clarke:
I mean, I've worked with you now for some time, and it does shock me to hear that. And I think it's something that a lot of the listeners will identify with, especially the younger lawyers that are coming up through the ranks and to hear someone at your level acknowledge and say, "Look, I have those feelings too." I think that's really, really helpful. What would you say has been your biggest success or career highlight to date?

Amanda Moore:
Probably the thing that really sticks in my mind, I mean, I've been fortunate. Fortunate, I've been lucky. I'm an imposter. No, I've been fortunate to be involved in all sorts of amazing projects and really exciting deals and exciting projects and cutting edge stuff throughout my career, along with the occasional software license and so on. But interestingly, I think that the thing that I found most exciting, it's funny it is not really my day job, and what I would usually do.

Amanda Moore:
I was involved in a public procurement that didn't go well. And the company I was working at, we ended up challenging that in the High Court. So that was the first time I'd ever been involved in a procurement challenge. I'd had very little to do with court in my career at all, apart from when I was very junior and training. And so not my usual environment. And of course it helped that we won. Like most public procurement challenges, it didn't make it all the way to a hearing, but it was settled beforehand.

Amanda Moore:
But I think that I would pick that one, not just because it was novel for me, and it was exciting, and it was incredible to meet some of the barristers that we worked with who were so smart, and all these subject matter experts coming together to give their view on things. And that was just the sheer brain power involved was really interesting. But I think internally, as the in-house lawyer at that company, when we decided to bring that challenge, it was not something that the company did usually. We don't sue our customers.

Amanda Moore:
All the way along there was a group of us in the company who said, "No, we've been wronged, this hasn't been run properly. The decision was not made fairly. And it's not been made in accordance with the regulations, and we need to stick up for ourselves." And I think that was the most rewarding part of that, was taking the execs on the journey through it, and reassuring and gaining their confidence that we were doing the right thing, and standing up for ourselves, and standing up for a process that was flawed. And a decision reached that was not robust.

Amanda Moore:
And ultimately that did bear itself out. And I think that that is the essence really of an in-house role. It's managing your stakeholders, managing the best interests of the company and everybody you work with. And that took a lot of personal energy to keep pursuing that because it was the right thing to do. And I think that's probably even though, not my normal day job, definitely one of the highlights for me.

Rebecca Clarke:
Well, that sounded very exciting and very fulfilling. And I think that's really coming across about that's what you really enjoy about your role. It's not just giving the legal advice, but it's looking at things commercially, objectively, taking stakeholders through the process and taking people along with you. Which is something I personally have experienced while working with you on these projects. And it's very impressive, I must say Amanda.

Amanda Moore:
Oh, thank you, Rebecca. You're right, I think it's absolutely the best part of the job for me, is that diversity and disciplines that when you're in-house you come together as one of several disciplines, and everybody has a different perspective and a different approach to problem solving. And my voice is one of several when there's an issue or a problem or an opportunity and brainstorming, I suppose it is. I find that very satisfying. And the opportunities just to learn about those other disciplines and what they do, and what's important to them and why, that's fascinating to me.

Rebecca Clarke:
I'm a working mother, and I have at times struggled to find the balance between the demands at home and demands at work. And there was a recent BUPA survey that said that almost two thirds of mothers feel exhausted by the pressure to make juggling children and career look easy, to be a super mum, if you will. You have managed to combine a very successful career and being a mother. Do you have any tips?

Amanda Moore:
Mmmm, eventually they will grow up. I think that's probably not particularly helpful is it? First of all, don't be too hard on yourself. I think there is this idea that we would all like to be perfect at everything, but rather be good enough at most things I think than be perfect at one thing. I think that for me personally, good childcare. Because when my children were younger, particularly, the thing I found most stressful was not being at work or being at home, it was worrying about the next time I had to go to work and how I was going to manage like, "Oh, I need to go away."

Amanda Moore:
I think in previous roles I've done a bit of travelling with work and it's like, "Oh, I've got a trip coming up. How am I going to manage with the children?" Trying to work out the roster of childcare and so on. I think, for me, finding the right mix of childcare, whether that's family or professional childcare or whatever you can afford or manage or whatever you feel most comfortable with, is absolutely key. Because when you are confident that your children are being looked after, and you don't have to stress about that, you can relax into both roles, much easier, or easily I should say. Much more easily. I think that's really important.

Amanda Moore:
And the other thing, going back to the first point really, about not being too hard on yourself, sometimes my kids would turn around and say to me, "Oh, mum, you out again. Were you going away again?" And I was like, "Yes, I've got a good job. I've got a great job. And my job enables us to live in this house, and gives us the things that we enjoy, and I enjoy doing it." And I think setting an example for your children, rather than feeling bad about your job, taking you away from them sometimes. This is life. We need to work, we need money and we need fulfillment in what we do. Well, I certainly do anyway.

Amanda Moore:
And I hope that my children can see that I was unable to be with them 24/7. They get to see what a fulfilling work life is like as well.

Rebecca Clarke:
I completely agree. I couldn't do what I do without the support of my parents. They're just wonderful. And they really do help me out. And I completely understand the mum guilt, I get that a lot too. As my mother always says to me, "Look, don't feel guilty, you are doing something for you. And what you are doing also will support your child. And she will look up to you in years to come and say, 'look what my mum achieved. Look what she's done'." So now I totally agree with that. And it's really good advice.

Rebecca Clarke:
I think as mothers particularly, and I think all parents we're very hard on ourselves and we always strive to be perfect. Although I'd say my parents were pretty close, but nobody's perfect. I think we're onto my last question now. I think this one's quite an important one, and that is if you could, what advice would you give to your younger self?

Amanda Moore:
Well, I think this is a tricky one. Isn't it really? I think that, well, maybe it's not for some people I find it difficult. I think I would say relax and enjoy it a little bit more. I think that there's a lot to be said for letting life take its course. And that it doesn't always have to be planned. You don't have to have a plan. You don't and have to think what's next. Do I really want this? Do I really want that? Sometimes just live in the moment, and then what is right for you will become clear.

Amanda Moore:
And fortunately, for me that's what's happened for me because I've ended up, I think where I should be. This role that I'm doing at the moment is great. It's well suited to me. And I spent a lot of time when I was younger, wondering about what was right for me, and what was my career path. And again, that ladder, there's up or up or off, and actually realising that it isn't a ladder, it's a hill and you can walk up it anyway you want. You don't even have to walk up it, you can stop halfway. And I suppose it's not being so focused on goals and outcomes. Goals are important. Objectives are important, but so is just enjoying where you are and letting life figure itself out.

Rebecca Clarke:
Well that's certainly good advice, and I don't think I could put it better myself. For me, if I was looking inward to myself, I would be saying, "Don't put so much pressure on yourself, and try and enjoy the journey because we're only on this earth for a short period of time. And if we're completely stressed out constantly, then we're not really living. We're just surviving." Aren't we?

Amanda Moore:
Exactly right. Enjoy it and don't sweat the small stuff. And back to the point about managing career and children. I think that children can be the great leveller, and they can really give you perspective sometimes. And once I was having a particularly torrid time at work, and working many, many hours. And I think that you were with me on that journey, Rebecca, and my daughter who's nine, they must have been talking about careers at school or something. And she's in the car next to me and we are driving somewhere. And she goes, "I don't know what I want to be when I grow up mommy." And I'm like, well, you don't have to worry. You're only nine. Worry about it later." And she said, "Well, I don't want to be a lawyer, because you've made it look really bad."

Amanda Moore:
And I thought, mmm, so there's a little adjustment that needs to be made right there. And I said, "Oh, have I?" She goes, "Oh no, not really." So we brought it back to center again. But I think that having that thing to balance, and whether it's children, or whether it's another interest you have outside of work, sports or music or whatever it is, gives you perspective on these things and helps you to live your life in a way that hopefully is satisfying and fulfilling rather than just one dimensional.

Rebecca Clarke:
Well, that takes us to the end of the session. Amanda, thank you so much for participating. It was really great to hear your career story, and to listen to your advice. I think our listeners will take great comfort in some of your stories, and thank you so much for joining me again.

Amanda Moore:
Thank you Rebecca. It's been a pleasure.

Rebecca Clarke:
Thank you for listening to our special mini-series on Women in Tech. If you enjoyed this episode, and don't want to miss the rest of this mini-series, please subscribe to Ashurst Legal Outlook wherever you get your podcasts. While you're there, feel free to leave us a rating or review. If you'd like to find out more about Ashurst's Digital Economy practice, please visit ashurst.com. Thank you very much for listening and goodbye for now.

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