Be Ready to Leap, Reinvent … and Show Your Grit

Many women of my generation were raised to believe they could do anything they wanted to; that we could “have it all.” It was only after graduate school I realized life was way more complicated. After law school, I started attending “women’s events” and the motto quickly shifted to, “You can do it all, just not at the same time.”

It was a tough realization, and only later did I realize what that meant—thanks in part to several hugely important individuals who have influenced and helped me along the way. Several related lessons stand out:

  • Forge your own path: First, in a profession that holds fast to traditionalism, I’ve consistently resisted the traditional path. When the opportunity to open Akin Gump’s Abu Dhabi office emerged, I leaped. And when I was offered the chance to co-lead my firm’s cybersecurity, privacy, and data protection practice, I leaped again. In this, I was emulating an even bigger leap made by my mother, who moved to the United States from Jamaica when she was 18 years old to attend college and forge a new life.
  • Reinvent: Second, reinvention is critical. As a privacy and cybersecurity lawyer, I work at the cutting-edge of emerging technology and the law, in the context of one of the most significant public policy issues of our time. But responding to new technology, while shaping the policy debate to develop new and better laws, only happens if lawyers are willing to embrace and effect meaningful change.
  • Persevere: Third, don’t focus on being “perfect.” Striving for perfection has its merits, but the latest social psychology research compellingly documents that “grit” is the most critical element in one’s career. I watch my nine-year-old daughter’s grit and perseverance, her focus on “practice makes progress,” and I know my career is no different. However many male-dominated environments you encounter, “grit” is essential to withstanding the journey and making an impact.

I realize I’m also supported by where I live. Of all the places I’ve seen, women in San Francisco are by far the most serious about advancing other women. The expression, “We are our own worst enemy,” is less prevalent here. And I’m immensely grateful to my friends, colleagues, and clients, who believe not only in what I can accomplish, but that my presence at the table enhances critical decision-making and the broader business environment.