There’s an adage that goes, “Treat the janitor with the same respect as the CEO.” It’s a philosophy that Amanda Dittmar took to heart early in her education as a lawyer. “I had friends at other firms who would go out to dinner with partners, and the partners would treat their clients with so much respect and kindness, but they’d treat my first-year associate friends like dirt,” Dittmar says. “That says a lot about those people and also showed me right away how I wanted to be treated.”
Dittmar, now intellectual property counsel at the technology company Viavi Solutions, says she found that respect in her private practice days at DC IP firm Finnegan, particularly from her supervisor, Anthony D. Del Monaco.
“I immediately saw that respect when I was working at Finnegan. Even though it was my first year, I would get credit for my good ideas and the work I did,” Dittmar recalls. She was encouraged to call her bosses “colleagues,” and the higher-ups would gently remind her to avoid the “‘b’ word” whenever possible.
Dittmar brings that respect and appreciation to her own leadership; those principles form the foundation of her work at Viavi. She gives credit, though, to the optics engineers who have gone out of their way to teach her about the technology of the business.
“One of my favorite parts of my job and what keeps it interesting is working with the R&D scientists here,” Dittmar says. “They have gotten me excited about our technology and made me feel like a member of a larger team. That has made such a difference for me.”
Dittmar has been effective not just because of her partnership in intellectual property, but her efforts in the legal department as a whole: the attorney has assumed responsibility for the internal legal department’s continuing education program. Finding common ground for the entire legal team can be challenging, she says.
“We have twenty-five team members who cover different parts of the business, but risk tolerance has been one area that we’ve been able to work on together. As attorneys, we were likely trained to be more conservative when it comes to risk, but in the more general business, that approach doesn’t always work.”
Dittmar says that in-house lawyers have a duty to not just shoot down ideas. “You have to show them a path forward. You may not be able to do x, but what about y?”
Dittmar has also helped provide support to the female engineers at Viavi by facilitating better communication among employees. “Only 12 percent of inventors at the US Patent and Trademark Office are women,” she explains. “And only 20 percent of engineers in the US are women, so we’ve been looking for ways to get these engineers together and talk about patents.”
An R&D lunch gives engineers a chance to interact with each other and encourages engineers of all experience levels and genders to submit patent ideas. “We just want to get the idea of submitting patents for their ideas [out there],” Dittmar says. The get-together was so well received by company leadership that the lunch got built into the legal budget.
Encouraging the female engineers at Viavi is just one example of the importance Dittmar places on making sure that those around her receive the credit they deserve.
“I’m sure we’ve all been in that situation where we aren’t recognized for the work that we do, and it winds up being inefficient, disheartening, and just bad policy,” Dittmar says. “It’s my goal to make sure that no one’s spotlight is stolen and that people are recognized for their contributions. I’ve been treated so well, and passing that on has always been my goal.”
Harrity & Harrity, LLP:
“Amanda has the rare ability to understand technology and strategy at a global and individual matter level, which enables her to provide strategic guidance that continues to cement Viavi’s position as an industry leader. She is a joy to partner with, both professionally and in the community.”
—Paul Gurzo, Partner
“Amanda Dittmar brings technical talent and unassuming leadership to Viavi, a leading-edge company in optical security products. Venable is a proud member of the team, and we look forward to our continued partnership with both Amanda and Viavi.”
—Megan Woodworth, Co-Head of IP Litigation