“When an opportunity presents itself, I embrace the challenge and go for it,” says Diane Honda, the chief administrative officer, general counsel, and secretary at Barracuda Networks. It’s this mentality that not only pushed Honda to start her career in the field of software engineering but also helped propel her into more business-facing roles, law school, and eventually general counsel leadership.
Honda demonstrates a willingness to march confidently into the unknown—but not before thinking strategically about the path she needs to take. That’s how she became who she is today: a multitalented general counsel and business leader willing to tackle challenges using her tech background and strong business acumen.
She first distinguished herself as a software engineer after joining a project that was behind schedule. Within months, she was leading its worldwide deployment at every Hewlett Packard location. “That experience taught me the value of a clear strategy executed with passion,” Honda says. “We worked incredibly hard to transform complex technology into a business solution.”
Before becoming an attorney, she delivered successful engineering projects, managed business services, and established international operations. When you look at her accomplishments, it is quickly evident that Honda seeks out and boldly seizes the path in front of her.
Honda has spent the past seven years at the IT security company Barracuda Networks. Honda was a strategic legal hire as Barracuda’s first in-house attorney. “They wanted to take the company public and needed my help to do it,” Honda says. “My previous experience in technology, business, legal, and compliance really made a difference.”
“If you are completely comfortable, you are not growing or pushing yourself.”
Honda has been able to make an especially effective impact on Barracuda’s start-up culture. “We had such a great entrepreneurial culture, but if you want to take a company public, you need discipline around financial reporting and other important processes,” Honda says. “It was a delicate balance of introducing the compliance mind-set but not harming the special aspects of Barracuda’s culture where people had been empowered to be innovative and push the envelope.”
She has since led Barracuda through several transformative restructures, including simultaneously divesting a product line, acquiring a company, and taking Barracuda private, which, according to Honda, “was one of the most challenging and fun times in my career.”
Honda has experience in a stunning range of areas: building out and developing HR, legal, and compliance teams from the ground up; leading information security, payroll, technology finance, and real estate groups; and taking patent and employee litigation through trial to protect the company’s and employees’ best interests.
Additionally, her software engineering background is well utilized at the technology companies she has helped to grow. “I understand the different product engineering and operations roles, and the difficulties they face from personal experience,” Honda says. “I can have meaningful conversations with the teams providing technological solutions to customers’ problems.”
Public School Pride
Diane Honda is a proud proponent of public school education and has put in extensive time at the Las Lomitas Education Foundation as a board and executive committee member—now serving as a member of the Las Lomitas School District’s governing board. “It’s no longer just about excelling in academic subjects. All students, regardless of their personal circumstances, need to be prepared for the challenges of a globally competitive and information-rich environment. They must be discerning problem-solvers and resilient to change,” Honda says. “Anything I can do to help ensure everyone receives a high quality and inclusive education, I will do.”
Barracuda’s legal and compliance department is now recognized for both its ability and its approachability—not always the hallmarks of a legal department. “We are there to serve the business and recognize that we have to be smart in how we evaluate every situation,” Honda says. “One of my proudest accomplishments is developing a legal team that people feel comfortable coming to for help all of the time.”
Honda strives to do what is best for the company, while empowering and challenging her team. She ensures that there is always some portion of each person’s job that is uncomfortable and a stretch. “If you are completely comfortable, you are not growing or pushing yourself,” Honda says. The constant challenge, combined with honesty and trust, allows her team to make tough decisions with confidence.
She views employee focus as critical. “Most general counsel do not focus on employee satisfaction as a strategic way to manage company-wide risk,” Honda says. “But engaged, happy employees take ownership of the company’s success and do not take unnecessary risk. They also are more willing to share concerns with their manager or their legal team so that you can get ahead of situations before they become problems. This is most important in times of rapid change and growth.”
Recently, Honda engaged employees to unify and refine Barracuda’s corporate values through a process that included crowdsource polling and focus groups. “Businesses are increasingly being asked to solve societal and environmental concerns, and employees are a key stakeholder in this change,” Honda says. “The more employees that believe in the company’s purpose and values, the faster we will see a positive impact.”
Honda approaches each situation holistically using her engineering and legal mind to see the complete picture. She also uses her unique perspective developed from her experience as an executive leader in multiple disciplines to mentor and guide young woman to think broadly about their aspirations and the benefits of taking a chance.
Her next move is onto corporate boards. Honda observes that “boards today are grappling with big issues which require diversity of thought and experience.” Another right move and another opportunity for Honda to embrace a challenge.
“Diane is pragmatic, strategic, and intelligent. Diane has an amazing ability to quickly and easily solve complex matters using her broad business, technical, and legal expertise. She is a leader, a mentor, and consensus builder.”
–Karineh Khachatourian, Partner