When Lyudmila Napoé is operating at her finest, she’s a time traveler.
“My left foot is always in the present, trying to understand where my company is and what success looks like for us today,” the associate general counsel for the Americas at Mars Wrigley Confectionery says. “But I’m a righty, and my right foot is always in the future; it’s so important to know where our consumers and peer set are going and, more importantly, where we want to go and how to get there.”
Napoé, who has spent her entire legal career under the Mars Wrigley (and formerly Wrigley) umbrellas, says that keeping her feet in the present and future is what makes her a better lawyer. It doesn’t hurt that while she essentially travels through time, Napoé has some of the most famous names in snacking to reward herself along the way.
Since coming to Mars Wrigley after an internship that left her enamored with the company, Napoé says that her increasing responsibilities have challenged her in how to best serve the business in a time of great change. The lawyer serves as head of legal for the confectionery business in the Americas while also acting as a member of the US leadership team and site director for the US business’s Chicago office.
“With my president and business leadership team, my goal is always to bring a different perspective to the table,” Napoé says. “That’s where I can influence strategy and become a trusted advisor.” While she recognizes that the idea of blending in is desirable to some, she notes that the opposite is necessary to attain leadership status. “This is the table where who you are and the principles that you hold come heavily into play.”
As head of legal for the Americas, Napoé says that her own best practices often come down to team building and personal development. “I need to make sure that given the changing nature of the landscape, my team is ready, agile, and developmentally trained to be able to handle whatever lands on their desks,” she explains, adding that she tailors the development plans to ensure everyone is able to evolve at their own pace and pursue areas of law that apply to their respective interests.
“My left foot is always in the present, trying to understand where my company is and what success looks like for us today. But I’m a righty, and my right foot is always in the future.”
It’s imperative to have team members stay ahead, understanding which issues will be trending and facing the industry, Napoé says, as new and different areas of the law wax and wane. Consumer privacy laws are making their way from Europe to the Americas, and Napoé is working to ensure that members of her team have delved into particular issues so that when the time comes, they are ready.
Napoé has faced significant challenges in helping associates accommodate shifts in the marketplace and the resulting career transitions. “Sometimes it can be very hard. I try to help our associates approach change with the mind-set of opportunity,” she says.
The associate GC was especially heartened when an associate with whom she’d worked closely as part of her site directorship confided in her that she was eager to pursue a different career path. As the woman was instrumental in creating an engaged environment during a period of transition at the Chicago site, Napoé eagerly recommended her for a position that allowed her a promotion in Mars Wrigley’s new Newark facility. “It’s such a beautiful ending for this jewel who has shown herself to be ready for new opportunities and challenges,” Napoé says.
The increasingly fast pace of change for consumers in what they want from their products, how they purchase them, and their desire for social mission–driven purchases provides myriad complex challenges for both legal and the industry at large, Napoé says. “As companies become more outspoken about their missions and commitments, it’s imperative for us to be able to back up what we say and ensure that we’re able to honor the commitments that we make.”
Beyond supporting her consumers, associates, and various teams, Napoé allows herself time to demonstrate this skill set at home, too, when caring for her sons. “Many of us have these home roles, and it’s important to embrace and enjoy that,” she says. While the working mother of two may have her feet planted in multiple time periods, she says she can likely be found at her kids’ soccer practice, Snickers bar in hand.
Williams & Connolly LLP is proud to work with such innovative, creative, and collaborative leaders in the food, beverage, and pet industry. We applaud Mars’ shared commitment to diversity, excellence, and the highest standards of professionalism.