Vanessa Candela’s first general counsel role started with three lawyers and a couple hundred million dollars in revenue. But she knew the company was just on the verge of a growth spurt. By the time she left, the company had more than doubled in size, and her team of legal professionals had grown close to twenty.
“It was such a great team and where I truly found my place,” Candela says. “I realized how much I liked being embedded in the business as more than just a legal advisor.” She had also built a legal department nearly from scratch.
And two years into her second general counsel role at Netcracker Technology, headquartered in Massachusetts, Candela has driven a reorganization, a realignment, and a globally minded business partnership that keeps her team embedded in the business.
Candela admits her initial reluctance to join Netcracker. After Dell had acquired her previous employer, the GC says the idea of working for any sort of subsidiary (Netcracker is a subsidiary of Japanese-owned NEC) in the future just seemed too risky.
“But through the interview process, I met my CEO, Andrew Feinberg, and I was incredibly impressed with the whole executive team,” Candela remembers. “Everyone was so intellectually curious, and I was excited about what they were doing and where they were headed. So, I made the leap.”
Coming Down from the Ivory Tower
In establishing the new direction for the legal team, the new GC almost immediately hired on a data privacy expert as well as a pair of senior transactional lawyers. She was also intent on redefining what “partnering with the business” looks like from the legal perspective.
“I wanted to restructure how we support our business,” Candela explains. “My perspective has always been that the lawyers need to be close to the business in order to be effective. A lot of in-house teams sit in that ivory tower and don’t get a feel for what’s going on out there.”
The GC wanted her team to be aligned with sales leaders all over the globe. The commercial legal team was restructured to align with the global regions in which Netcracker operates.
“This was done under the premise that if lawyers don’t know what’s happening in the business, they can’t help beyond maybe marking up a contract,” Candela says. “The feedback that I’ve gotten from sales is that they feel better supported because legal understands the wider business goals.”
Providing Air Cover
Early on in her tenure, Candela says it was also essential to have a wider discussion about risk tolerance for the lawyers on her team. “It would always be much easier to say that we’re simply not going to take any liability on. We’d also have no revenue,” the GC says, laughing. “You have to give your team air cover so they know it’s OK to take on some risk. We talked a lot about our own personal comfort zones in terms of liability, but I wanted to set my expectations from the outset.”
Air cover has also come in the form of continuing to align departments that have wider shared interests. “Just like I want my legal commercial team working closely with the sales organization, I want our security team to be aligned with our data privacy and compliance lawyers,” Candela says. “We’re constantly refining and expanding on the ways, both technically and logistically, that we protect our customers’ data. That’s simply the reality of the world today.”
Into the Weeds and Up to the Sky
With her second general counsel role well underway, Candela says she’s cultivated her own philosophy about being an effective addition as quickly as possible.
“The way I’ve handled the GC role is to go deep initially, getting into the weeds so I could understand the business and get to know the people who were already here,” Candela explains. “But these things always come down to your teams, and building and maintaining a strong team is absolutely critical. Eventually, after you’ve found where skill sets lie, you have to step back and let them do their thing from there.”
Candela has gone two for two with this philosophy so far, and it’s helped ensure that legal stays close to the business at Netcracker.