The urge to go to law school hit Ean Sewell with the same force as, say, a van blowing a stoplight and plowing into a Honda CRV at fifty-five miles per hour. If the description still seems a little vague, Sewell can provide the details—or at least, what he can remember—from the accident that would unknowingly propel him to pursue his JD.
“If you would have looked at my vehicle after the accident, you would have assumed that I died,” the recently promoted director of IP at Synopsys recalls. “I was driving to the bank I was working at during college, and someone wasn’t paying attention and ran a red light.”
The accident was so destructive that Sewell would have to receive speech therapy and extensive rehabilitation. He had a steady headache for ten years, a symptom of an undiagnosed broken nose that disappeared as soon as the break was spotted a decade later.
The silver lining, Sewell says, was found in the personal injury attorney tasked with helping him recoup his medical bills. “He was a genuine and good person,” Sewell says. “And it really gave me some direction as to what I wanted to do with my career.”
Sewell has come a long way in that time. Four promotions internally at Mountain View, California-headquartered Synopsys have brought the lawyer far from Joliet, Montana (population: 623), where Sewell grew up as a teenager. He’s been at the company since 2012, when he scored a desperately needed summer associate position that grew into far, far more.
“I had spent my entire on-campus interviewing experiences at DA offices, and by the end of the summer, I didn’t want to work at a DA’s office anymore,” Sewell says, laughing. “I hadn’t pursued other firms or opportunities, but I was able to find the Synopsys internship program through a friend.”
The young lawyer’s hard work was rewarded with a position that, a decade later, has made Sewell an integral part of Synopsys’ IP team. And while the director says he could have just as easily pursued other opportunities, the reasons he has stayed are easy to see every day.
“Everyone you run into here functions with this high level of integrity,” Sewell explains. “If they don’t, you don’t see them around here for too long. Not because they’re forced out, but because I think they recognize that there is a strong culture here that you either connect with or you don’t.”
Integrity matters to Sewell. The lawyer whose first job as a carpenter’s apprentice at twelve years old earned him $2.50 an hour (he’s had a job ever since) is imbued with a strong work ethic, and he knows he works best in an organization where his values can be truly aligned with his day job.
These values are evident in the company’s Synopsys Foundation and Synopsys Silicon Valley Science and Technology Outreach Foundation, which was founded to help encourage students in STEM in the Bay area.
“The foundation helps students and young aspiring engineers, particularly those from disadvantaged communities, follow their dreams,” Sewell explains. “I think those values of compassion and giving back to your community are phenomenal.”
The experience of the underprivileged is not far from Sewell’s wheelhouse. His father worked as a laborer before pursuing his degree after being injured on the job, and his mother held down three jobs, including a paper route, to help keep the family afloat in rural Montana. “At least for the US, I think you’d probably call it dirt poor,” Sewell says, laughing again.
College wasn’t in the cards for the future lawyer, or at least Sewell didn’t think so. He didn’t take the SAT or ACT, but his mother had other ideas. “My mom called the dean of students at Montana State University Billings and set up an appointment,” the director remembers. “I think of her forcing me to go to school, and looking back, it was one of the greatest things anyone has ever done for me.”
Sewell’s Great Plains humility won’t allow him to admit it—he jokes that given the rise of his own organization and the talent within, his résumé would get him laughed out of the building—but his rise is significant. And is not his success that defines him. It’s managing to create a life and career that merge seamlessly. The right organizations can spot those with the integrity and drive to develop hard skills. Synopsys was lucky they caught Sewell early.
Charles River Associates:
“Ean is a pleasure to work with. He exudes confidence, positivity, and integrity as Senior Corporate Counsel at Synopsys. I value the opportunity to assist Ean and Synopsys in their digital investigation needs.”
–Dan Roffman, VP, Forensic Services