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When you come across Krista Mirhoseini’s CV, it can be a little overwhelming to view her list of specialties. There are thirteen, currently. There are attorneys who spend their entire careers building out one or two exclusively, and then there are those like Expedia’s director of intellectual property, whose career path branches off in multiple directions, sometimes reconnecting to its original source and sometimes going its own way entirely.
Mirhoseini speaks almost apologetically of her own resumé, as if navigating the twists and turns of a lawyer and leader who has continued to challenge herself in her third decade of practice is somehow an inconvenience in its multiple chapters. Mirhoseini originally went to law school with the intent of practicing environmental law and did that for a while, but she has also practiced business law, employment law, and products liability litigation, and served as a large art studio’s in-house counsel. None of those appear in her current areas of focus. But she’s used all of these past experiences as stepping-stones as she has grown into new arenas.
“I remembered being in my twenties and not knowing what I wanted my career to be,” Mirhoseini recalls. “I now know that you don’t have to know what you want to do with the rest of your life at twenty…or thirty, or forty, or even fifty. You can keep changing. I am now past the halfway point of my legal career and still expect to keep changing.”
That mindset of continuous growth has deep roots. Mirhoseini’s Iranian-born father immigrated to the US seeking opportunity and eventually became a cardiovascular surgeon; he also did research to develop new surgical procedures throughout his career. He continues to do research in retirement, even applying for patents. He may not be picking up scalpels anymore, but he remains committed to learning.
Mirhoseini says his example has stuck with her throughout her career. Her father’s desire to never stop learning wasn’t just hereditary, it was infectious. “I see a lot of my father in my own evolving career,” the director says. “It’s hard not to be inspired.”
Just take the lawyer’s present in-house post at Expedia. Mirhoseini had little tech experience. But she had an interest in intellectual property and working with creative people, built from her years at Chihuly. For example, she did not know much about digital marketing until she came to Expedia, but can now assist with trademark claims related to such three-letter-acronyms as SEM (search engine marketing), SEO (search engine optimization), and SLP (search landing page).
How did a lawyer with little experience in the space become one of Managing IP’s “In-House Ones to Watch” of 2021?
“It was a steep learning curve when I joined Expedia, but I just kept asking questions, and still do,” Mirhoseini says. “One of the things I love about in-house practice is learning from the business teams you support. Whether it’s a software engineer developing a new product or a marketing manager working on a new campaign, the more people you work with, the more you learn. I have always tried to maintain the mindset of not being afraid to ask questions or feeling like I should always have the answer at hand for the client. You can’t have all the answers in-house, so you have to be comfortable learning—and often quickly—on the job.”
Over the last four years, Mirhoseini’s willingness to learn—and particularly her willingness to get involved—has kept her busy. Her experience has extended far past her initial IP knowledge. That’s how she built her digital marketing knowledge, expertise in IP licensing and protection, and developing skills in evolving areas touching intellectual property, including social media and, most recently, NFTs. She still dips her toe back into litigation, supporting Expedia’s litigation team when IP claims aren’t readily resolved.
The lawyer is mentoring other women at Expedia and, while her current mentees in Expedia’s Mentoring Program are not in the legal department, Mirhoseini speaks of her mission to help others believe that they can move far beyond what resembles their current work.
“Not all recruiters or hiring managers see beyond immediate experience and are too focused on checking the boxes of a job description. Rejection can feel daunting and overwhelming when you are looking for a new role. But it only takes that one person who is able to see the bigger picture—what value you bring to the job, your curiosity—and give you the next opportunity to grow,” Mirhoseini explains.
Mirhoseini also strongly advocates utilizing one’s social and professional networks to find that person. She understands that those more junior in their careers may have some apprehension about reaching out, but “being a little brazen” can go a long way in helping find one’s next opportunity. And she believes most people enjoy helping if asked.
Finally, the lawyer says that it is only natural to feel like an imposter from time to time. It’s advice that she’s given her children, who are starting their own careers. It’s a feeling that can be lessened by life experience and building up confidence.
At a time when “imposter syndrome” has been widely documented as a legitimate phenomenon, it somehow feels weightier coming from a leader who has proven time and time again that the only way to grow is to grow. Mirhoseini is not afraid to lean into the unknown, and she hopes you won’t be, either.