When Shweta Gera joined Nuro in 2020, it was the early days of the pandemic, and the world went into lockdown. Through those early days, she operated knowing that it was a seismic shift when it came to fundamentals of the workplace and employee experiences. There was no playbook or precedent on how to tackle the unique questions that the pandemic brought, both in our professional and personal lives. The deputy general counsel and employment law expert at Nuro is no stranger to the evolving nature of employment law practice.
“In the last few years between the pandemic and the #MeToo movement, we’ve seen some watershed moments in employment law that have changed the practice forever,” Gera explains. “More and more companies are seeing the value of in-house employment lawyers and ensuring they become true partners to senior leadership. That partnership ensures creating and maintaining a supportive and meaningful culture within the workplace.”
Reshaping the workplace may sound like a herculean task, but it’s easy to see why Gera wound up at Nuro. She says that effort is made much easier by the clear vision presented by company founders Jiajun Zhu and Dave Ferguson. The company is on the forefront of using autonomous and robotic technology to make everyday life a little easier for everyone. Nuro is on its third generation of autonomous delivery vehicles, and counts Walmart, CVS, FedEx, and Domino’s as its partners.
But while its bright white and zero-emission vehicles may not have a human driver, the pulse of Nuro is still easy to find. The company was named one of “America’s Best Startup Employers” of 2022 by Forbes, and Gera says the cross-functional collaboration and proactive approach to serving people make the award well-deserved.
“Since my arrival, this company has pivoted and adapted workplace policies based on what was going on around us,” she says. “We’ve been able to counsel on everything from stay-at-home orders and mask mandates to broader issues like future of work initiatives. The culture here made my transition incredibly successful, and I feel like I’ve been able to make an impact since day one.”
Gera’s own adaptability, empathy and curiosity have deep roots. She emigrated to the US from India at age seventeen and got used to the uncertainty of learning a new culture, as well as a new way of life. Ambiguity is the enemy of most law practitioners, but it’s a space Gera has been operating in for her entire adult life.
“It’s important to keep pushing yourself outside your comfort zone to not stagnate,” the lawyer advises. She has evolved her own professional practice from doing securities and patent litigation at the start of her career to focusing on employment litigation, and then switching from a law firm practice to an in-house employment counseling practice.
“The willingness to just figure things out is a key to my practice now,” Gera explains. “You have to lead with empathy and think more broadly than the strict legal answer to a problem. You’ve got to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and consider the wider company culture when advising the business on how to proceed on an employment-law related issue.”
As the first in-house employment lawyer at Nuro, Gera has had the opportunity to build her team from the ground up. The employment law team gets to operate at the forefront of shaping and maintaining an inclusive culture critical to Nuro’s long-term success.
The employment law team also has assumed employee investigations, traditionally a people team function. The deputy general counsel says that their work is best done proactively, whether it be training, counseling, or simply building relationships. Those relationships include partnering with the people function at Nuro on diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.
Gera also helped redefine the idea of flexibility and work-life balance as it pertains to the future of work. “I care about this because it has impacted my decision to take opportunities in my career,” she explains. “I came to Nuro because I could see that this was the kind of organization that will support taking the time you need for your life outside of work.”
Gera says she stresses this idea emphatically to her team: to attend a little league baseball game, stay at home with a child, or simply take a breather from the everyday challenges of work. The lawyer lives this ideal in hopes her team will follow suit, and her own example creates a longer lasting and more meaningful relationship between employees and the company.
“It’s about outcomes, and the team can get there however they need to,” she says. “I think it builds trust and goodwill and empowers them to do their best work.”
Curley, Hurtgen & Johnsrud LLP:
“Shweta is tremendous at anticipating issues and solving them before they become problems, across multiple subject matters Her judgment is simply first rate. We are thankful to work with Shweta and her growing team at Nuro.”
–Brian Johnsrud, Managing Partner, Menlo Park Office