Aditi Suresh began her legal career at the young age of twenty-two. And by the time she was twenty-six, she was managing the restructuring of a company that had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, all by herself in India. So much for a learning curve.
The current general counsel (GC) and secretary at Eni New Energy US (Plenitude) is ten years into a law career that includes major players in renewable and other major energy producers in the space. It’s her first GC role, and she’s there well before most in-house counsel would imagine being so at this stage of their careers. But Suresh, who grew up in Chennai, India, says her early experience working with an international renewable energy company going through Chapter 11 bankruptcy felt like an extra decade or two of intense experience at a vital time for the young professional.
“It wasn’t just the technical experience, but also the leadership, people skills, and critical decisions I had to make,” Suresh explains. “Those decisions didn’t just affect me or the business, but so many employees and investors. It was so challenging, but it helped me find meaning very early on in my career. It made me passionate about sustainability, and I’ve tried to live by those values in my personal life as much as I have in my profession.”
In her current role, Suresh says she’s able to help steer Eni’s growth in its increasing investment in renewable energy in North America. The time couldn’t be any more critical as the GC says the earth is in a global crisis and continuing conscious investment is the only way to navigate through.
Luckily, Suresh has deep expertise working across multiple jurisdictions and continents and understands the different approaches that countries are taking to combat climate change and the legal and regulatory nuances that come with executing renewable energy projects internationally. “I get to be at the forefront of that effort, so to be able to understand and address those issues from a variety of roles and experiences has been so important for me,” she says.
Suresh’s practice has to be well-tuned for both the heavily regulated energy industry as well as the continually growing renewable sector. She believes strong judgment skills are paramount given that so many of her responsibilities lie in making effective decisions that align with the company’s business objectives, essentially weighing the multiple impacts and risk matrix to assess potential legal and ethical ramifications.
“Good judgment is hard to teach, but comes with experiences, both good and bad,” she explains. “Being a leader requires strong commercial skills, and that means employing strong business acumen and industry knowledge. To make a meaningful contribution as a strategic leader, you just have to be creative and proactive in identifying solutions to advance the business. I want to help win the game, not just call the strikes.”
“Aditi is a rising star in the renewable energy industry,” says Marius Griskonis, partner and cohead of energy and infrastructure in the Americas at Linklaters LLP. “She is experienced beyond her years [having worked across multiple jurisdictions]. Aditi always brings an interesting perspective, guiding negotiations to successful resolutions.”
Suresh’s fast-tracked development is also a tribute to the great mentors she had early in her career. As a lawyer, she says the job often requires advocating for decisions that could conflict with business objectives. She was able to find mentors across the business who supported her decision-making and effectively taught her not to be shy about voicing her opinion even if she faced pushback. That advice stuck with her and has helped her advocate for decisions that would ultimately protect the company’s long-term interests.
Given her role and responsibility, it’s no wonder that young professionals in the industry reach out to the GC for advice. Suresh, who moved to New York City in 2018, does her best to get back to each and every contact.
“There are so many international lawyers who have relocated to the United States and are looking for opportunities with that international mindset,” she explains. “I always make sure that I respond to those messages and give them some of my time; even if I’m not able to provide long-term mentorship, I know that I can provide some answers and guidance. I’ve been in that place before when I was transitioning to the US from Asia, and there were people who were willing to help me in my own journey. I’m glad to be able to do the same.”
In addition to her success, Suresh has had to learn to unplug from time to time. She loves nature and being outdoors. She has made a conscious choice to leave her phone behind while walking her beloved dog in order to be present.
“It’s so easy to get overloaded with information,” she admits. “I think that’s why I love traveling so much. I challenge myself to go to a new place and just experience the world around me.”
Only a decade into her career, Suresh is a GC operating on the forefront of renewable energy. It will be a pleasure to see what kind of growth and opportunity another decade will bring.