Pamela Crocker doesn’t love change. It’s a curious admission given her continued willingness to place herself well outside of her comfort zone.
The current associate general counsel and head of intellectual property, marketing, and communications legal at Vanguard has been biting off what she might think is more than she can chew for decades now. She skipped multiple grades and was an incoming college freshman at just age sixteen. She had her first child during her third year of law school, and her son was born weeks before her final law exams.
“In hindsight, I probably wouldn’t advise anyone to make that particular decision,” Crocker says, laughing. “But I was at the age where I wanted to have children and I wanted my motherhood journey to grow just like my career trajectory.”
She may not like change, but Crocker bought her own daughter, now in her twenties, a sign to remind her of the importance of stepping outside her own comfort zone. The attorney may not love it, but she knows the value taking a calculated leap can bring to a life, not just in terms of financial or career advancement, but in seeking out new experiences that make life interesting.
Crocker has spent the last decade with Vanguard, continuing to tack on more titles and responsibilities to a role that was initially strictly a chief patent counsel role. The attorney had accumulated extensive experience over seven years at Kodak that included managing the company’s IP and commercial litigation. Prior to that, Crocker spent almost eight years in engineering. The years don’t seem to add up unless you remember that she went to college at the same time she was eligible to get her driver’s license.
Crocker is hard at work enforcing Vanguard’s IP rights globally and combating online fraud in an era where there have never been more threats and bad actors. “We’re a financial services firm, and that means we’re investing people’s money for their retirement or their children’s college fund,” she explains. “So, protecting those assets is critically important to us.”
When COVID-19 hit, Crocker says it created a perfect storm of market volatility—people were suddenly being sent home and the world was required to function almost entirely online. Fraud threats also went through the roof. There were entirely cloned websites, employee impersonations via LinkedIn, and even fraudulent job applications requesting sensitive applicant information.
“This part of my job is one that celebrates the silence,” she says. “When things are quiet, we know we’re doing our job well. It’s been a fascinating role and we’ve all learned so much in a very short period of time.”
Twenty years into her law practice, Crocker is continuing to seek out new opportunities to learn. Just before the pandemic, she was asked to lead Vanguard’s legal engagement committee, a role that would prove to be critical in helping drive employee satisfaction during a difficult and uncertain time.
“Serving on the engagement committee has been an honor. I hope it demonstrates a trust across the organization,” she says. “People are willing to voice their positions and how they feel with us, and we were able to extract themes to share with senior leadership. It means a lot to me to be a trusted conduit for those voices and have a positive impact on our people.”
As Crocker has been elevated higher in her organization, mentorship has become increasingly important. The attorney says that she benefitted from a great mentor at the beginning of her career and now, at this point in her career, she’s intent on being that person for as many others as she can.
In fact, growing that next generation of leaders might be the most satisfying part of her role. She recently interviewed a potential candidate for her department, and at the conclusion of the interview, Crocker told the candidate that whether or not she joined Vanguard, she genuinely wanted to be a point of contact, advice, and counsel for the lawyer on her own journey.
“I just told her whether it works out or not, I want to stay connected and help her to grow,” she remembers. “I just love helping people grow. I’ve tried to mentor my own children, and I think that’s really carried over to my professional life. That’s the work that really drives me today.”