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Throughout her legal career, empowerment has taken many forms for Veronica Davis. She gained confidence as an early career associate at Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw, where she worked on a broad range of litigation matters. Four years later, she moved in-house at SBC Communications, a move that gave her a chance to live in a different city by herself for the first time and to also test the waters as a corporate generalist.
A successful stint in that role brought opportunities to serve as a legal advisor for Cingular Wireless and AT&T as the telecommunications industry evolved, experiences that strengthened her legal know-how and leadership abilities.
After years of betting on her skills and going outside of her comfort zone to learn more about herself, Davis pushes others to do the same. Today, she is assistant general counsel at Southwire Company, where she prides herself on “empowering the business.”
“I never want our business team to refuse to seek legal advice because they’re afraid that they will get an automatic ‘no’,” says Davis, who leads a team of four attorneys and two legal professionals. “I want to be a business partner and to help them to achieve their business objectives. I want to be embedded in the business, to understand what the business is doing, and to figure out ways to empower them to meet their goals.”
Davis’s perspective is in line with how legal approaches its role as an advisor. Her group has a key understanding: in order to be better counselors, the department needs to turn inward to improve its processes. As the business evolves, so should legal, Davis says.
“We’re bringing some order and usability to our contracting processes so that as the company continues to grow, we’re equipped to handle it,” she explains. “We’re also working on training our sourcing team and sales teams on certain contracts matters, so they understand contracting basics and what to look for as they navigate certain issues.”
Davis has been just as focused on supporting the growth of each of her team members, positioning them to take on responsibilities that will set them up for advancement. She leads them with a strong passion for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and a belief that each of them brings something unique to the table. Her commitment to those values is reflective of the company’s, she says, and ultimately led her to Southwire in the first place.
“DEI has always been important to me. I’ve seen the impact of sharing my experiences, so as a leader, I want people to represent themselves and to bring every aspect of themselves to work,” she affirms. “Southwire allows you to do that. When I saw the company’s clear commitment to DEI, I knew it would be a good fit for me.”
One of the most challenging threads that has run throughout Davis’s career has been trying to achieve work/life balance. At the start of her career, she’d work a lot of long hours and didn’t have much time for herself outside of that. She realized it when she spoke with an accounting employee who was keeping track of her vacation time.
“I asked them how much vacation time I had available, and she told me ‘I’m going to get you, Veronica. You haven’t taken any, and you need to make sure you do,’” the leader recalls. “I have always remembered her advice. That’s when I started making time for myself—biking along the Chicago lakefront, going outdoors, and traveling.”
She admits that finding that balance became even more complicated when she became a parent. Today, her son is fourteen, but as he was growing up, Davis wrestled with what it meant to be a working mom. Through the years, she’s found tried and true ways to be present for him and for her colleagues at work.
“I’m a big believer in scheduling check-in time for him on my calendar. I routinely block off time to check in with him and for my work responsibilities,” she says. “Also, when work is done for the day, I maximize family time. Read together, watch their show, and dedicate that time to them. Work will always be there.”
Davis advises young people looking to succeed in their careers to take risks.
“I took a risk to go to Boston and to start a new chapter of my career at Southwire,” she says. “It’s never too late. Stretch yourself and focus on learning more about yourself as you do so.”