Reeta Sharma heads up legal operations at Databricks. She focuses on working with smaller legal teams to establish cross-functional processes and implement technology solutions to help them scale. Previously she helped build and manage legal operations at Nimble Storage.
You have a degree in molecular & cell biology! How did you find yourself in your role today?
I originally had pursued the degree thinking I was going to be a surgeon. At some point I realized medical school wasn’t for me and I needed some work experience before deciding on my next move.
I thought becoming a lawyer could be a good option and joined Wilson Sonsini Goodrich and Rosati (WSGR). There, I learned all about corporate law and got to work with startups, public companies and on IPOs and M&A deals. I became a bit of a deal junkie and still enjoy working on transactions.
I was also interested in learning more about what my clients were working on (their technology, the problems they were trying to solve and how they were growing their companies into successful business). So when the general counsel of Nimble Storage needed help with the company’s IPO and building out the legal department, I jumped at the opportunity. Once the company went public, my role naturally transitioned into legal operations.
You started your career after college at WSGR. What prompted you to go in-house?
During my time at WSGR, I applied to law school and got in. My colleagues and clients convinced me to defer law school for a year and go work in-house at a startup. I haven’t looked back since.
Being in-house has allowed me to have a hybrid legal role. I still work on a lot of the corporate law matters but I also get to work on strategic projects and help the legal team build processes and implement new tools so they can be more efficient.
Tell us about Databricks. How does Legal play a role in the business?
Databricks is a powerful data analytics platform that helps data teams solve their toughest problems. The company has grown very quickly over the last three years and it is an exciting place to work.
Legal supports all facets of the business. We have a talented group of attorneys who work with all of the departments in the company including engineering, finance, sales, security, people ops to support and further the business.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I don’t really have a typical day, it is what makes this job so much fun. In my role I get to head up legal operations and also the corporate function. On the legal operations side I am working on implementing a FAQ creation tool that is going to help our knowledge transfer and training efforts and a portal for the board. I am working on a few cross functional projects — it’s great to partner with other departments and collaborate on initiatives. I also got to work with finance, VP of legal and outside counsel to close our recent fundraising round.
What brings you the most satisfaction in your role? What makes you say, “Nailed it!”?
I get a lot of satisfaction from getting projects done, helping people and finding solutions to problems.
I know our team has done a good job if we get positive feedback from our colleagues. If people keep using a tool or follow a process because it has helped them or saved them time then we have done our job well.
What core soft and technical skills do you think a legal ops manager should rock?
A legal operations manager needs to be able to solve problems, collaborate on projects, know how to implement technologies and be able to understand how to work with the business. They should also be able to understand how to pull metrics and show leadership what the team is working on. Having project management skills and knowing how to use Excel are helpful too.
You’re hiring for a junior legal ops analyst. Who is your ideal candidate?
I am looking for someone who loves to learn and enjoys building and fixing things. Someone who gets excited about data and metrics. This person will get to work with all the various practice areas within the legal team and cross-functionally with teams across Databricks too! Our legal team has a few roles open, so if you know anyone who thrives in a fast paced and collaborative environment, please let me know.
How has your team navigated this remote-first world?
I can’t believe it has been almost a year since we were all in the office together. Our team meets regularly weekly and we jump on a call whenever something urgent comes up. We use Asana to track the projects we are working on to make sure we are meeting our deadlines. We’ve also set up a knowledge management site to help the legal team easily find resources and information since we are all working remote.
Where would we find you outside of work?
Hiking around the bay area, experimenting in the kitchen (I like to cook and bake), or reading a book. I used to travel quite a bit and am waiting for the pandemic to be over so I can hop on a flight.
What would you tell your 25-year-old self?
Don’t just do something because everyone around you is doing it, figure out what makes you happy and listen to your mentors. Things will turn out okay, even if you don’t go to med school or law school. You’ll get to do a lot of cool things – work with some amazing companies, run a nonprofit (New Leaders Council of Silicon Valley) and help women get elected to local office.
Mentorship and sponsorship in the workplace are critical for advancement. We’d love to know how they have made an impact in your life.
I have been very lucky to have quite a few mentors and sponsors who have been incredibly generous with their time and guidance throughout the years. There isn’t enough room in this column to list everyone, but I wanted to highlight a few people.
Aparna Bawa (who is now Zoom’s COO) hired me for my first in-house gig at Nimble Storage and which let me transition into legal operations. She taught me a lot about building out a department, working with the business and about leadership. The entire team at Nimble was fantastic, I also learned a lot from working with David Chung, Colleen Lam and Eugene Kim.
While I was at WSGR Jose Macias, Melissa Hollatz, Jenn Kercher, Jon Avina, Calise Cheng, and Erika Muhl Schwarz trained me in the basics of corporate law and transactions and helped develop me into the person I am today professionally.
What book are you reading right now?
I haven’t had the chance to read much the last couple of months but right now, I am reading A Promised Land by Barack Obama and I recently finished watching The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix.
Meet other legal leaders in this series, including Joel Benavides, Head of Global Legal and DPO at Redis Labs; Jennifer Chung, GC of AccuWeather; Ryan Black, Director of Legal Ops at Opendoor; Florence Chan, Legal Ops Manager at Cloudflare; and Deanna Sheridan, GC of Spartan Race. And if you’d like to get new jobs and invitations to exclusive member events, join the Ironclad Community.
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