To read the full interview with Welch’s GC Vivian Tseng, click here.
Q: Tell me a little about your background. What was your undergrad major and why did you decide to go into law?
A: I was able to devise my own major, Political Theory, a sort of compromise between political science (which can lack sufficient conceptual content) and political philosophy (which can get overly esoteric). I wasn’t sure I wanted to go to law school until I had a taste of graduate school and realized that I did not want a career in academia. Law school allowed me a path to connect with the “real world.”
Q: What was your first job out of law school (until you went in-house)?
A: I joined the general practice law firm of Tillinghast Collins & Gram in Providence, R. I. It was a wonderful experience because they had an official rotation program for new associates and I was able to spend meaningful time in each major area of practice: litigation, corporate, tax, commercial and trust & estates. That broad exposure was really invaluable, and I think that it stood me in very good stead when I later went in-house. After a few years, I left to join Foley Hoag & Eliot in Boston, specializing in tax. From there, I left for Welch’s.
Q: What do you like most about your job at Welch’s?
A: Well, quite frankly, I like being in charge. But there are days when I would envy one of my direct reports and think, oh if I only had his job things would be easier. But I enjoy being the adviser that I am to the two Boards and to the management and to the CEO. I mire that counseling with a small “c” more then anything else. It’s that one-on-one counseling that’s very fulfilling.
I’m enjoying the fruits of my years. I’m a very senior person in this organization and I think, knock on wood or at the risk of sounding a little overly self-satisfied, I really feel that I have the respect and the well-regard of the entire organization just because I’ve been around for so long as well as up and down through the ranks. We have a fairly stable employee population so over time you get to know a lot of people in all the nooks and crannies of the organization. It’s very fulfilling.
Q: How did you manage being an active career woman and a mother?
A: I have two children. My daughter is in her first year of college and my younger child is a junior in high school. My life over time has become balanced. Again you do these things sequentially.
I was very active before I had children and then I stopped because when your kids are young, there’s plenty else to do. And I started re-entering the bar association voluntary world when my daughter started high school. I was out for a good period of time. And more recently I’ve been able to come back.
There are no magic answers to the work-life balance, and I don’t know that there’s any solution to that time period of every mother’s life when your kids are young. I mean I’ve always worked full time. I’ve only taken the three-month maternity leave, and I remember so vividly to this day what it was like when my kids were young. And when you’re that busy for a period of years, what happens is you don’t remember because the pace is such that something doesn’t sink in. And one doesn’t remember. So I tell younger women that you can’t have it all. There are sacrifices and one should be realistic about that.