Not too many people are bold enough to switch between two careers that each require a mega-education. But Michael Piraino did just that when he left his job as a propulsion engineer with Boeing to go to law school. Since then he’s built a career at the intersection of technology and law by weaving a path between law firm and in-house jobs. And in October, supercomputing provider Cray Inc. named Piraino its general counsel. Not bad for a self-described tech geek.
Piraino started his legal career at Perkins Coie before assuming the role of vice president, general counsel and secretary of WatchGuard Technologies Inc. He returned to law firm life when he joined tech-focused Fenwick & West.
But Piraino missed the teamwork and deep business knowledge so critical to a successful in-house department. “When you’re at a law firm, you often swoop in and out on big matters for multiple companies,” he says. “But you really don’t have a chance to dive in and really get to know a business.”
As head of Cray’s legal team, Piraino looks forward to further integrating the legal department with the business it supports. “There are a lot of ways the legal team can really be a true partner in the success of the other functional groups,” he says. “Part of the fun for me is to come in and learn the business and figure out those ways where legal can really contribute to the success of the various functional groups. It’s really about being part of the business fabric of the company.”