Just four months after leading Twilio Inc. through the year’s first tech IPO, Karyn Smith, the company’s general counsel and corporate secretary, managed a unique secondary offering that benefited all employees and stockholders.
Who’s the best leader you’ve seen in action and why?
The best leader I’ve personally worked with was Reggie Davis, who was my boss at Zynga. I learned so much from Reggie about how to build great teams and empower others to grow and scale in their own careers. He was not afraid to hire excellent people and to let them be excellent.
If I weren’t working in tech, I’d be …
Chief of staff for someone in the White House or Cabinet—in an administration other than the current one.
If I could change one thing about working in tech, it would be …
The myopia that often accompanies working in a tech company. It’s easy to lose touch with the reality of much of the rest of the country and world living in the tech bubble.
The No. 1 issue that keeps me and my clients up at night is …
Data privacy and cybersecurity.
What piece of advice do you have for young lawyers in tech?
There is no one path or formula to follow. Discover what interests and excites you the most and do as much as possible of whatever that is. You’ll be much happier in your work and more likely to be “successful” as well. Stay open to following a path that may be different than the one you mapped out in law school.
After the events that have rocked Silicon Valley this year, are you more or less hopeful about the prospects for women in the tech industry?
More. The light shining on these issues right now is necessary in order for things to change. I admire the women who are speaking up; by doing so they are subjecting themselves to criticism and scrutiny.
Do lawyers bear any special responsibility in addressing gender stereotyping and discrimination in tech?
As female leaders, we all have a responsibility to be excellent at our jobs and build diverse teams—not just in regards to gender, but more broadly. And as lawyers, we have an opportunity to help fashion policies to address stereotyping and discrimination.