Working Together to Achieve #BalanceforBetter this #IWD2019

 Today, as we celebrate International Women’s Day (#IWD2019) and this year’s theme of #balanceforbetter–working together to build a gender-balanced world–we are launching a blog series to highlight some of our Associates across the globe and to learn what #balanceforbetter means to them.

Elevate has grown rapidly in recent months through a number of key acquisitions, and we would like to recognize these talented associates who provide Consulting, Technology and Services to our customers worldwide. As a company, we believe in the importance of role models across all levels of business to inspire and pave the way for others. We hope that this series will provide information on the wide variety of opportunities available in a rapidly evolving legal industry, and explore what can still be done to achieve #balanceforbetter.

In her blog post, The Power of a Diverse and Inclusive Workplace, Jacquie Champagne, head of the Diversity and Inclusion initiative at Elevate, explains:

“Fostering inclusion by creating a company culture that not just embraces difference, but values it, and leverages it, is a necessary pre-condition for attaining a sustainable diverse workforce. This behavior starts with leadership at the top but is driven at all levels, primarily through leading by example. A culture of openness and acceptance where people are communicative and not afraid to talk about and embrace differences is one which will breed further diversity.”

Last month, Elevate published our Equitability and Inclusion Report so that we may hold ourselves accountable to the standards we have set to be an equitable and inclusive employer. Our initial report provides a baseline of where we are today and lays the foundation to build upon for the future.

Meet our Associates: 

Agnieszka Sulikowska

Case Manager Wroclaw, Poland

What is your role at Elevate? I am a Case Manager with Yerra Solutions, now an Elevate business, for a customer in the eDiscovery technology service industry.  My role is very wide-ranging–I lead the local team, fulfilling EMEA and inter-regional requests, supporting investigations and GDPR matters, as well as data preservation requests. As Yerra’s first Poland-based employee, I also lead many of the daily managerial and administrative tasks locally– this can include everything from HR matters to service and performance reporting

Tell us a little about your path to working at Elevate. After graduating from law school in Ottawa, Canada, I first worked as a lawyer and subsequently as a legal consultant in eDiscovery, before moving from Canada to Poland to work with Yerra. I hold degrees in business management and in law, and when combined with an insatiable appetite for technology, this position felt like a natural progression for me. I also relished the opportunity to play my part in an increasingly technology-driven legal industry. I transitioned into working with Elevate when Yerra was acquired earlier this year- which is really fantastic! The acquisition builds on Yerra’s philosophies and, to me, feels like we were one piece of a puzzle coming together to make a whole.

Have you had a professional mentor or mentored anyone else, and is there anyone else who has inspired you in your career? I have striven to provide mentorship throughout my legal career; formerly as a co-President of the Polish Canadian Legal Association (PCLA), both during and post-graduating law school. I strongly encourage the study and pursuit of law as a profession as it opens doors to many possibilities, including outside of traditional law practice. Early in my career, I had the honor of working for Bishu Solomon, an incredible manager in forensic services and legal solutions at Deloitte in Toronto. From day one she inspired me with her work ethic, managerial talent, people skills, intelligence, range of legal knowledge and technological savvy. Her leadership qualities made as much of an impact on me as her outstanding professionalism.

If you could be your own mentor, what advice would you give your younger self just starting out in your career? Do not be afraid to take a leap! For a while I found comfort in the status quo – things were good, steady and flowing. Busy was good; but I didn’t venture to seek new opportunities on the scale that I wanted to – and I had wanted to relocate to Europe for some time.  At the start of 2018, I finally let go of my comforts and took the leap. This brought me to Poland, where I have grown and transformed both professionally and personally. And my career continues to grow here, now with Elevate.

What does equality in the workplace mean for you, and what can be done to promote #balanceforbetter? To me, equality in the workplace means having access to the same opportunities and not being overlooked for certain positions because of gender or gender-ascribed roles. It means being evaluated on competencies and performance absent of any pre-existing stereotypes. I am pleased to see this happening currently–many corporations and organizations understand that equality is truly a win-win situation to be embraced and further cultivated. To further promote equality in the workplace I would suggest more mandatory training, education and workshops to emphasize that differences should not give rise to inequality.

Working together with my customers and colleagues (sometimes as the only female in the room), I feel no less capable than a man–but I do feel that in this field, to date, there are still certain roles that tend to be occupied predominantly by men. While we are seeing more women on boards and as C-Level Executives, the middle-ground appears to largely still be disproportionately male.  I would like to see more opportunities created for women to fill these gaps, bringing the value they do to an organization, and a more equal landscape.

Neetika Narula

Director, Legal Services Chandigarh, India

What is your role at Elevate? My role is Director, Legal Services–I recently joined Elevate as part of the Sumati acquisition. I am the solutions and service delivery lead for Elevate’s Contracts Analysis Review and Migration (CARM) services.

Tell us a little about your path to working at Elevate. I am an attorney and legal business process expert with over 13 years of experience in core contracting support. Throughout my career with Sumati, I have designed solutions and led the formulation and scale-up of India-based COEs (Centres of Excellence) supporting contracting processes of US-based multinational companies across multiple industries, ranging from Pharmaceutical to Tech, Retail and Insurance.

Have you had a professional mentor or mentored anyone else, and is there anyone else who has inspired you in your career? We started Sumati in February 2012 and I was the only attorney in a team of five; I laid the foundations of the contract review, analysis and migration services, the core service offerings of legacy Sumati. As we added customers and grew, we added team members who were groomed and trained in the processes I had set up and I provided mentorship throughout this journey. By the time Sumati was acquired by Elevate, we had more than 200 associates.

I have been fortunate to have Mr. Pawan Kumar (formerly COO of Sumati, now VP, Services Management at Elevate), one of the fairest and most empathetic people I could have hoped to work with, as my manager for 10 of 13 years in my career to date.

I have also been greatly inspired on a personal and professional level by Mr. Prashant Dubey, (formerly President and CEO of Sumati, now VP, Contracts Solutions at Elevate). Prashant does not only say but acts with “Pure Mind and Pure Intent” (in fact, that is what “Sumati” literally means!). He founded Sumati on this philosophy and has lived up to it both in the way he treats his employees as well as his customers. This is also a core value at Elevate– “We do what we say we will.”

If you could be your own mentor, what advice would you give your younger self just starting out in your career? There’s a quote by Iain S. Thomas that captures the advice I’d like to give to my former self:

“And every day, the world will drag you by the hand, yelling, “This is important! And this is important! And this is important! You need to worry about this! And this! And this!” And each day, it’s up to you to yank your hand back, put it on your heart and say, “No. This is what’s important.”

What does equality in the workplace mean for you, and what can be done to promote #balanceforbetter? I believe in equity. When it comes to gender and the workplace, equity lays the basis for equality. It implies “fairness of treatment for both women and men, according to their respective needs.” If equality is the end goal, equity is the means to get there.

Emma Bennett

Senior Legal Recruitment Manager, London, UK

What is your role at Elevate? My role is Senior Recruitment Manager at Halebury, now an Elevate business. I focus on recruiting into our team of consultant lawyers. My role spans from the initial conversations, through guiding the applicant during the onboarding process and interviews with customers, to educating them on our process so they become fully-fledged members of our team.

Tell us a little about your path to working at Elevate. I read Law at the University of Manchester and graduated in 2012. My first job in the legal sector was in legal recruitment with an international legal recruiter–I was there for five years before joining Halebury. One of the many reasons I was drawn to Halebury was because I was enthusiastic at the prospect of working for a women-owned and entrepreneurial company where the co-founders were actively engaged in a dynamic business. I’ve worked alongside some really great women in my career but was particularly excited to work with (Halebury co-founders) Denise and Janvi.

When we first met with Liam (Brown, Founder and Executive Chairman, Elevate) and John (Croft, President, Elevate), I was excited about the acquisition and our partnership because I really felt that they shared Halebury’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity.

Have you had a professional mentor or mentored anyone else, and is there anyone else who has inspired you in your career? I take great inspiration from the people I work with. What stands out to me is that so many of the fantastic people I work alongside are consistently challenging the status quo to offer something unique in the market. It’s inspiring to work with people who work incredibly hard to achieve their goals, who stay true to their values, and who actively champion equality and diversity in the workplace. I have been lucky to work with colleagues who do and it’s really inspired me to strive to do the same.

If you could be your own mentor, what advice would you give your younger self just starting out in your career? While I still look to others in more senior positions for guidance, and there’s a lot more that I want to achieve in my own career, working in recruitment has given me insight into how a lack of confidence can be a hurdle to achieving your goals. If I were to impart the knowledge I have learned so far, I’d say to not fall into the trap of questioning your value. Don’t feel that you aren’t worthy to take a chance on, and don’t give up!

What does equality in the workplace mean for you, and what can be done to promote #balanceforbetter? It’s really important to have leaders who foster an environment that supports and nurtures everyone’s professional development regardless of who they are and where they come from, and where no one is held back because of their gender, race, or background. That starts a trickle-down effect–it’s vital that we keep having these conversations so we can continue to build upon the work that’s been done to date.

To this end, I have personally experienced partnering with a charity here in the UK that is doing great work to help women both within and outside the legal sector to rejoin the workforce by providing coaching and resources to prepare them for interviews and build confidence. As I mentioned before–don’t give up. There are resources out there to help you achieve your professional goals.

Megha Chawla

Senior Operations Manager Gurgaon, India

What is your role at Elevate? I am a Senior Operations Manager at Elevate. I lead Elevate’s Global Support Team, offering a wide range of services including document processing support, finance and accounting support, assistance with margin reports, legal research, assistance with cost and revenue forecasting, and management reporting.

Tell us a little about your path to working at Elevate. My initial role at Elevate was my first in the legal sector, having previously worked in the finance sector. Elevate was in its early stages, but growing very rapidly when I originally joined back in 2013 as a Competitive Intelligence Manager. I was looking forward to taking up a challenging role that would allow me to accomplish my goals by expanding my experience in the areas of research and operations. Now here we are today in 2019, and I still feel great about the decision I made almost 6 years ago.

Have you had a professional mentor or mentored anyone else, and is there anyone else who has inspired you in your career? Anurag Grover (COO, Elevate) is one of the most powerful and enigmatic leaders I have ever worked with. He is excellent when it comes to implementation of short- and long-term initiatives. His entrepreneurial skills and open-mindedness empower the people who work with him to fulfill their maximum potential.

I have role models outside the legal industry too–in particular, I find the life journey of Oprah Winfrey to be really inspirational. Her struggles and her spirit to fight back against all odds to become one of the world’s most respected multi-hyphenate businesswomen is truly an inspiration and I really admire her for that.

If you could be your own mentor, what advice would you give your younger self just starting out in your career? I would tell myself to listen to my own intuitions rather than relying so much on others’ advice. Only you know what’s really best for you, and try not to be discouraged by perceived failures–sometimes that failure might just turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to you.

What does equality in the workplace mean for you, and what can be done to promote #balanceforbetter?#Balanceforbetter in the workforce means that the organization can offer (and benefit from!) a wider range of ideas, skills, resources and energies, providing a competitive edge and ultimately reaping the benefits of improved productivity and problem-solving in the broader market.