In just under four years, Shivatmika Nigam worked her way up from a Junior Contract Lawyer in Elevate’s Contract Management team to become Elevate’s Associate General Counsel. Deb Tesser, Global Marketing and Sales Operations Manager sat down with Shiva to hear more about her ascent and current responsibilities.
Shiva, let’s start at the beginning. What led you into law?
My father worked as a chartered accountant in a local corporation and frequently accompanied their in-house counsel to court hearings. One day, he brought me along, and that’s when my fascination with law and ‘arguments’ started, quite literally! My dad was very encouraging of my inclination towards law and would often discuss public orders and judgments with me.
And why did you choose corporate practice as your specialty?
Ironically, I was initially interested in litigation and not really interested in corporate law. I worked as a civil litigator for about a year and a half with a firm, all the while realizing how cumbersome the process of litigation was. Later that year, a medical condition forced me to take a break, and while recovering, I decided to try out less physically straining corporate law with the thought that I could always return to litigation once I fully recovered. As it turns out, I never looked back!
How did you find your way to Elevate, and what did you do when you first joined?
I started at Integreon and was drawn to Elevate because I found it interesting that so many Integreon executives migrated to Elevate. I joined Elevate in September 2014. I started with the Contracts Management team, and within a year, I was promoted to help establish our Contracts Remediation team in the Philippines for a big customer. I worked out of the Philippines for about seven months.
That must have been a tremendous challenge and opportunity at the same time. What was that like for you?
Setting up the team was a pretty big undertaking – we had about 20 lawyers and 30 data analysts. So, a huge group and a substantial task to hire, train, and manage all of those people. Before this, I had never handled a team, so hiring, training, managing, and being the SME was very exciting, but at the same time, extremely challenging. My reporting manager at that time was very supportive, so thankfully it never became overwhelming. This experience was a milestone in my career and put me on the path of becoming what we now call a T-shaped professional. Plus, it was my first time living outside of India, so there was a bit of culture shock for me, especially since I am a vegetarian and finding meat-free food was a task! But the people in the Philippines office were incredibly supportive and very friendly, and it was an excellent phase of my journey. I returned to India in the summer of 2016, and in August, I joined the corporate legal team as Senior Corporate Counsel. In June 2018, I was promoted again, this time to my current role as Associate General Counsel reporting to Elevate’s General Counsel Steve Harmon.
How has your role changed since you’ve become Associate General Counsel?
The role–leading our global commercial contracting efforts–has changed in scope. Due to all of our recent acquisitions, we have a much larger customer base, which means many more contracts–and many more deals underway. When I joined the Corporate Legal team, there were just two people–me and the General Counsel. Now I have four people in my group who keep the Contracting machinery well oiled and running.
Also, since late 2018, I have been leading Elevate’s contract simplification effort. This a significant initiative to simplify the contracting process and provide a much better experience to our customers. I work with our Consulting and Customer Experience teams to streamline the Contracting process with customers. My goal is to make ‘ease of engagement’ an Elevate competitive advantage.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I love contracts–I love negotiating contracts with customers. I also find working with the Sales team very enriching, especially because it helps me gain perspective into the commercial aspect of the deals. I enjoy being part of the Legal team that enables the business. It’s satisfying to be part of a company with such a strong culture of innovation that genuinely values its people. My colleagues are just so supportive!
What’s next for you?
A big focus for me these days is collaborating with our Products team to use Elevate’s ContraxSuite to automate our contracting function through one tool. It is helping automate the entire process, from requests from sales to tailoring contract terms to a specific customer, obtaining internal approvals, and then sending the agreement back to the customer for negotiations. This is not only reducing turnaround times but also is establishing Elevate’s legal department as a lighthouse customer and demonstrating how ContraxSuite provides a powerful way to manage an organization’s contracting function. The big change ahead is that later this year, I’ll be relocating from Delhi to Chicago.
That’s very exciting. Why Chicago?
Elevate’s operations and customers span the globe–from Hong Kong and Australia to the UK and elsewhere in Europe, and throughout North America. While Elevate’s contracting team has real-time coverage in EMEA and APAC, my move will enable Elevate to have real-time coverage in North America. After all, our General Counsel Steve Harmon can only be in so many places at once! Being in Chicago will better enable me to stay in touch with customers. Chicago is also home to our Deputy General Counsel Nicole Auerbach, so we will get a lot of in-person collaboration opportunities.
On a personal level, how do you feel about moving to the States?
I will miss my parents and my dogs very much, and also the spicy local cuisine! But I am excited to experience Chicago’s charm and its gorgeous architecture and parks (and admittedly I am a fan of Chris Nolan’s Batman trilogy). I’m very much aware that the weather in winter is going to be really rough, but I think that I will find the courage to soldier through it.
Any closing thoughts?
Working my way up from a Junior Contract Lawyer to Associate General Counsel sometimes feels like a dream. But really, it just happened naturally with lots of hard work, perseverance, and the support of my colleagues.
Elevate’s operations and customers span the globe–from Hong Kong and Australia to the UK and elsewhere in Europe, and throughout North America. While Elevate’s contracting team has real-time coverage in EMEA and APAC, my move will enable Elevate to have real-time coverage in North America.