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Rishi Varma on the business of knowing, growing, and keeping it safe

HPE’s general counsel discusses transforming legal operations

Today’s legal leaders have a lot on their plates. How can they gain a deeper understanding of the business while building empathy and embracing missteps along the way? Rishi Varma, general counsel and corporate secretary at Hewlett Packard Enterprises, shares his perspectives on this episode of the Resilient podcast chief legal officer track.

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Understanding and advising the business

To make an impact, in-house counsel can only be effective when they understand what’s important—and what’s truly at stake.

Know the business. Know the underlying premise and rationale for the deal. Know why it's important to the company and use that to shape your decision-making accordingly.

The business is the North star... what I stress with my team is look holistically at the opportunity ahead, provide the lens through which you see risk from a legal perspective… [and] a business perspective.

Building empathy and insights

Teaching lawyers how to code is one way Rishi was able to lead his team to tap into the heart of what HPE does.

…As a tech company, I thought, well, you know, knowing the business likely means better understanding the underlying code. And so wouldn't it be cool if we had lawyers that could code. So, two years ago we launched a pilot program [and] they became infinitely better in understanding the risks this business faces.

Adapting in times of crisis

The HPE legal team came together quickly during the COVID-19 crisis—and adapted quickly to the enterprise, their clients, and the community.

We came together, we connected to support the business needs on an accelerated basis. We found ways to recognize and push one another to lead in innovative ways that we gave back to our communities more this year than in any other year. And I think if you can do that against the backdrop of this kind of year, anything is possible.

Finding your growth mindset

Rishi shares his view on how to embrace missteps and use them to propel you to grow and transform.

I don't think people talk enough about failure as much as they want to celebrate success. But to me, transformation assumes that there will be failure. You cannot transform without taking some missteps first, because you have to have that growth mindset and always be evolving around how you think… you have to have that growth mindset and that willingness to fail in order to transform.

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How can you lead through crisis and disruption? Find out on Resilient, the podcast of authentic and engaging conversations with leaders who never leave adversity where they found it. Launched in 2016, the series broke new ground by featuring interviews with those who embody resilience and went on to win the Gold-level AVA Digital Award and Gold-level MarCom Award.

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For more in the series, visit the Resilient podcast library page

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