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Econsultancy: Please describe your job: What do you do?
Andy Dale: I’m the General Counsel and VP Global Privacy for SessionM, an international customer data and engagement platform. I manage all legal affairs for the company and lead the data privacy program. My work ranges widely, covering corporate governance, contracts, compliance and employment issues. But at its core, being the company’s lawyer means managing risk for both SessionM and its clients, who are some of the largest brands in the world.
Ensuring the enterprises we work with are successful with managing their customer data while adhering to privacy laws and ethical standards is a big part of how I help SessionM succeed.
E: Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?
AD: I’m a member of the management team and report to the CFO – but the nature of the work connects me to every side of the business – which I love.
E: What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
AD: I think the most important skill for an in-house lawyer is the ability to act as a partner across different areas of the business. This means listening a lot. My overarching goal is for the legal department to be one that enables the success of the team. I try hard not to say “no” we can’t do something. Instead, I strive to fully understand the business objective, and work to come up with a way to accomplish that goal together.
One additional helpful skill is being a lifetime learner – being curious. I take the time to understand the technology, our business model, what life is like in the field selling our products and how we provide services to customers. This context makes me a much more effective in-house lawyer.
E: Tell us about a typical working day…
AD: At SessionM our sales pipeline is jammed, which is a good problem to have! So, lately I’ve been working with the sales team on enterprise contracts. Like many others right now, I’ve also been working on GDPR. In fact, we recently released a GDPR focused feature set to help our clients achieve compliance.
Data privacy is core to what we do. We handle a massive amount of customer personal data – including processing billions of transactions each day – so our security and privacy protocols are of the highest importance.
E: What do you love about your job? What sucks?
AD: I love learning. Every day, I absorb gobs of new information from the incredibly smart people around me here at SessionM. One of the drawbacks of a healthy sales pipeline is the lack of time to focus on other things – especially at the end of a quarter.
E: What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
AD: My driving goal is always to ensure that the company is able to succeed, win, and do so safely without incurring risk – or at least knowing about risks and thoughtfully weighing them. I’ve tried in the past to measure success based on quarterly numbers of signed contracts or outside legal counsel spend reduction goals. My experience has been that those KPIs are helpful if you need to make a case to hire someone, but they don’t really move the needle in truly measuring success.
Ultimately, the legal department provides client service – do your business partners trust you and come to you when they need help? That’s the true measure.
E: What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
AD: Old school answer, but in-person meetings. I always meet face to face whenever I can. It helps both internally and externally. If you get to know one another as people, it’s always easier to get work done or come to common ground.
E: How did you land in this role, and where might you go from here?
AD: A friend told me about the job opening. I was very close to taking a role at a different company, but the SessionM team and technology were super intriguing. I’m not sure what’s next – I just got here! I know that privacy and GDPR will be around for a while, so I’d like to continue to help companies prepare.
E: Is there a particular company you admire for their approach to GDPR so far?
AD: Salesforce. Their public data protection agreement is clear, fair and covers what their customers need. It was released with plenty of time, and it makes sense. I also admire Quantcast. In the adtech space, Quantcast led the creation of a GDPR consent framework. Quantcast did so in the true spirit of open source, industry-first ethics.
E: Do you have advice for anybody who wants to work in your field?
AD: Learn to move quickly, make decisions and be comfortable revisiting them. Take risks – but do so thoughtfully. Growth-oriented tech companies move fast and the lawyer has to as well!