“It takes dedication and laser focus to find success, not to mention rolled-up sleeves and dirt under your finger nails”, states an ardent leader, Karina Tiwana. As the General Counsel, Vice President and Corporate Secretary of ALE USA – the U.S. entity name of Alcatel- Lucent Enterprise – Tiwana has been an integral part of the success of the company. Her passion for the business side of law and sheer dedication has led Tiwana to where she is today.
After spending almost 15 years at Alcatel-Lucent, first as a Contract Manager for five years, Tiwana moved up through the ranks of the legal department, where she landed a corporate counsel position supporting the most innovative business divisions of the company. Eventually, became a primary legal resource to one of these divisions, the Enterprise division, in 2006. Thereafter, she was tapped to support one of the highest revenue-producing divisions in the company. She did that up until 2014 when she was invited to support the planned divestiture of the Enterprise division as General Counsel in the United States. Tiwana would be charged with building a department to support all the legal needs of Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, the new stand-alone company, in North America. This was no small feat but, she said, “many talented and professional people carried my torch.”
Reflecting on the experience, Tiwana recognizes she’s grateful for the men and women along her path that buoyed her up when she felt she might be drowning. Helping a new company be born is a daunting task. The Enterprise Business Division, turned Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, contains a close-knit group with many employees boasting long tenures with the company.
Let’s know more about Tiwana and her contribution to the industry through an interview conducted between her and Insights Success.
Below are the highlights of the interview:
As a business leader, what is your opinion on the impact of the current pandemic on the telecommunications industry?
The pandemic’s impact on people, in some cases, has been horrifying and deadly. I will in no way minimize my feelings of empathy toward families that have lost loved ones and those who have fallen ill from the virus. And, of course, to parents trying to cope with both at-home working and at-home teaching of children ripped from schools and their friends. This at-home working and teaching has created an increase in the need for tools like the Alcatel- Lucent Enterprise Rainbow Unified Communication Platform, as well as infrastructure solutions, such as the company’s OmniAccess Stellar wireless LAN and the OmniSwitch network switches that make everything connect to support the increased communication needs spawned by the crisis. In this way, many telecom industry segments are reaping the benefits of the “new normal”. It’s a shift from in-office to home working and from in-person school to home school. Even events and what used to be live entertainment have gone online as we all try to cope with the restrictions required to keep all of us safe through the pandemic. I hear through news reports that many companies will continue the work-from-home options in some form or other so, it looks like the need for telecom industry tools, solutions and infrastructure is going to continue to grow.
What is your opinion on the necessity for businesses to align their offerings with newer technological developments, especially when it comes to Digital Transformation?
I think that when it comes to digital transformation, businesses that align their offerings to advances in technology further drive the evolution. Technology continues to be instrumental in our lives and the growth of business. In particular, I think, as a strategy, aligning business infrastructure with Cloud technology builds a mindset that pushes innovation, agility and problem-solving. Our company’s Cloud technology products and services have helped our customers push beyond digital transformation plans and overcome the challenges of working through a pandemic. It’s clear to me that Cloud delivers the benefit of scale and adapts to opportunities, while being reliable and secure. It just makes sense to me how flexible technology enables businesses to adapt the work environment, ensure efficient operations and manage costs.
How do you bring your General Counsel skills in establishing strategic direction and delivering results globally?
I do this in many ways, but one of my greatest pleasures in the recent past has been contributing legal advice to our team of women and men that have created the Diversity and Inclusion Employee Resource Group (ESG) under our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program. With the executive sponsorship of Rukmini Glanard, our Executive Vice President of Worldwide Sales, Services and Marketing, the ESG hosted our second global online summit to highlight that diversity and equality are life issues and, definitely, a business issue impacting financial results. An equal world in business results in an enabled and better world for business. We need all of our minds and all of our hands, as a company, to compete and succeed. Diversity and inclusion – across gender, ethnicity, age, religion, etc. – enable a better, balanced environment for economies and communities to thrive.
In what ways have you contributed to the community?
In my community, as a woman Veteran, I am very active in our American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary. This “American Legion Family” provides support to local Veterans, their families and the general community where Veterans live and work. One example of a recent project in 2020, we recognized the needs of so many children in our community around Christmas time. We sponsored, locally, Toys for Tots supported by the United States Marine Corps Reserve. We served over 300 children and all of them received gifts and a food donation for their families. Supporting this kind of “all-volunteer” community event brings me great joy because I saw the power of giving in action. College students, home for the holidays, stood alongside their Parents, Grandmothers and Grandfathers to participate in the toy and food distribution portion of the event. I strongly believe in the empowerment provided by serving a cause much greater than yourself. I get this empowerment through working within our American Legion Family. I currently serve on the Executive Board as Sergeant-at-Arms and have served in the past as Post Commander. At the time I served as Commander, I was the very first woman ever to serve as Commander in the Post’s 77-year history.Today, I’m proud to say, as other notable “first women” leaders are saying more and more, “I may have been the first, but I won’t be the last.”
If given a chance, what change would you bring in providing growth opportunities to Women?
I am very lucky to have been given the chance at Alcatel- Lucent Enterprise to effect real change in my role as General Counsel at ALE USA. I hired student interns in 2014 as a creative way to augment my staff. We showed so much success with training and utilizing student interns in our legal department that it inspired the company to adopt an Internship Program and now, many departments are hiring student interns. In fact, a recent hire is going to supplement our global CSR endeavors. She will be graduating from college soon with a degree in Ethnic Studies. I think these internship programs are vital to creating opportunities and success for everyone, especially for women. In my case, all of my interns moved on to become practicing lawyers and have secured positions in law firms. I’m very proud of all of them.
As an established business leader, what would be your advice for the budding women entrepreneurs?
Make sure you know a good lawyer! Not a shameless plug. No, seriously, it’s very important to build a strong network of diversely talented individuals that can be asked for the help you need along the way. Be yourself because your authentic self is your best face. Have a clear picture of what your authentic self is. Remember, there will be roadblocks on your journey to success and some may be related to your gender, your age or any number of things but the roadblocks are just hills to climb and there are plenty of people to give you a helpful push so you can keep going.
Leverage your mentors and allies. These are your friends, your classmates, your teachers, your family, your colleagues, and your professional network. They will help you navigate. But, above all, do what you love. Do it a lot. If you do what you love and you do it a lot, you will get really good at it. If you get good at it, you will likely make money at it and you will be wealthy. Wealth is not money alone. Wealth includes not only professional success but also self-fulfillment and realizing your dreams.