Sidebars

Cecilia Andrews: Building Your Authentic Brand

June 21, 2021 Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP Season 1 Episode 6
Sidebars
Cecilia Andrews: Building Your Authentic Brand
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, Cecilia Andrews, Director of Intellectual Property for Novelis, Inc., shares her approach to building an authentic brand and delivering high-impact value for clients and colleagues. Cecilia relates her career path from aspiring mechanical engineer as an undergrad to top patent guardian and IP legal strategist for a global firm. Growing up in New England, she navigated different cultures as a first generation American whose parents had immigrated from Argentina. She grew up bilingual but not quite fitting the conventional mold of “Latina.” Like her two older sisters, she won a scholarship to Vanderbilt University where her professional sights shifted from engineering to patent law. 

After Vanderbilt Law School, she interviewed in Atlanta, fell in love with the urban forest atmosphere and joined a large firm. With a fellow lawyer’s advice and help, Cecilia moved to a patent boutique where her career took off. Eight years ago she joined Novelis and embraced the challenge of earning respect from older, mostly male, colleagues by learning to be seen as a contributor of value in every engagement.

Key Points

  • From New England to Memphis – a Connecticut Latina goes South: 7:15
  • Choosing Atlanta to start her career: 12:40
  • How great mentors opened doors for her: 15:30
  • The Cecilia Andrews way of building a personal brand: 17:00
  • Winning peer respect as a woman in a largely male field: 23:00
  • The critical process of developing trust: 25:40
  • Going in-house – how her viewpoint shifted: 32:00
  • How the power of wellness has changed her life: 36:24
  • Her perspective on interacting with different cultures: 43:20
  • Cecilia’s “first and foremost” – her goals as Mom: 49:38
  • Strategic approach for being the “first or only” at the table : 56:15

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**The opinions expressed are those of the attorneys and do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm or its clients. This podcast is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.**

Cecilia Andrews:

I wanted to make sure that people took me seriously, that my value was based on what I contributed, what I brought to the table and not based on my gender, not based on my ethnicity, not based on any other box that I checked. I really wanted it to, to have a brand all of my own that was built on Cecilia and the high quality work that I deliver my ability to communicate well with clients. And it just became really clear to me in that moment that I hadn't yet succeeded, maybe in building that

April Abele Isaacson:

Welcome to Sidebars Kilpatrick Townsend's limited podcast series focused on women and patent law. I am April Isaacson, a patent litigator and partner in the San Francisco office.

Kimberlynn Davis:

And I'm Kim Davis, a patent prosecutor and partner in the Atlanta office. We're here to discuss the gender gap in the patent bar and have candid conversations with female patent practitioners on their career paths. Welcome back to sidebars. I'm Kim Davis and I'm here with my cohost, April Isaacson. Listeners, today's episode will be meaty for lack of a better word. We will be interviewing the incomparable Cecilia Andrews. Cecilia is the Director of Intellectual Property at Novelis, Inc. where she leads the IP team in protecting, registering, and enforcing Novelis' IP globally. Prior to Novelis, Cecilia was an associate at a well-known Atlanta-area patent boutique that was later acquired by a general practice firm with an international presence. Cecilia specializes in mechanical inventions having earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Vanderbilt. Cecilia is affectionately referred to by my cohost as a double bandy as she is also a Vanderbilt law alum. Cecilia has to be one of the most well-rounded people I know. And you will soon learn that I'm proud to call her my friend. One of the last comments that Cecilia made during our prep call was that nothing is off limits listeners. You will enjoy this conversation with Cecilia Cecilia . Welcome to Sidebars.

Cecilia Andrews:

Thank you. I'm happy to be here. Excited to talk to you guys today.

Kimberlynn Davis:

Oh, we're thrilled to have you. So we'll start off our discussion with our favorite opener, but the sky is truly the limit of what we'll discuss thereafter. Fair enough?

Cecilia Andrews:

Sounds great.

Kimberlynn Davis:

So Cecilia , what made you pivot from science to law?

Cecilia Andrews:

So I was about halfway through my undergrad education at Vanderbilt. When I realized that as much as I enjoyed studying mechanical engineering, I didn't actually think I wanted to become an engineer. My dad was a mechanical engineer and was in the same industry most of his career. And while it was really interesting and he loved his job when I really thought about it, I didn't want to be locked into one industry or one technology my whole life. And so I was thinking about what other options there may be for me, and really didn't know. I am first generation American. My mom didn't go to college. My dad did, but he studied mechanical engineering and became an engineer. So I didn't really know what other paths were available to me. And I think it was at the start of my junior year [at] undergrad, that one of my female colleagues in the engineering department said that she was going to go to law school and study patent law. Then, I remember going onto whatever the predecessor was for Google at the time, and actually looking up on the internet, what is patent law? And when I read it, I said, well, that sounds really exciting. It sounds like I could work in all different technologies, but still apply my engineering background. And then I looked into what it took to get into law school, saw that the LSAT required a bunch of logic tests that I do. I do logic puzzles for fun. And I was like, oh, I got this. I can do this. And so I applied to law school and the rest is history.

April Abele Isaacson:

Cecilia, I really love your story about how you went through the application process for Vanderbilt law school. Can you talk to us about that?

Cecilia Andrews:

Yeah, so I , um, was at Vanderbilt undergrad on a full scholarship, and working as much as I could as an RA or working at the front desk of the dorms, but still didn't have a lot of money. And so my friend who had mentioned going to law school, she was applying everywhere and it was $50 an application, I think at the time, plus the stamp for sending in the application. And I couldn't afford that. So I knew I wanted to stay in the Southeast and I literally walked my application to the Vanderbilt University Law School admissions office so that I could save on the stamp and I applied early decision and luckily got in. So I never had to pay more than $50 to apply to law school. Plus, of course, obviously three years of tuition.

April Abele Isaacson:

I love that. I was also an RA in an undergrad dorm actually, when I was in graduate school and worked at the front desk as well. Can you talk a little bit about that experience when you were an undergrad? Yeah, so I, you know, it was interesting going to Vanderbilt where a lot of the people who were there I think were from old money , a very Southern university in that sense. And I was a little bit of an outlier. My oldest sister had applied to Vanderbilt when my family and I were living in Germany and we didn't even know what Vanderbilt was, but one of her friends had an extra application and she sent it in. And when she got her acceptance letter back, it said that she had been given a full scholarship to attend. So my dad said, well, that's where you're going. And then my middle sister ended up there as well. Then, when I applied undergrad, I also got a full scholarship and my dad said, well, that's where you're going. So it ended up that three Merediz girls who, you know, again were first-generation American all ended up at Vanderbilt, but we didn't necessarily fit the stereotype of a Vanderbilt student. It was a little bit tough for me fitting in. I didn't do the great thing. I was not in a sorority. I was one of only five female mechanical engineers out of, I think about 40 to 45 students in my year, studying mechanical engineering. I was, you know, a minority and trying to fit in and figure out which groups I fit in with. So it was a little bit tough. And then I was also there trying to earn money because as I mentioned, even though I was fortunate to be there on scholarship, I still had to, you know, help pay for room and board and for my books and everything. So I was just trying to earn money where I could. I didn't have a car. So I was limited to whatever jobs were available on campus. Pretty much. I know that you and I've talked about, we both came to the Southeast as Yankees, maybe a little bit more pejorative. I've heard when I first landed there with my Connecticut plates . And I believe you also moved from Connecticut. Can you talk a little bit about the culture shock or the difference in culture coming in as an outsider?

Cecilia Andrews:

Yeah, so I had an interesting experience because I had moved from Connecticut to Memphis halfway through my junior year of high school. And that was honestly the biggest culture shock. I had grown up in Fairfield, Connecticut, about 45 minutes to an hour outside of New York City with a very diverse friend group. So diverse that we never actually noticed it or identified it. We were just all friends and we were all different. When I moved to Memphis, I started school in the middle of the week, in the middle of December. And there was a young lady who was assigned to me to take me around school. And she offered to drive me home that day. And as we were walking out to the parking lot, there were some black kids hanging around her car. They were hanging around their car to be clear, but it was near hers. And she said, "those N-words better not be anywhere near my car." I had never been so shocked in my entire life. I didn't know that people still use that word. I had never heard that word uttered in person. I had only heard it in, you know , movies or music, but didn't think that it was actually used. So that was my first exposure to a different culture, certainly than what I had grown up around. And it was pretty frightening. Luckily that was the last day I think that I ever spoke to that young woman and wish that I could go back and actually stand up for that group of students and say something. But at the age of 16, I was so shocked honestly, and just didn't have the courage to do more about it. But certainly when I applied to Vanderbilt and my dad informed me that I would be going there, I was concerned. I was concerned that I would experience similar , cultural issues being at a university that was predominantly white in the south. And that was somewhat the case when students at Vanderbilt learned that I was there on the Chancellor Scholarship, they would say, oh, well, you're just here on a minority scholarship as if somehow my ethnicity as a Latina had earned me this scholarship. And not the fact that I had graduated second in my class had a 4.0, had aced the SATs. Everybody's just sort of looked at me and said, "well, oh, you're a minority. You were just sort of here to check off a box and that's why the school is paying you." So it was a bit of a struggle for me to really find a group that I fit in with, well, at Vanderbilt undergrad, I had joined the Vanderbilt Association of Hispanic students for a time and actually struggled there as well, because my family's from Argentina, which is not, it doesn't fit the stereotype of Latin America necessarily. We are very European in our cultural background. And so our foods and even the Spanish that we speak are very different from the rest of South America and Central America. And so I even struggled to fit in there because I felt that I wasn't Hispanic enough and struggled to fit in with the white kids, because I didn't feel like I was necessarily white enough. So ultimately I think upon graduation, I probably had more black friends and Middle Eastern friends than I had anybody else. Because that was the group that I just felt like I had a common mindset with honestly. Um, and they accepted me and I accepted them. And that was really my home at undergrad.

Kimberlynn Davis:

So Cecilia, if we can just go back a second of , for the law school application process, you mentioned that you definitely wanted to stay in the Southeast. I take it that these friendships that you form with your new tribe as we affectionately call it here on sidebars , that it was enough to show you that there was some hospitality in the south and , and you had a place there. Can, can you speak to that a bit?

Cecilia Andrews:

What's funny is that several of the friends that I made undergrad actually were from the Memphis area. And so, you know, we now have a common home and I did start to fall in love with the south. Also at the time I was dating my high school boyfriend who would later turn out to be my husband now ex-husband, but we were together and he was studying at Mississippi State University at the time. And so I knew also because of that, that I wanted to stay in the south. And that was ultimately where our life was going to be. So, you know, I had learned to really appreciate the things about the south, especially the warm weather. I did not miss that about Connecticut at all. And I'm sitting here in Atlanta right now with two layers of long sleeves on with a blanket on my lap. If that tells you anything about how much I like warm weather.

Kimberlynn Davis:

And just for some color, it's about what would you say? It is high 60s, low 70s right now?

Cecilia Andrews:

Yes, and probably 75 degrees in my house.

Kimberlynn Davis:

So love it, love it. So, okay, you left Vanderbilt as a Double Vandy at that point, and you're ready to enter the workforce. Tell us about that transition from law school into the law firm.

Cecilia Andrews:

So that was an interesting process as well. I interviewed in several different cities, but my first flight into Atlanta for a callback interview, I knew flying in that this was where I wanted to stay. It was my first time ever visiting Atlanta. I saw all the trees not realizing how many, how much pollen they produce. But , as I was flying in, I was like, this city is absolutely beautiful. I loved what I saw that when I was here interviewing. And so I definitely decided that this was where I wanted to stay, but I didn't really know what the practice of law entailed. I joined a very large general practice firm for my first year and they were based out of Atlanta. So it was their largest office with several hundred attorneys. And it was honestly overwhelming. I was a bit of an introvert at the time, much more so than I am now. And I didn't have, necessarily, a strong mentor when I started there. So I was struggling both to learn the practice of law, as well as just understanding how to operate in this legal world in this large law firm and felt a little bit lost and not quite like I was at home there. So, about a year after being at that firm, one of my colleagues had already left to join a local patent boutique. And I had lunch with him and he asked how I was doing. And I said, you know, I not particularly happy. I don't feel like I'm doing the work that I want to be doing. And I don't feel like I'm learning as much as I want to be learning. And he said, well, let me see what I can do about that. And he went back to the boutique and set up a lunch with me, and the head of the mechanical group there. And about two months later, I started working at that patent boutique and really felt like I had found my home.

April Abele Isaacson:

Well, I think that's interesting because one of the things Kim and I have talked about before is that we have female mentors, of course, but then there are also these men who are really watching out for us in our career. So if you can elaborate a little bit on that, that would be great for our listeners.

Cecilia Andrews:

Yeah. I really think it's important to have a champion in your career along your career path, no matter who it is. And sometimes it can actually be helpful as a woman, as a female minority to have a champion who's actually in the majority because sometimes their voices may be heard more than yours and it's helpful to have that person championing you. This particular individual remained quite a champion for me over my career. He later left, the firm went in-house and then went back to a firm here in Atlanta. But we have kept in touch over the years and he has been a mentor to me throughout much of that time.

April Abele Isaacson:

Are there situations where you have had assumptions made about you or your role because you're a woman maybe not being taken and seriously that sort of thing?

Cecilia Andrews:

Definitely. I think one of the things that I felt quite a few times when I was at firms in particular was really there at that I was there as a token, more than anything else. I recall one conversation where I was being asked to go to a pitch meeting and I, the conversation started with "so Cecilia , you are a woman, right?" And it later ended with, well, if we need to bring a woman on this pitch, we're going to bring somebody else. And it was very clear to me in that conversation that the value that others saw in me was based more on my gender than anything else. And I've really prided myself my entire life and maybe going back to when people made comments about me being at Vanderbilt on a minority scholarship. From that moment on, I wanted to make sure that people took me seriously, that my value was based on what I contributed, what I brought to the table and not based on my gender, not based on my ethnicity, not based on any other box that I checked. I really wanted it to have a brand, all of my own that was built on Cecilia and the high quality work that I deliver, my ability to communicate well with clients. And it just became really clear to me in that moment that I hadn't yet succeeded maybe in building that brand.

April Abele Isaacson:

That's really interesting because I know I've had situations. I know you're 40 and I'm just so impressed by everything that you've accomplished in your life. At this point, it's just really phenomenal for me kind of looking at you from , the almost 55 group here, but I've had situations where I've shown up at a deposition. Someone assumes I'm the court reporter because I'm female. And then when I say, no, I'm an attorney, oh, who's going to take the deposition. And then when I say it's me, there's this kind of shock. Have you had things like that happen to you even though you're in a different generation?

Cecilia Andrews:

I definitely have. I recall , uh, at the boutique, I remember meeting with a client once who said to me, how are you going to be working on this work? You look like you're 12 . I've had people ask me to bring them beverages during meetings. I believe more often than not I've been asked to take notes in meetings and I've noticed it of other female colleagues that we are the ones who are always pegged to take notes rather than the men taking notes in meetings. And now I just use the excuse that as an attorney, I need to keep some of my work , secretive or my commentary secretive and just can't share it. And I use that as the excuse as to why I can't take notes during a meeting and someone else will have to.

April Abele Isaacson:

That's really interesting because I was in the same boat, taking notes, fetching coffee, making the copies for people. Wven when I was a partner at firm in being the person that's assumed that's gonna make the lunch order because the only woman.

Cecilia Andrews:

Yes, definitely. I think we always have to fight a lot harder to prove ourselves and to prove that we've earned the status that we've already technically arrived at. Whereas others it's just assumed that they're already there. We have to prove that we have earned that status, unfortunately.

Kimberlynn Davis:

So Cecilia, you referred to building your brand, and this is going to be a super loaded question, but how did you do it? How did you get to that point where you were able to prove that you belonged where you already were?

Cecilia Andrews:

I'm not sure that I necessarily had a prescribed path for myself to follow. And it's something that I can look back on now and say that I've gotten there, but I'm probably was stumbling a lot along the way, and didn't necessarily realize that that was what I was doing. I just wanted to be taken seriously. I wanted to be able to demonstrate to people that they could rely on me, that my advice that I was giving was trustworthy, that it was well-reasoned that my work product was solid and I just didn't want anybody ever attributing my work to the fact that I was a female or the fact that I was Hispanic. I wanted it again to be reflective of, "this is Cecilia's this is going to be good quality work.", But it's a struggle. I mean, I think that you and April probably know that as women, if we stand up for ourselves, if we're too aggressive, then we get called the "B word;" or, you know, people will stop inviting us to meetings if we're again being too assertive. And so one of the things that I had to learn and develop throughout my career was balancing being sweet and friendly and approachable with also being taken seriously. And it's a difficult balance to strike, but I knew and I could sense early on in my career that if I approached things with sort of the bulldog mentality or personality, I wasn't going to get very far. But I think I've gotten there now. I do think that it took a while . I love my job. I love my colleagues at Novelis, but I think I had to fight for them to take me seriously and had to take a lot longer to earn that level of trust with them than perhaps some of my male colleagues would have had to.

April Abele Isaacson:

Do you think it's fair to say that the male colleagues generally in your experience in your career have started with sort of the "glass is full." Whereas for us, we have to perhaps prove ourselves, have you found that to be the case?

Cecilia Andrews:

Absolutely. I know that many of my colleagues are at sort of the same level within the company that I am at. And when I'm in group meetings, particularly when I was first promoted into my Director position, I would be in meetings and there would be conversations going on, where they would all listen to each other and take each other seriously and trust each other as subject matter experts. Whereas I had to earn that respect and earn that speaking time in meetings. And it was, it felt like a fight at times. And it was certainly frustrating given that I was one of only two people in the company at the time, registered with the Patent Bar to have to fight, to be taken seriously as an IP subject matter expert was frustrating. But I also realized that that was part of my job. I mean, I honestly took that as, okay, this is one of my job responsibilities is to get these people to trust me. And they've been working together a lot longer. I recognized that I was younger. I recognized that I was the only woman at times. I recognized that they might be dealing with subconscious or unconscious biases and I wasn't going to go in and aggressively fight them on it. I was just going to do what I've always done throughout my life, which has proved to people my value. Prove why I'm in the room. One of your colleagues, Renae Wainwright probably gave me the best career advice that I've ever been given, which is that if you're ever invited to a meeting, do not leave the meeting without having said something of value during the meeting. Making sure people never question why you were invited to the meeting.

Kimberlynn Davis:

Renae is so full of useful tips. So listeners, just so you know, Renae Wainwright is a part of our very close friend group, we have a weird balance of a client relationship slash strong friendship where we'll be on the phone and it'll go back and forth. And we have to literally say, okay, we're switching over to friends zone right now. I have to tell you something which back over. So no, she is full of valuable tips. What I love about what you just said is you did not try to mold yourself into what you've seen work for others that has made them successful. Your personality is one where you , you know, you win more flies with sugar we were talking about. So, so you use that to your advantage. It's your genuine, authentic approach. You're not being anyone else and I'm not sure you would get the same response if you were to come across in any other way. So that's very encouraging to see, tell us about some of the support that you've had. We , mentioned the mentors and the champions around. Are there any in particular who've helped you? Um, and as I brag on you for a minute, become the Director of intellectual property in such a short period of time.

Cecilia Andrews:

Yes . So I definitely have one in mind and I'll speak about him in a minute, but I'm going to back up one step and just say that based on what you were just describing me, as I have to give a ton of credit to my dad, my dad always described himself as a GDI, a gosh, darn independent. He uses other language . I'll stick with that. And that is the attitude that I was raised with. And that's always how I've described myself. And I think that is what is reflected. I don't feel that I can do my best job if I'm not being authentically me. And so part of my brand, like you said, is not molding myself to what's around me, but learning, observing, and, and adjusting as needed, but still being authentically me. But when it comes to an actual champion within my career, I have to give a ton of credit to my boss. When I first started at Novelis, he had taken over the IP group just a few years earlier. He didn't have any background in intellectual property and basically learned it in order to take over the intellectual property work at the, at the company, as well as building a team, which eventually included me. And over time, we really built a trusting relationship where he learned my vision. He saw what I really wanted to do with the group and how I wanted to grow the group. And he saw me interacting with our clients internally. And I really think that it's the trust that he placed in me, that others within the business saw and because he placed that trust in me because he spoke of me highly in meetings, I think it really helped accelerate my path to being accepted by others within the business to being taken seriously because they knew that they could trust him and therefore they could trust me.

April Abele Isaacson:

Can you talk about that trust and how important it is to have the male champions so to speak? And I've heard so much about how fabulous he is in terms of the commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Can you talk a little bit more about that?

Cecilia Andrews:

Yeah, so he is really interested in taking into account different perspectives.

Kimberlynn Davis:

Oh, and by the way, can we say who the, he is?

Cecilia Andrews:

My boss is Chris Courts General Counsel of Novelis. When I first joined the company, he was Director/Assistant General Counsel and then rose in the ranks to , the Vice President, Deputy General Counsel, and then was officially given the General Counsel role late last year , much to my delight because as I mentioned, we've really built a great trusting relationship over the years. And honestly it took a while to build that. When I first joined Novelis, I had a lot of ideas for what I wanted to do with the IP group, with the IP team. I had all these visions and was really proactive in wanting to put them out there. And he kind of put the pause on me a little bit , in terms of saying, you know, let's slow down here and I didn't quite understand why at the time. But when I took a step back and listened to the feedback he was giving me, I realized, oh, this is, this is a man who's been with Novelis basically since its inception. He knows the business. He knows the people. He knows the obstacles that are in our path. And he knows that what I'm pushing for is too aggressive right now. It's not going to be met with success. And I really had to take his feedback and internalize it and realize that I needed to trust him and have faith in the path that he had sort of set forth for the intellectual property team and learn more about the business, learn more about the people. And so I really, whether he knows it or not, I was treating him as my mentor. I was observing what he was doing, how he was interacting with people and learned to adopt more of that style. Again, still being authentically me, but learning just how to navigate the business, navigate the politics of the business. And we really built a very trusting relationship through that time and through that process. And I think once, you know, he again had faith that I finally understood the business and how IP fit into it. That's when he sort of handed the reins over to me and, you know, we've continued moving IP forward within the business and with his championing and it's been great.

April Abele Isaacson:

Can you talk about this trust and this mentoring and what has allowed you to accomplish with Chris?

Cecilia Andrews:

So again, I think the fact that Chris put his faith in me after we had worked together for a few years and really understood that my vision was a genuine one and I was really interested in finding ways to move intellectual property further forward within the business. I mean, when he had taken over the group, very few people at the company were really aware of IP about the importance of IP. And the thing that I really respect about Chris is that he gave me a lot of autonomy. He didn't micromanage me. And he, he is somebody who is very fastidious in the sense that he will micromanage his own work for example, but he didn't do that with me. He really gave me the ability to grow what it was that we were doing to put forth my vision. But the way that I've always operated is that the more respect that I feel from somebody, the more that I respect them. So I took that autonomy that he was giving me very seriously. And I always made sure that anything that I was doing, I ran by him , uh , when , you know, if we had a big presentation or some training series that we wanted to put on that I ran it by him first and made sure that I had his buy-in because again, I knew that if he trusted me and if he communicated that trust to my internal colleagues and clients that they would in turn, trust me. And so having that relationship sort of growing, I hate the word, but growing organically over time and building that level of trust with my boss really made him a huge champion of me; and I'm a huge champion of him in return. Um, like I said, I was delighted when he was given the General Counsel role permanently, because this is a relationship that in many ways has helped me build my career within Novelis.

April Abele Isaacson:

Yeah, it's interesting because I feel like sometimes when I look at what the definition of successes is, if someone I respect respects me, that's almost the ultimate that you can really get. And then having worked in house , for almost five years myself, can you maybe explain to folks that are outside counsel, how important some of these relationships are and understanding the business of the business, so to speak.

Cecilia Andrews:

It's hugely important. Like I said, I've always described myself as a GDI. And so I think there was a part of me when I went in house that was like, "oh, I'm never going to sell out." I'm never going to play the politics. But I very quickly realized that that's part of being successful and it doesn't have to be a pejorative term to play the political game. It's just what you have to do. And again, when I had tried to put forth some IP initiatives early on, the reason that they weren't being accepted was because I wasn't understanding well enough, the business and how IP fit into the business. And, I quickly learned that in order to sometimes get things through to your colleagues, you have to nudge rather than push. And you'll certainly make a lot more progress if you nudge slowly over time, rather than trying to make one big push all at once. But you need to understand the company. You need to understand the technology. You need to understand the business. You need to understand how your business unit ties in with the other business units and how the strategy potentially either overlaps or conflicts and make sure that you find alignment and harmonization wherever you can. And you need to learn the people and at a global company like Novelis, that's not just learning people in terms of their personalities, but it's also learning different cultures, learning to reach across cultural differences, language differences, and then the business differences. And so all of those things play a really important role. And so I would definitely tell anybody going in house that in that first year or two , make learning the business just as much a part of your job as your actual job responsibilities, because the only way that you're going to be successful at your job is if you understand how it plays in to the business overall.

Kimberlynn Davis:

And Cecilia I'll comment that your full team embraces that as one of your pillars so to speak that you focus on. I see your team members getting to know your internal client on a very personal level. And it's clear that everyone really just, it just has a great outside of the workplace relationship, as well as inside of the workplace relationship. I want to go back to what you said about Chris granting you a certain amount of autonomy to develop the IP team, the way that you have it today, both well-oiled machine that you guys are. And, and I have to call them out by name because if not, they would get me. So I am speaking of Dr. Freddie Hughes and Ms . Carissa Blight and Michelle Ellis in particular. And what I want to call out is the relationship that your team has with each other. Right. So I was trying to explain it to April , the best I could, you know, if you're not a part of it, it's hard to imagine. I said so, okay we have monthly meetings and before COVID, we would spend about, I don't know, maybe 20 to 30 minutes in the gym to demonstrate...

Cecilia Andrews:

Our attempted pull up?

Kimberlynn Davis:

That's right. That's right . But what's so important is that because it was important to you, it became so important to the rest of the team as well, to where Freddie became your trainer. Right. And wellness is what I equate Cecilia with them. Like Cecilia, I better have my game together. And in all fairness, you're the reason that I bought the Peloton. I think that that's client development and I'm going to try to invoice it, but, but we'll save that for another day. But can you tell us about how wellness fits into your life and balancing it all?

Cecilia Andrews:

Yeah. Wellness is a huge part of my life. Um, no pun intended, maybe with the word huge, but I used to be huge. Several years ago I decided to switch to a vegan or whole food plant-based lifestyle after spending 17 years of my adult life obese. And I was always worried that I was not going to get good blood work results at my next physical. And my kids were fairly young at the time. My son had asked me if I was going to live a long time. And I told him yes, and they felt that I was lying to him. And I had told him, I would never break a promise to him, or I would never make a promise that I couldn't keep. And so I switched to a vegan lifestyle a little over four years ago and started to get healthier, started to feel better and have more energy. And I remember Freddie at the time would go back to the gym at work and do tricep push downs, which I was like, I don't know what this is. And so I asked him one day to show me what he did in the gym and he did. And then I started asking him to please show me how to use all of the equipment, all of the weight equipment, the cardio equipment, and slowly , okay. No, very quickly actually exercising sort of took over my life and I started losing weight. And then, like you mentioned, I got the Peloton bike a year and a half ago. I got the Peloton treadmill a little over a year ago. I have already logged, I think, 667 miles on bike or on foot so far this month. Fitness is a huge part of my life in my office at work, which I haven't actually been to in over a year. Now I have one of my, I have my first medal holder that says "she believed she could, so she did.: And that was really important to me as I started doing races. When, you know , I really didn't think I was ever going to be able to walk a 5k in my life, much less run a 5k. I had done a 5k back in 2005 when I was really overweight. And I think I came in ninth from the last and was getting beaten by women who were in their 70s. And, you know, I was like, this is, this is embarrassing. I can't even walk to do it race. So now I take every opportunity I can to run, to bike, to do anything that keeps me active and keeps me feeling healthy and, you know, setting a good example for my kids.

April Abele Isaacson:

You know, Cecilia to me, that's just so impressive because as someone who has always been really active my whole life, I've never had that struggle. And when I see that people have, I almost can't imagine how difficult it is to just get started. So for you to do that, it just it's so incredibly impressive. And do you think it's your determination and drive that was instilled in us from your dad, as you were talking about earlier that got you to just kind of put one foot in front of the other and by the way, I don't use a Peloton. So if we're, I don't know, branding, I'm a Soul Cycle, woman myself. Can you talk about kinda how to get yourself in this regimented accomplishing these goals and really sounds like doing it for your kids?

Cecilia Andrews:

I tend to be all or nothing, and I'm a bit of a perfectionist. So any hobbies that I've ever taken up in my life are hobbies that if I can't perfect them, I will drop them. But if I can perfect them, I will perfect them. So I'm a bit of an odd bird. I crochet, I do photography, I do origami, I cook, but they're all things that I love doing and all things that I've put enough time into to master them. And so I think when I finally switched to this lifestyle and started working out, I sort of approached it in the same way. I had certainly dieted a lot over those 17 years, always yo-yo dieting, always gaining more weight than I had lost. And, you know , my weight had slowly crept up and I had just never taken it seriously, I don't think. I had never really taken it on as a project this time around, I did my research. I read a ton about the whole food plant-based lifestyle and the effects that it has on your health, the positive effects that it has on your health. So I really understood for the first time in my life, what I was doing. And even when I took on exercise, which was really the first time in my life that I had taken on exercise, I had played sports when I was little, but I always played them very, very poorly. And I was always the laziest kid on the team, but this time around, I wanted to do it right. I wanted to learn what the benefits were of weightlifting versus the benefits of cardiovascular exercise. And , uh, Kim knows that , on the Peloton, I am a bit of a beast. I am not happy with my output if I'm not in like a 10%, the top 10% of those who have taken the class so far. I struggle sometimes to take it easy. But if, again, if I know that I can do well at something, I will give it my all.

Kimberlynn Davis:

So let me share. We have a group called the KTS Riders, right? So it's full of Kilpatrick current employees, clients, alums, just everyone. Cecilia, if she is on that ride, you better believe she's number one on the leaderboard . And I don't care who else is riding. We have like professional cyclists as a part of our group and Cecilia still shines above them. So it's quite impressive.

Cecilia Andrews:

You have a few folks who will beat me, but I like to be close to the top.

April Abele Isaacson:

Cecilia, I wanted to go back to one thing when you were talking about within your company at Novelis the different cultures and understanding those. Can you talk to us about how your having come from a Latina background with parents that were immigrants moving from Connecticut to the south, how some of those experiences helped you with understanding and appreciating different cultures within the company?

Cecilia Andrews:

Absolutely. So first I'll start with just saying that I think that the soft skills in any job are just as important as the technical skills or the hard skills. And this is something that I talk about with my team all the time. We have to be aware of who we're interacting with. And I always like to think about things as impact versus intent. I never liked to think about what I'm bringing to the table. I like to think about the recipient of whatever, you know , discussion I'm having or whatever work product I'm presenting. What do they need from me? How can I best convey this information in a way that will make sense to them, or it will be sensitive to their style of communicating, for example. So I'm typically spending a lot of time at work psychoanalyzing people and just trying to make sure that whatever I'm doing or giving to my clients is being received in the best way possible. So when you layer onto that, all of the cultural differences and the language differences, I definitely have that perspective from having grown up with a family who had different traditions than my many of my American friends. I mean, I am American, but again, first generation American. I was, you know, I've always been sensitive to language barriers because my grandparents were living in the United States when I was growing up, but they spoke Spanish. They didn't really speak English. So I was bilingual growing up and knew that it was important to learn other languages, to be able to communicate with people in a way that puts them at ease, for example. So even at work, when I travel, I try to learn some key phrases. I like to make sure that I understand culturally what I'm going to be, you know, going into if I visit a certain country, for example, because I always want to be respectful of other people's cultures. And I think that's the most important thing, because I know that I've been on the receiving end of disrespect, certainly in my life at times because of my culture, because of, you know , speaking Spanish, but a different Spanish than other countries. And so I just think it's really important to show as much respect as you can, to those of other cultures or those who speak other languages and learn as much as you can about them so that you're communicating with them in a way that they're receiving it well.

April Abele Isaacson:

No, that's really interesting, because I don't even know if I told you before so my father was an ME (Mechanical Engineer) as well. My father was also from Germany and came to this country and it was during World War II timeframe. And you can imagine being German was, you know, maybe not the best thing at that time in history. And I find that I have the same thing when it comes to traveling and wanting to make sure that you're, you're really trying to make sure you respect the culture, even if it's learning to say "hello," "thank you," "goodbye." Have you had any situations, because I know this has happened to a friend of mine who looks, if someone's just looking at her presents is seeming white, but yet is a Latina and is fluent in Spanish. And I'll have an example. My friend, Allie , her father was from Chile. She and I were traveling to south America together. Someone assumed because she had an American accent that you did not understand Spanish. And they were saying some things about us and then she fired back in perfect Chilean Spanish to the woman on the flight. So have you had situations like that where it's basically people don't think you're listening or don't think you're hearing and are saying things?

Cecilia Andrews:

Yes. I have definitely had similar experiences when traveling like she did, where I like to take people by surprise by suddenly dropping into fluent Spanish and shocking people. But certainly within the work environment, I have had moments where people sort of forget the boxes that I checked - they take advantage of the fact that I check multiple boxes, but then very quickly forget and will make comments around me about somebody else's ethnicity or race, assuming that I'm white and then assuming presumably that I wouldn't be offended even as a white woman to hear the comments that are being made. I've heard comments, for example, about bringing a good looking woman on a pitch to a General Counsel who was a black lesbian, because she would like that kind of thing. And again, just sort of being completely offended that such a statement would be made in front of me as if I don't know, I wouldn't be offended by it. But I do think that people, when they look at me, they see that I am, I am Caucasian, I'm just ethnically Latina. And I think they sort of forget that I am a minority and that I do approach things with a different lens. And they just, again, assume that my white side maybe just won't be offended by the comments, but I would be offended regardless, honestly.

April Abele Isaacson:

And it is interesting because it's sort of, as, you know, as, as a white person myself, just because it's a group of white people, having people make assumptions that things aren't offensive because other people are maybe not hearing it or not listening is , is, is really interesting. So it's a great point that you make .

Cecilia Andrews:

Yeah, I've certainly heard comments being made for example, about black colleagues and being used again as tokens in the same way that I was as a woman. And again, I would, I would find that offensive regardless of my race or ethnicity.

Kimberlynn Davis:

And I love , to your point earlier about now having the courage to speak up, you know, when we're young and we don't quite know how to approach that , the 16-year old version of yourself versus the 40-year old version night and day. And I can only imagine what my good friends to see .

Cecilia Andrews:

I would say that that is the advantage of having built a brand is that when you need to speak out, people do take you seriously, especially when you are sweet 99% of the time in that 1% where you are just authentically raw people, take it seriously.

Kimberlynn Davis:

One other big part of your brand. As I see you, your role as a mom, I look to your social media accounts like, oh man, I need to step up my mommy game . You are awesome and the activities daily activities that you do with your children are just so well thought out and such great learning experiences. Tell us how you got to that point where you were able to, what appears to me, so just seamlessly balance it all with no issue whatsoever.

Cecilia Andrews:

I think you're being very generous. So we'll start with that. Um, I don't always have it together, but I try , um, honestly I have always viewed my role as a mom first and foremost, to raise my kids to be productive members of society. So I've always raised them since they were little that if something wouldn't be acceptable when they're an adult, then sadly, I don't let them do it as a child. So, for example, they never were allowed to jump on my furniture because that would be completely unacceptable to do as a 25-year old . So I do take that role very seriously. I actually recently had a conversation with both of them where I told them that I have two main jobs. One is to protect them, but the other one is to prepare them. And those things are always in conflict because if I am overly protective, then I'm not doing a good enough job to prepare them. So a lot of, I think what you see on my social media is incorporating them into activities where I feel like I'm preparing them for life. So we do a lot of cooking together. Even when I talk with them about my choice to be vegan. I explained to them why, because I want them to, if they choose veganism for themselves, I want them to understand why I chose it and make the decision for themselves and really understand it. So I tend to be somebody who maybe over -explains things to my kids. I keep it very, very real inside our house. I don't sugar coat things for them because I feel like my job is to prepare them for life. So, you know, I try to get them involved in physical activities with me when I can, although they're pretty reluctant. Um, but no, we do a lot around the house that I feel like is a way of bringing the fun into the real life things that they need to learn. So I am equal parts, fun and equal parts strict maybe, but they seem pretty happy and well adjusted. And we have a really loving house. So I hopefully think I'm doing okay.

Kimberlynn Davis:

I think you're doing an awesome job. You actually gave me courage last summer when the events and we don't , um , need to bring this up in great detail, but we had some very candid discussions and you would often check in and say, "Kim, are you okay? How's everything going?" And we discussed, how do you explain our current climate just where we are in America to your children? And you let me know, "Kim, this is what I told my kids. And I told them that they have a responsibility in this manner." And that gave me the courage to talk to my then what was Steven , I guess six -year old about certain events that I hadn't had the courage to approach before. So , um, I would say you're doing an excellent job and you're helping the rest of us.

Cecilia Andrews:

Thank you. Yeah, no. I talked to my kids. I mean, my son is 10 and my daughter is seven. So last summer they were nine and six. And I talked to them about privilege. I know that with, with our white skin, that we were born with a lot of privilege and I tell them that it is a huge responsibility that they are going to carry with them throughout their lives to make sure that they use that privilege for good and that they never take it for granted and that they need to stand up and speak out to friends who are being bullied. If they hear racist language, if they hear anything being said, that's, you know, chauvinistic or derogatory against any group of people that they stand out against it. And in fact, my son recently came home from afterschool program saying that he didn't want to go anymore. And I said, "why?" And he said, because my friend who has special needs, all of the kids were calling her the "R-word." And I stood up to them and told them not to use that word. And they started making fun of me. And I told him , "Nicholas, that is the bravest thing that you could possibly do going against the crowd and standing up to defend the person that all of those other kids are attacking. It's putting a target on your back. You took it off of her back and you put it on yours and that's courage." And that's what I want them doing throughout their lives. So again, I don't sugar coat things. They know what happened in the news last year. I don't keep that from them. I need them to understand, I need, I know Kim that I spoke to them about the fact that you have to have a completely different conversation with your sons than. I have to have with my kids when it comes to respecting the police, for example, or how to behave, if they're ever pulled over. And I explained to them what it means to be pulled over for driving while black, and that they're never going to understand what that feels like, but they need to know that it happens and they need to stand up and speak out anytime that they find out that something like that is happening. So again, I take my job in terms of preparing them for life and I'm getting like teary I talking about this, but I take that very, very seriously because they have a responsibility through life to be an ally, to those who don't have the ability to speak up for themselves.

April Abele Isaacson:

And that's a real testament to you as a mother. And it just has a person and just, I don't think people can thank people like you enough for what you do. So, so thank you for paying that forward so to speak. One of the things I wanted to ask you about as a woman who obviously has been a first or an only, in many instances in your career, what advice would you give to some of the younger women and men out there who may find themselves as first, or only for example, on a meeting, boardroom deposition, courtroom, et cetera.

Cecilia Andrews:

Be brave, be authentic, but also be humble. I think that sometimes you do need to sit back and observe what's going on around you learn the dynamics and think about it and think about how you can fit into those dynamics in a way that is harmonious. And that doesn't necessarily cause conflict or clash because sadly, I do think you win more flies with honey than with vinegar. And I think it takes that ability to step back to sometimes be quiet initially only because inside your head, you are putting together your plan. You are figuring out how you can build your brand in this world that isn't going to accommodate itself to you. It's again, something that I teach my kids all the time when they're struggling with something, I remind them the world is not going to bend for you. You have got to figure out how you're going to bend and twist and fit yourself into this world. So I would say the same for people starting out is to be observant, initially, be authentic and figure out how you can bring your authentic self to the table. And start building your brand. As I did prove yourself, where you can take the opportunities to provide the best work product that you can. Speak up at every meeting, make sure that you have one thing to say that's valuable and find your champion. And, I think the thing that we have to remember, whether we are women or minorities, and I don't mean minority in the racial or ethnic sense, I mean, whatever kind of minority you are, whether it's that you come from a different educational background, whether it's because you practice a different religion or no religion at all, whatever it is that makes you a minority don't think that it only has to be people who are similar to you, who are going to be your champions. Oftentimes you need to look to those who may be in the majority. Those who actually do have the ears of the people who you want listening to you. They may be your best champion because they are already taken seriously. So if you can earn their trust, if you can demonstrate to them that you are a valuable asset to your law firm, to your company, wherever it is that you are, other people will then have trust in you.

April Abele Isaacson:

Cecilia, I cannot tell you how inspirational you are and just what a phenomenal woman you are. It was such an absolute pleasure having you on Sidebars today and really want to thank you.

Cecilia Andrews:

Thank you so much for having me do both are inspirational to me, to Kim. I have loved working with you and love that I can call you both my friend and outside counsel.

Kimberlynn Davis:

Ditto. Did I not tell you guys that you would love her. Thank you, C. I mean, candid as always just as real as you always are. Thank you so much for being you.

April Abele Isaacson:

Thank you for joining us today. If you enjoyed sidebars, we invite you to check out the Kilpatrick Townsend Medicine and Molecules blog at kilpatricktownsend.com to read, watch, and listen to other related on patent law. We'll also put that information in the show notes. The opinions expressed on this podcast are own and are not those of Kilpatrick Townsend.

Kimberlynn Daviskimm:

Also, we would love it. If you would rate us or leave a review, it helps others find the show. See you next time.