Can you tell us about your role and what you love about it?
Working for a homegrown entertainment company that brings laughter, tears and drama into people’s lives makes me happy. I love being able to talk to friends and random strangers about what Sky does and unashamedly plug the huge variety of content on Sky TV and our streaming services Sky Sport Now and Neon (yes, just like that!). Pretty much everyone likes to yarn about what TV shows they’re bingeing or want the inside track on when the next season of a cult hit show will drop and of course, which sport events they can watch on Sky.
There’s five of us in the Sky legal team and we have the privilege of working with a breadth of talented people across the business, from content producers and curators, digital marketers, technology savants and customer care superstars.
Like most in-house legal teams, we advise all areas of the business, working on innovative cross-functional projects, challenging commercial transactions and your garden variety BAU. Since I started at Sky just under two years ago, I’ve advised on the acquisition and merge of Lightbox and Neon, led the launch of our new Sky Broadband business and undertaken an FTA overhaul of all of our customer facing journeys; all great work to be involved in.
I really enjoy getting under the skin of a business and understanding what makes it tick. The opportunity to be a senior leader in an organisation like Sky, which is looking to transform and grow in a dynamic and challenging marketplace, is satisfying and super energising.
What have been your most recent challenges as head of legal and how did you address these?
Well there’s nothing like stepping into the shoes of your boss who has just ascended into the role of first female CEO of Sky to present some ‘imposter syndrome’ challenges!
Luckily for me, Sophie’s leadership style is all about empowering her senior leaders and encouraging us to bring our true selves to work so thankfully the expectation wasn’t that I step into her shoes but rather that I create a role of my own that was authentic and meaningful.
From a team perspective, by the end of last year we had been battling a fragmented working environment due to Covid, navigating a global pause on live sports and juggling large business transactions such as Sky’s capital raise. The legal team was very much head-down in the trenches for most of the year, embedded in the business and we hadn’t taken the time to come together as a cohesive legal team.
With this in mind, a key focus for me after becoming Head of Legal early this year was to take some time to wrap my arms round the team and provide some consistency and direction and importantly, to make sure we focused on celebrating the value we bring to Sky and our customers. We decided to apply for the NZ Law Awards In-House Legal Team of the Year to give us a reason to pause and reflect on our accomplishments. Fingers crossed we’ll be the first Sky legal team to win!
How do you manage demand to ensure you prioritise high value work in your legal team?
I think this is a perennial question that many in-house legal teams face. The tension comes with figuring out what work is ‘high value’ and what isn’t. Most of our business colleagues would consider that the work they do is of high value to Sky, deserving our support and attention. But high value for Sky doesn’t necessarily translate to high value for our customers.
One of the changes Sophie has introduced since becoming CEO is to encourage the business to develop a much more laser-like focus on how we can best meet our customers’ needs in ways that work for them. It’s evident to all that Sky is operating in an increasingly competitive marketplace and practices that might have worked 10 years ago won’t necessarily work today. The focus on our customers drives a lot of the triaging conversations we have with our business colleagues seeking our legal support. The question we always ask is whether the support they require from us is critical to delivering the best services for our customers and do the timeframes match that goal.
On a more granular level, in my years of working in-house in the UK and NZ, I’ve learned that a key approach to managing demand is to: set clear boundaries with business colleagues; communicate expectations on how to engage the team legal; and what thinking to do before coming to us for support. In my experience there is a real tendency for the business to outsource its thinking to the legal team – and whilst that might be flattering because it acknowledges our diligence, acumen and analytical skills, it inevitably adds to our workload.
As much as we love being part of the solution and being considered trusted business partners, there’s a danger when in-house lawyers lean in too much as we can end up disempowering our business colleagues. I’m a big fan of the legal team dedicating regular pockets of time to help lift the collective knowledge across our business be it with snippets of training or self-service tools or retrospectives on what we can all do better next time.
You have a background in IT related projects, what is the one piece of tech that would make your day easier?
I would normally say it would be a seamlessly integrated document management system that all lawyers dream of, but we implemented LawVu last year and it’s been very helpful on that front. Otherwise, I’d love a piece of tech that helped me focus on one task at a time without compromising my desire to always be responsive to the needs of the business. I suspect a mixture of tech and self-discipline will solve that particular problem!