While you can’t choose your circumstances, you can choose how you react to them, says Shearman & Sterling’s Emma Maconick.
“If I could, I would tell the junior version of myself to focus on relationships because they will all matter in some way,” she says. “Giving without expecting anything in return will do more to enhance your career than anything else. The act of being a helpful, useful person in your network is an incredibly valuable skill.”
Seizing Opportunities Provides A Strong Foundation
“Meandering.” That’s how Maconick describes her career, which began in England in the mid- 90s. Back then, she was doing computer and tech work for corporate entities and capital markets. And the more she heard about private equity investing in the then-new “internet,” the more interested she became in the sector.
Thanks to a contact she made at a casual party, she ended up working for an Australian law firm’s Auckland, New Zealand office, which in retrospect she believes was an excellent career move. She found herself traveling up the career ladder, becoming a big fish in a little pond with tremendous exposure to a host of smaller tech companies.
Later on, thanks to a former colleague in the San Francisco Bay Area who knew she was interested in transactional law, she came back to the United States to work at Davis Polk. She worked there for several years before moving to Shearman in June.
While Maconick has spearheaded a variety of impressive technology projects, product launches and fascinating deals over the years, she is most proud of the teams she’s built throughout her career. “My legacy isn’t as much what I personally will do, but what the people I have managed will do,” she says. “I tend to give them a lot of rope to venture out on their own, but I am also there to catch them before they fall. My job is to make them not need me, but always want me,” she says.
Her current work is focused on data, sitting at the intersection of intellectual property, cybersecurity and governance. While an Economist article had famously stated that “data is the new oil,” Maconick goes a step further. “I think it’s even more elemental; it’s the new carbon,” she says, adding that everything will be data-driven, which is why issues around artificial intelligence and ethics and how we build the upcoming digital world are so crucial.
Standing Out To Get Ahead
Maconick recommends that professional women develop an indispensable set of skills, and put their own spin on it.
She says it’s imperative to find out what’s valued in a particular organization — whether it’s culture, sales, creativity or something else — and focus on that. “Nothing magnifies your voice more than being able to generate work for your team.”
As women move up in the corporate world, Maconick believes women can take advantage of their inherent disposition for being relationship and empathy-focused. As computers take over manual tasks, interconnectedness, an area where women excel, will be a real value driver, allowing them to understand clients and their business challenges.
“These skills can shift the balance of power in your favor,” she says.
Professional women can help uplift others through tiny, incremental changes. For instance, if there is a spot open on a key project, suggest it be staffed with a woman capable of doing the job.
Shearman places a lot of importance on diversity. The firm provides skill-building sessions such as “practice your pitch,” and encourages associates to take the time to participate in conferences. It also holds monthly meetings featuring new opportunities or support with professional growth.
Finding Balance With Varied Interests
Maconick is active with the national group Ellevate, as well as Shearman’s WISER (Women’s Initiative for Success, Excellence and Retention) group. She also sits on the board of Upward Women, which focuses on elevating senior-level women. “The key is to find or form your own stiletto network or book club or whatever works for you, as a way to connect with other professionals.”
Most of her time outside work is devoted to her two sons, ages three and seven. Although her schedule is limited, she also enjoys ceramic arts and pottery, which provide both a mental and creative boost.
A travel junkie, Maconick is proud of her 6 x 8 foot map covered in pins marking all the places she’s been. “My life is oriented toward the next cool trip,” she says, adding that her kids are becoming highly adept travelers as well. She continues, “I traveled a lot as a kid and love other cultures, food and languages; whether we seek them in the next state or on the other side of the world, I find it enormously enriching.”