Tell us about your background as a General Counsel and current career status…

I work at Five9, we are a cloud-based customer engagement platform that supports customer service organizations across industries that range from healthcare to retail and that interact with consumers globally.  I landed my current role through the Women’s General Counsel Network, where a fellow GC let me know about the opportunity and it turned out that their main outside corporate counsel was someone with whom I had many mutual friends.

How does your industry help define your role as General Counsel?

Our industry is at the cross-section of a number of evolving regulatory and legal frameworks, including telecommunications laws and privacy.  Because our enterprise software platforms enable interactions with consumers by voice (as well as video), we are regulated as telecommunications providers by the FCC in the U.S., and similar agencies in other countries, as well as state agencies, like the CPUC.  In addition, consumers can interact with the businesses who use our software through a variety of digital channels, chat, text, and the entire interface is more and more leveraging AI and advanced automation technologies that include things like biometrics, so we find ourselves having to parse through a number of privacy frameworks that  apply to our industry, including HIPAA, CCPA and, of course, GDPR and the ever-changing data transfer rules if we move data out of the EU.

There are several challenges our industry faces, but from the legal lens, two come top of mind:  (1) keeping pace to  make sure our company’s practices stay aligned with what is probably the most active government regulatory climate in the United States that we’ve seen in decades; and (2) striking that right balance between honoring individual’s rights to privacy and bringing advanced AI technologies to market so that our customers can offer customized, efficient service and engage with consumers in exactly the way consumers want.

How do you feel the General Counsel should act as a business partner?

As Chief Legal Officer, I have the privilege of interacting with team members across the company at all levels on almost a daily basis, whether it’s related to a contract, employment matter, privacy or IP, *and* I also get to partner closely with our CEO, CFO and the board members on matters of corporate governance, SEC and stockholder relations.  This truly is a wide scope of folks with varying degrees of expertise, experience and who have a variety of disparate issues.  All of this requires quite a lot of nimbleness of mind and spirit!

I have always perceived Legal as having a high impact on growth and corporate culture.  Because we do work across the entire company and touch so many matters, we have the ability truly to “walk the talk” of culture and be living examples of the company’s best.  This comes quite naturally for most of us GC/CLO types because we often are “raised” through our legal life knowing that this role often IS the keeper of the conscience of a company.  Sometimes it’s not easy to be the one to hold up that mirror but the top legal officer is one of the few roles in a company where not only is it expected to sometimes ask, “what kind of company do we want to be?  Is this aligned with our values?”  but it is often well appreciated.

How do you see the professional growth trajectory as a General Counsel?

I am someone who has always operated from a place of genuine curiosity.  This has enabled me to think of myself as an Executive first, CLO second.  I also have boldly taken on tasks that many thought unexpected and tackled new areas of the law that were not necessarily in my safe wheelhouse at the time. For example, going from a concentrated legal focus in IP to negotiating sales and partner contracts to taking a company public are all things I have done in my career.

I wanted to be a lawyer since I was 12 years old, and I also know that I don’t want to be just a lawyer for the rest of my working life.  I’m interested in flexing into other areas like corporate and business development, People and Culture, and, for what may seem like a real left turn (or maybe right?!) leading yoga classes, especially for the disabled and under-represented communities.  [I am on the board of Special Olympics, Northern California.]

What is the best advice you can give for In-House Counsel?

Learn to communicate effectively.  Whether it’s writing an email that your business partner will want to read or standing before a room of 350 or more delivering a training presentation, lawyers must concisely land their message to be effective counselors.”

Kimberly Lytikainen

Kimberly Lytikainen is the Chief Legal Officer, Chief Compliance Officer and Secretary for Five9, a public cloud-based software company that provides a customer services platform for enterprise, global businesses in a variety of industries, including healthcare, retail and transportation. Kimberly is a veteran leader who has stewarded teams and boards through multiple business and governance transformations. At Five9, she is responsible for developing and scaling a team to enable Five9’s hypergrowth while navigating complex regulatory environments with cutting-edge AI and automation technologies, and for partnering with the executive team and board to ensure the company’s alignment with expanding corporate governance demands on public companies.