GC Fireside

Becoming a Public Company GC

Susannah Wright
August 17, 2020

What made you want to practice law?

Growing up, people used to always tell me I would make a great lawyer because I argued about everything. It was in college that I really started to pursue an interest in law, particularly criminal law. I interned at a public defender’s office where I got to work on a few death penalty cases. One particular trial experience that stood out was a highly charged case where a police officer had been killed, and I was defending the defendant who was my age at the time, 21 years old. I remember thinking here we are at the same stages of our lives, yet our lives and experiences couldn’t be more different. This particular trial taught me the importance of upholding the legal process and making sure it’s followed accordingly, no matter how much emotion may be involved.

I learned a lot about the criminal justice process, which made me want to pursue a career as a prosecutor. Upstanding prosecutors really can make the biggest impact in the criminal justice system. I loved the courtroom environment and the research and investigating that went into it. Having to uncover the truth, that is what ultimately got me to law school.

Why was Credit Karma a good fit?

It has always been important to me that any career role I pursue is one that serves the public good. It was appealing that Credit Karma is a mission-driven company, and a mission that really resonates with me. I truly felt the company was making a profound impact on people’s lives. I’ve seen so many instances, even in my own family, of people not having even a basic understanding of finances, which can often times lead to devastating outcomes. At Credit Karma, we always put our members first, and I don’t think I would have left my prior job if that wasn’t at the core of our business.

Another thing that appealed to me about Credit Karma was the challenges that came with working at a  company in a period of hypergrowth, in a highly regulated industry. Its state of innovation was important to me as I always encourage myself to embrace change and to recognize when disruption is taking place in an industry. This brings challenges and opportunities for law professionals to ideate ways of implementing innovation in a legal and compliant manner. In my previous roles, I had handled all types of regulatory issues, but I had never led an entire legal team. It was an opportunity to expand my skill set and learn what it takes to drive a company toward growth.

What was the biggest learning curve shifting to Chief Legal Officer?

The biggest learning curve I experienced was not so much tied to the workings of the legal department, but rather the company itself. As part of the leadership team of a company with 1,100+ employees, it was important that I really learned the insides and outs of the business. There was no way I could do my job or lead a team successfully if I wasn’t an expert on all things Credit Karma, from both a legal and leadership standpoint.

How do you manage a team as a legal leader?

I owe a lot of my expertise to my mentor Seth Weissman, the general counsel at SolarCity who hired me for my first in-house role. He taught me so much about team leadership and how to build a high-functioning, collaborative legal team. A few principles and skills that have helped me succeed in this management role, include:

  • Maintaining the “servant leadership” philosophy — putting the needs of my team first to help them perform at their optimal potential. This approach results in my team putting the needs of our members first, which is our core principle at Credit Karma. Our CEO Ken Lin truly exemplifies this approach and really takes on a humble leadership role, which I always try and emulate.
  • Being open to feedback and surrounding myself with people who have more expertise than me.
  • Understanding how to let go and delegate. Trusting and relying on my team to take on tasks that allow me to focus on the things I can add the most value to, while fostering a team that maintains  trust with one another.
  • Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable

What do you look for in legal candidates?

Credit Karma has experienced tons of growth this year. We announced a major growth milestone of more than 100 million members on the Credit Karma platform, we launched Credit Karma in the UK and we launched Credit Karma Savings, our first step towards helping our members with their assets.

I look for the following types of qualities in candidates:

  • A passion for helping others. Credit Karma is built on the trust of our members and it is vital that our team is passionate about serving our members because that’s the only way we can deliver on our company mission to help our members achieve financial progress.
  • Understanding what it means to be a good business partner by practicing collaboration and being open to feedback.
  • Solution-oriented — being comfortable and confident in addressing new questions no one has asked before.
  • Being curious and finding new and creative solutions to problems.

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