GC Fireside

TechGC chats with Jeff Lambert, Chief Legal Officer at Talend

Jeff Lambert
April 19, 2022

Tell us about your current role as a Chief Legal Officer...

I joined Talend in November 2021 as the company’s first Chief Legal Officer.

In this newly created role, I am responsible for guiding an exceptionally talented global team of legal professionals that helps drive the company forward toward its operational goals, while minimizing any legal risk. I bridge the gap between our legal business obligations and the value it can bring to our organization.

Talend is part of an extremely interesting industry. Data drives many business decisions, and the pandemic accelerated the need for companies to migrate to the cloud and rely upon modern data environments. In that rush to bring data into the hands of many, the chances for unreliable and ungoverned data are high. Talend is focused on getting healthy data into the hands of as many people as possible to make better, faster business decisions.

Why did you select Talend?

I’m thrilled to be part of this team. As a leader in data integration and data integrity, Talend is right at the heart of helping businesses change the way they make decisions. We continue to innovate ahead of the data industry and that is a big part of what drew me to Talend.

Talend is headquartered in the US, but many people are surprised to learn that Talend was founded in France over 15 years ago. A lot of that French heritage permeates our corporate culture and makes Talend unique from many tech companies today.

Talend is also very employee-centric. We have a dynamic and authentic leadership team that genuinely cares about the growth of its employees. This approach to management is clear in how we recently decided to move to a Remote First work environment where employees will have the flexibility to choose where (and often when) they work. Each employee has unique work circumstances, and offering this flexibility will optimize outcomes for all.

Talend is well positioned to solve the data health and reliability challenges that companies face every day. Talend’s people, technology, and leadership provide a solid foundation to scale Talend to meet the growing and critical needs of customers.

Why do you think the CLO role is so important for the data industry? Do you see it evolving as more and more data privacy regulations are introduced? 

Technology is shrinking the world by providing greater access to data, but the world still has geographical boundaries. This dichotomy creates unique challenges, and the need to navigate between countries, states, provinces, and more. Adding to the complexity are the ever changing and varying rules and regulations for each region as it relates to data. The world is becoming more complex, while technology is allowing it to be more readily accessible and homogenous.

How do the laws and the regulatory landscape affect your role as Chief Legal Officer?

As mentioned, the accelerated shift to digital modernization has caused an increase in rules and regulations related to data. Certainly, data privacy is an area that continues to evolve across borders and within countries. We continue to monitor and adapt our team to these changes as applied to our customers and employees.

The pandemic also drove a shift in how we work. This has created new ways to think about working in a distributed environment while continuing to drive innovation and a cohesive culture.  Talend’s recent shift to a global, remote-first workforce, has introduced the company to very different and constantly changing employment laws.. Kudos to our team for applying their expertise, being agile, and making this new, distributed work style a reality for the company.

Finally, as a leader in data integration, data integrity and data health, intellectual property remains a key area of focus for our team as we continue to grow and innovate our product portfolio.  

How do you, as CLO, keep your team and business up with the industry changes?

Every company is a data company. Data is used to help businesses understand their operations, their products, and their customers. For our customers and prospective customers to scale and compete, there is an ever increasing need for greater compliance, control and breadth of access over how their data is managed, accessed, stored, and used. For example, GDPR in the European Union has set off a ripple effect across the industry related to data security, access and storage.  This has paralleled or led to similar polices being introduced and implemented in the US across multiple states to shape data protection. Policies are also in place with regard to sharing data across borders. I’m certain these rules and regulations will continue to grow in breadth and complexity.

As a leader in the data integration, data integrity and data health industry, it is critical for our legal team to understand the implications of these regulations and apply them to how we manage the business and even develop products that can help companies comply with these changes.

Talend is in the data health business. How important is it for you/to the company to have healthy data when you make decisions? 

Having healthy data is critical in any organization. It’s what gives you that assurance that the data you are using for analysis and decision making is reliable and trusted. For the legal team, it’s essential that the data we have also be complete and healthy so we can feel confident about the counsel we provide. It’s about relying on the data that feeds into the reports you rely upon for decision makeing, for example, from source systems like Salesforce.

An example I like to bring up is the hypothetical of getting a boat from point A to B.  Perhaps you want to go from the mainland to an island.. Before departing, you may review local weather conditions, maps, hazardous points along the projected rout, and travel schedules of other boats in the area. After evaluating the various applicable data, you want the confidence of knowing the data will help you chart a safe course to the island that will avoid a collision with other boats, rocks or other hazards. But if any of the data utilized is not reliable, in the course chosen (or in the case of a legal team - advice provided) could be flawed, resulting in, e.g.,  delayed travel time, an accident, or something worse. Having healthy data is critical and it’s what we strive to make available to our customers and for ourselves.  

How do you build a legal team? 

When I joined Talend, I was lucky to have an exceptional team in place. As we grow our organization, I look for individuals who are eager to learn and demonstrate curiosity to work in house, because the demands are quite different from a law firm environment. It’s also important to have a strong desire to work across functionalities. Specialization is needed, but there are a multitude of things that the business will face, and it is important for our legal team to work across teams, be agile, and be prepared to provide counsel on a wide variety of topics—not just their unique areas of specialty or deep familiarity.  

Ultimately, my success is tied to the success of my team. It is particularly important to me that my team thrives and works in an environment that lets them do the best work of their careers. I value the diverse backgrounds that each person brings to Talend. I take it upon myself to make sure that I provide the guidance, opportunity, and resources that will help each member of the team build his/her knowledge, apply and expand their experience, and confidently provide legal guidance with cross functional teams across our organization.

I also always strive to have an up-front conversation with the Talend recruiting team to find and include candidates that are as diverse as possible. I want to make hiring decisions based upon a candidate pool with a broad array of backgrounds. Having that diversity is what drives unique perspectives and can help the team solve difficult problems in creative and different ways. If we all came from the same background, the team would never grow and have that dynamic quality that is needed to succeed.  Having different levels of experience, background, gender, ethnicity, and orientation help bring different perspectives that every team should strive to achieve. 

Do you look to hire generalists, specialists, or both? What lessons have you learned about hiring/team-building?

I think it’s important to have a good balance between generalists and specialists. This becomes critical as your business grows and you need to efficiently serve the variety of issues and subjects faced by the company. Subject matter expertise is certainly important, but at the end of the day everyone, to some degree, needs to embrace being a generalist that understands the entire business. At Talend we have our legal team structured so that we do have specialized groups, but we also make sure there is an overlay across all teams to watch for any issues or similar learnings that can be applied team wide.

For team building, I think one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is to understand what talent you have on your team. It’s important to understand how people learn and meet them where they learn so they can develop their skills and expand into different areas. To me this is a critical piece of success to give your legal team visibility into the broader picture of how a legal team can support a company’s entire value proposition. I know I’ve succeeded when my team understands how to protect the company as a whole, and provide legal advice in a way that allows the business to move forward in a practical fashion.

Jeff Lambert
Jeff joined Talend as Chief Legal Officer in 2021, and is responsible for its worldwide legal operations. As a 6X CLO/GC and former 2X Chief Corporate Development Officer, Jeff has over two decades’ experience leading Billion Dollar plus valued global, high-growth public and private software and technology services businesses. Prior to Talend, Jeff served as the Chief Legal Officer and head of Corporate Development for two flagship fund level, private equity sponsored platform software companies. Jeff’s tenure has been highlighted by the completion of over 50 M&A deals, including multiple successful exit events and an IPO.