When it comes to being stellar, our latest Stellar Women in e-Discovery candidate, Chris Chalstrom, says it comes down to having a fabulous team. As president and CEO of Shepherd Data Services and CEO of Sadie Blue Software, Chris has armed herself with a dedicated team that strives to tackle issues impacting the e-discovery space—and make professionals’ lives easier as a result.
A handful of months ago, I had the opportunity to speak with Chris at Relativity Fest. Watch the video below to learn about what drew Chris to e-discovery, what spurred her to found Sadie Blue, and the key difference between yoga and Pilates.
“Chris is a pioneer and visionary in the field of e-discovery. She founded Shepherd Data in 2002 when e-discovery was in its infancy. She has built a diverse, dynamic organization that is focused on outstanding customer service and provides its employees with an inclusive, supportive work environment. Chris is an attorney, programmer, certified trainer, certified forensic investigator, and a great leader.”
– Joy Solomon
Mary Rechtoris: Hello Stellar Women listeners-turned-watchers. I'm Mary Rechtoris, part of Relativity’s customer advocacy team, reporting live from Relativity Fest. Today, I'm joined by our latest Stellar Women nominee, Chris Chalstrom, who is the founder and CEO of Shepherd Data Services. In addition, Chris is a finalist for our Innovation Awards in the People category for Stellar Women, which is very exciting. Chris, thanks for joining me today.
Chris Chalstrom: Thank you for having me.
MR: How has Fest been treating you so far?
CC: It's good. The first day is always a little bit overwhelming. But, then you get into the groove and you see familiar faces, and it's really fun. It's nice to see everyone. I loved Andrew’s opening because he just totally geeks out and that resonates with me.
MR: Did you like the mariachi band?
CC: Yeah, I thought that was pretty funny and I loved the opening sequence.
MR: Our creative team is funny. So, Chris, before we dive into your career, I thought it would be fun to do an icebreaker activity. If you’re game, I’m going to say a word and you would say the first word that comes to mind. Ok, ready?
CC: I’m ready.
MR: Shepherd Data Services.
MR: I love that. So, from Shepherd Data Services, one of your colleagues nominated you for the [Stellar Women] campaign saying you founded the company in 2002 when e-discovery was in its infancy. What motivated you to found it at that time?
CC: Well, I was a practicing attorney and started up a law firm on my own after clerking for a judge and ran it for several years. It got to the point where I had this case that was full of paper and it seemed really silly to be hauling around all of these boxes. I thought: “Well, what can I do?” So, I digitized everything and I was hooked. That was the start, and I worked for another e-discovery company for a while, actually [I worked for a] couple of them, and eventually decided to start my own. It made sense. I love technology. I had no five-year or 10-year plan. I just followed my heart. I thought it was cool and geeky. It organized data which I thought was great. There is enough conflict in the law and we don’t need it with our case management so that’s how I did it.
MR: What’s next for Shepherd Data? Where do you see yourself in the next five to 10 years?
CC: I see us optimizing analytics more; I think that is the way of the future. We will probably move toward cloud-based applications rather than doing hosting ourselves. I think that makes sense to consolidate resources. Also, we started up another company too called Sadie Blue Software. I started that with two colleagues: Brandon Ward and Ben Legatt. We developed software for the e-discovery industry. We had an issue at Shepherd Data where we had to track projects and there so much to do and so much to track. We had Whiteboard, Excel spreadsheets, and email. It was difficult to track all of that. We started looking at different applications we could use, and we didn’t like any of them. So the three of us, Ben, Brandon, and I, sat down and thought: “What is the ideal application and what would it have?” So, we listed it out and we created Agility Blue.
MR: When was that?
CC: That was about 10 years ago. It sat within Shepherd for a long time, it was called ‘Sets.” And then we thought we should share this with people because it’ll make their lives so much easier. And as Andrew said in the keynote, it makes their lives more fun. Funner?
MR: I use funner—it works!
CC: Like I said before, there is no reason to make life difficult. We already are in a difficult situation with litigation. It doesn’t have to be that way with case support or case management software. That’s why we did it.
MR: Switching gears a little bit here, what is something you like to do outside of e-discovery and technology?
CC: I am a certified Pilates instructor.
MR: What is the core difference between yoga and Pilates? I do yoga, but my mom tells me Pilates is where it’s at.
CC: Yoga is more of a static move, you find a move and you hold it. You still use your core. Pilates is more of a motion and it’s very dynamic. They still emphasize the core, it’s just how you access that core. Pilates’s catchphrase is ‘a body in motion.’
MR: How long have you been doing that?
CC: Seven years. I just recently started going through the certification process.
MR: That’s hard from what I’ve heard. Right?
CC: It’s very hard. It’s mentally challenging because you have to know medical terminology. You also exercise a lot so it’s a stressor on both of those levels.
MR: For sure. What does it mean to you, Chris, to be a stellar woman in e-discovery?
CC: It’s actually very humbling because I know that it’s not all about me. I’ve been very lucky to have fabulous team members and I am very thankful to the team I have right now. I have three people from Shepherd with me here [at Relativity Fest]. Brandon has been a great colleague. Ben has been wonderful. We started Sadie Blue. We also have Jen Stegora. I’m so thankful; I wish I could name all of them. It’s not just about me; it’s about the entire team. There’s no way I could have done that on my own.
MR: And your team is based in Minneapolis. What’s on the agenda for Chicago sightseeing?
CC: We are spending some time at some restaurants. Brandon and I already went to Smith & Wollensky and had our steak dinner. We may check out a couple of museums; the Shedd Aquarium is always wonderful. We love Chicago.
MR: You have to see the beluga whales. I love them. Chris, thanks so much for being here. It was really fun.
CC: Thank you.
MR: Of course. From Stellar Women in e-Discovery, I’m Mary, signing off.
Mary Rechtoris is a member of the marketing team at Relativity, where she specializes in customer advocacy.