Early this year, Stellar Women in e-Discovery began as a grassroots campaign to highlight and celebrate women in the e-discovery. We aimed to connect with individuals making their mark in the field through their career accomplishments as well as dedication to mentorship. My colleague, April, and I interviewed several stellar women in 2018 including Mimi Singh, Joy Murao, Terra Ickes, Caitlin Grzymala, Judy Torres, and Peg Gianuca.
The campaign has grown tremendously and even became an Innovation Award category at this year’s Relativity Fest.
In this final episode for 2018, April and I reflect on the conversations we had and connections we fostered this year. We also got to speak with Joy Murao—winner of this year’s Innovation Award in the Stellar Women category—and share our thoughts for the year ahead.
Specialist, Customer Advocacy
Team Lead, Customer Advocacy
Mary Rechtoris: Hi Stellar Women fans. My name is Mary Rechtoris and I'm sitting here with my colleague, April Runft. We’re your hosts of Stellar Women in e-Discovery. We’ve spent much of this year getting this program off the ground and connecting with awesome women in the legal field. During this special edition, we're going to look back at 2018 and share some of our favorite moments, as well as what we've learned and what we're planning for next year. And, have a special guest join us. Before diving into that, April, can you tell us about how you launched the program?
April Runft: It came about for three reasons. One, we wanted a way to uncover new voices in the industry, sort of like an “everyday heroes” idea. [It was about] uncovering stories that we may not hear about otherwise. Two, we were looking to build a platform to explore other parts of the industry more along the lines of career journeys. This was something that we’d written about on the blog here and there, so we were following up on that and trying to bring those interviews and discussions to life with audio. Finally, it was an effort to build new relationships across the Relativity community and get to know them on a personal level and recognize that people play such a big role in tech. What we didn’t know then was that we would eventually get enough interest and support in the campaign to launch Stellar Women as a new category for the Innovation Awards.
MR: Looking back over this past year, what has resonated with you?
AR: Thinking about this campaign, given this industry, one of the things that I was so pleased to see was how open our interviewees were in each of our conversations. Even if you were 2,000 miles apart, it felt like you were sitting and having coffee with some of these folks. Also, [I learned] that it’s really hard to not laugh and say “mhmm” when you are doing an audio interview like you would normally do in person. That was a personal communication takeaway that I learned.
MR: I have learned that as well; I’m trying to cut that out. I think one of my favorite parts overall was hearing from some of the women we spoke to who’ve had a ton of outreach from colleagues, friends, and even people they haven’t spoken to in recent years. It shows that people are listening and fostering that sense of community, which is one of the reasons, as you said, that we started this campaign.
AR: So, Mary, you were a journalist by background and were a natural from the start at coming up with these [interview] questions. I’d like to hear from you: what was the biggest surprise or learning point for you?
MR: I’ve learned something valuable from each and every woman that I spoke to over this past year. They all have a ton of e-discovery experience. But they also taught me a lot about mentorship, leadership, and career development. I want to share a quick overview of what I learned from the five fabulous women I spoke to, including Judy Torres from Advanced Discovery. I learned that for teams to be successful, they can’t always agree. There has to be a diversity of opinions. Terra Ickes from Esquify taught me to not get overwhelmed by the small tasks and to see the big picture. Caitlin Grzymala from the Department of Justice Antitrust Division told me that sometimes you have to let plans fall to the wayside for a bigger objective. She started at the DOJ as a paralegal thinking she was going to go to law school. She found her skillsets and what she wanted to do aligned more with what she was currently doing so she didn’t go to law school. As someone that was also planning to go to law school out of college, I could really relate. Chris Chalstrom, from Shepherd Data Services, taught me how important your team members are to your growth. When I interviewed her at Relativity Fest, she kept bringing it back to her team which I thought was very humbling and awesome. [Please note, Chris Chalstrom’s episode is coming to the Relativity Blog soon]. Joy Murao from Practice Aligned Resources: I’ve gotten to know Joy really well over this past year not only from the interview, but when I met her in Chicago at Relativity Fest. She taught me the importance of being confident and owning your career. It’s reassuring to know this isn’t something that only I experience, but women and men throughout the industry and all industries experience as well. April, what you have you learned from this past year?
AR: From the two interviews that I was lucky enough to do, Mimi Singh was the first one we kicked off with. From Mimi, I gained an understanding about the concept of proportionality, not to take it back to industry stuff. Honestly, it was easier for me talking with someone one-on-one like that. The concept of proportionality in e-discovery—as you know, because you and I attended Mimi’s session at Relativity Fest and you did a summary blog post about that session——is very complicated. It was very enlightening for me to talk with somebody who has that depth of expertise in something that I heard about but hadn’t quite grasped.
MR: It is a tricky one.
AR: Yes. And I think the same for defensibility. She drove home the point about how important it is to document the processes that you’re doing in e-discovery. Overall, Mimi as a person really showed me and perfectly demonstrated that you can be legal and technical and warm and funny. You don’t have to choose among those.
Peg Gianuca, that was a more recent one that we did. I took away from that conversation the importance of bridging gaps. For her, that meant being a mediator for attorneys on the team and litigation support folks, which is the side that she comes from.
I took from her this idea that in most situations, no one is sitting there with the right or perfect answer. Finding the best solution usually comes from getting many people together and taking those diverse opinions [into account]. Those are my two standout learning points from my interviews this year.
Using what we’ve shared and learned overall, we have a great opportunity to do more with this Stellar Women campaign. We want to make it a community of women empowered to share their insight on the industry and lead the charge on being stellar in the field.
MR: But we can’t do it alone. We really encourage everybody to continue nominating stellar women in the field that embody this campaign’s core values. So, moving forward into 2019, we’re going to funnel all nominations into the pool for Relativity’s Innovation Awards in the Stellar Woman category. Speaking of, we have last year’s winner with us: Joy Murao. Hey Joy, are you on the phone?
AR: Hey Joy.
Joy Murao: Hey guys! Things are going well. Just hanging out here at work.
MR: At least you’re in L.A. It’s snowing here in Chicago, which is a bummer.
JM: Yeah, but I really do enjoy your seasons out there.
MR: Mostly fall.
AR: Summer’s great. So, Joy, thank you so much for being our first Stellar Woman for the Innovation Awards. Can you tell us a little bit more about that experience and what it meant for you to be nominated and ultimately win the award?
JM: First of all, thank you and Relativity for putting in all that time and effort in amassing all that information and talking to all the women. And, again, putting out those surveys. I applaud you guys. It’s a lot of hard work. I truly did not think I was going to win. I don’t know if I was jaded or what. But, becoming an entrepreneur and starting in my business now, I was always approached for different awards by different magazines; it was kind of funny because it was a pay-to-play kind of thing and it jaded me a little bit on the market. Like, Top Doctors in America, that’s actually a marketing campaign. So, I was really taken aback by how beautifully organized this was and how honest and real it was. I really do appreciate everything that you guys do that goes into the Innovation Awards. Being a judge [on the technology categories], that was really enlightening into the process. I’m still a little bit in shock, like, oh! Why did I get this award? I say this because you keep working and we’re not used to getting acknowledged. It is interesting as a person who keeps their head down and keeps working and you think you just do what you do because either they pay you or you love what you do. So, to be recognized is such an odd thing in our industry. It’s not as widely available to be tapped or given a pat on the back on such a large scale. So, thank you. To me, it was a beautiful representation of the 24 years I’ve been doing this. And, it culminated being in a room with so many of my peers that I’ve worked with in the past or work with now, or some of the vendors and service providers and technology companies that I’ve seen come up from the beginning. It’s a beautiful thing and I’m in shock.
MR: That’s awesome. It was really cool to see you at Relativity Fest and win the award. I remember reading your nominations; April and I were going through them. So many people had wonderful things to say and meeting you in person, that really rang true. Something that April and I were talking about for this podcast, we’re trying to do it on a larger scale in 2019. We’re still going to do the podcast interviews. But, we want to make it more of a community, so I’d love to hear from you on what you’d like to see from the Stellar Women campaign moving forward in 2019.
JM: Thinking about this, I want to thank you for allowing me to bring the Empowering Women Workshop to the luncheon [at Relativity Fest]. I have been approached by many women saying thank you and [received] congratulatory emails from our entire industry. I was just in Ireland at a legal tech conference and a woman came up to me and recognized me. She congratulated me [on the award]. It was so strange to be somewhere where I knew almost nobody and for someone to come up and say: “Congratulations! I went to your Empowering Women Workshop at Fest.” It was beautiful. What I think would be awesome for next year would be doing this more as almost the empowering women network where we can bring up more of these stories, so people know they’re not alone. A lot of what I said [at the luncheon] resonated with women and men. There were some men who were there and came up to me afterwards and thanked me for the Passion Planner, which is really nice. There are challenges for all of us in this industry and [it’s important] to know we’re not alone, to hear people’s stories, and to take those lessons learned or some practical tips on how a person handles that situation. Obviously, everyone had different ways to approach a problem, or some brought creative points of view to different things we were talking about. For me, I would enjoy seeing more education, like the podcast, or more information available to women across the country, if not the world. Relativity is all over. The reach that Relativity has is amazing and the support you can give to women and the industry is amazing. So, when you ask what you can do specifically: bring more education or more of these topics to the public.
MR: That’s really helpful.
AR: I love that.
MR: Closing here, 2018 has been a fantastic year. Moving into 2019, stay tuned for what the campaign will hold. April, Joy, and I really encourage everybody to keep submitting stellar women in the field. We want to read them, we want to learn about them, and we want to profile them.
AR: Listeners, keep reading, keep supporting, and keep nominating people you know in the industry doing great things. So, for Stellar Women in e-Discovery, I’m April Runft.
MR: And, I’m Mary Rechtoris, signing off.
Mary Rechtoris is a member of the marketing team at Relativity, where she specializes in customer advocacy.