Lisa Haugh, Former General Counsel for Achievers, works to grow her own organization just as Achievers helps other companies get the same buy-in from their own teams.
Editor’s Note: Lisa has since moved on to a new position as VP of People and General Counsel of Udemy in San Francisco. At the time of our interview, Lisa was General Counsel for Achievers and the article reflects her time in that role.
Lisa Haugh is the Chief Legal Executive at Achievers, a company whose business is to help companies around the globe engage, align, and recognize their employees resulting in higher retention and improved business results. Haugh’s work centers on managing the company’s legal affairs including commercial contracts, intellectual property matters, and compliance. Before coming to Achievers, Haugh served as General Counsel with Extole, a social media marketing company, and at Intraware, a SaaS company that provided digital file delivery and entitlement management. Before she embarked on a career in law she lived and worked in Japan where she taught English for a year. In addition to her work as General Counsel at Achievers, Haugh is an avid Ironman triathlete and spends time with her husband and two sons. Haugh has an infectious passion for life and work. In so, her role at Achievers feels like a perfect fit.
Haugh believes wholeheartedly in Achievers’ mission to improve the employee experience. Achievers helps companies empower their employees to really buy in to the organization and to their purpose in helping the company move forward. Haugh is a perfect fit for Achievers because she knew from an early time in her career that helping move a company forward was exactly what she wanted to do.
Populating the Frontier
Haugh graduated from Santa Clara School of Law in 1998. “It was the genesis of the dot com bubble,” Haugh remembers. She joined Preston, Gates & Ellis Law Firm and worked with corporate securities partners. “The Internet was a frontier that had yet to be populated. The joke was that if you had a ‘dot com’ in your name investors would just line up,” said Haugh. She found herself working on startup negotiation after startup negotiation. “I was a deal junky,” said Haugh.
Haugh loved working with entrepreneurs and dreamers. “I enjoyed the process of getting to know them and whatever they were building. I helped arrange the best deal possible for both parties. Then they would go off into the sunset,” said Haugh. As outside counsel Haugh helped to make mergers, acquisitions, and funding possible but then said goodbye to companies just as they were really growing. “[I was] handed [my] next deal and would get a pat on the back from the law firm…but I wanted to be a part of that journey of creating something, raising money and building something,” said Haugh. When the opportunity arose for Haugh to jump ship and go in house, it was a no-brainer. She wanted to be in the trenches building an organization.
A Purpose She Can Believe In
After working in several General Counsel roles since 2000, Haugh joined Achievers in 2013. Haugh really resonates with the purpose of Achievers. “We are evangelizing the philosophy that it’s all about the employee. If you have engaged employees then employees are giving more to the company and supporting customers. When you have happy customers they’re buying more. Then you have happy shareholders,” explained Haugh. Her own experience of hungering to be a part of a mission driven organization is a prime example of many workers’ innate desire to contribute.
She also knew a general counsel role was right for her because she enjoyed being a generalist. “There are a variety of issues you get to deal with. It’s always interesting and exciting… You’re getting to field input and hear about cross functionally what are the challenges presented to the company…Legal has the potential and opportunity to be a valuable resource,” said Haugh. She explained that in-house counsel brings a unique and important perspective to the business table: “Lawyers are trained differently from business people. You’re good at asking meaningful questions, have a passion for intellectual curiosity, you gather a bunch of data then synthesize it and present it in a very digestible format that provides different perspectives.”
For young lawyers who want to take a general counsel path like Haugh, she recommends digging down and being “good at whatever it is you pick: litigation, privacy, etcetera. Go in and learn as much as you can. There’s no other way of getting experience but putting in the hours and hard work and building a strong base of knowledge.” Haugh is a big proponent of failure: “You learn more from failures and tough transactions. Try and get in some sticky situations. Base knowledge [is only so helpful]; every lawyer has that.”
Her bottom line piece of advice to young professionals as well as workers in any field is to do work you love and to work for a company whose values resonate with your own set. She sums it up simply: “Life is short. Do something you love to do.” ♦
Lisa Haugh: the Well-Rounded Leader
In addition to working as General Counsel for Achievers, Lisa Haugh is a triathlete, wife and mother of two. As an executive who has achieved great things both inside and outside of the office, she shared some advice for business people with athletic ambitions.
On making goals like competing in the Ironman competition: “Just push your limits. You don’t know how far you can go until you push yourself that hard.”
On committing to aspirations: “There’s no ‘try,’ just do it.”
On impacting others: “There are different kinds of people looking at a mountain. Some people say ‘that’s a big mountain.” Some say ‘that’s a beautiful mountain.’ What I want to create is a generation of people who say ‘Let’s go climb that mountain.’”
On making time for herself: “You have to fill your own bucket first. Figure out that thing that puts you in the zone. You’ll be so surprised how everything else slots in so nicely.”
On how athletic goals affect other areas of life: “Having a goal, like Ironman, enables you to get in that flow in every aspect of life. Even though going to work isn’t going to help me with my Ironman goal, it makes everything run that much more smoothly.”