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Lalitha Gunturi, SABA North America Rising Star 2020

Friday, August 14, 2020 1:17 PM | Zaheer Samee

Lalitha R. Gunturi grew up in Dallas, Texas and earned her undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. She earned her law degree from  Boston University School of Law in 2005. From 2005 to 2009, she was an associate at Goodwin Procter LLP. Currently, she is Director, Legal Counsel at RSA Security.

In June, she was a recipient of the SABA North America Rising Star Award. The award recognizes a lawyer who is under 40 years old or has been practicing for less than 10 years and who exemplifies a broad range of high achievement in his or her practice area, as well as innovation, leadership, legal and community service and commitment to diversity.

Lalitha and her husband live in Bedford, Massachusetts with their two young boys, Nikhil (8) and Nishanth (5).

  • Most people from warmer climes who come to school in Boston return home after graduating. What made you stay?

When I was deciding on where to go for law school, my final two choices were staying at the University of Texas at Austin, where I did my undergrad, or come to Boston University. I had never even been to Boston before, but after a quick visit, I decided on BU, because I wanted to challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone for a few years. I never thought I would end up staying in Boston after graduation, let alone 18 years and counting! It was a bit of a shock initially to move so far away from home and leave my family and friends. Adjusting to the weather was definitely a challenge. I had no clue how to tie a scarf, or how to buy some basic necessities, like a serious pair of boots and a winter coat. It was a steep learning curve. I had a lot of fun as a summer associate in Boston, and the city grew on me. When I got an offer from Goodwin after graduating, and I met my now-husband around the same time, my decision was made to stay.

  • You earned your undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from University of Texas, Austin. What made you turn to the law?

My paternal grandfather in India was a lawyer. My father earned an LLB in India but never practiced. So the practice of law ran in my family. Parents will sometimes tell kids who argue a lot  they should or could be a lawyer when they grow up. Well, I used to argue a fair amount as a kid so I heard that advice often growing up. Heading to college, I actually wanted to be a journalist. I had even  served as the managing editor for my high school newspaper.   As you can imagine, it wasn’t so well-received by my parents.  So as a compromise, I studied electrical engineering, because I was very interested in technology as well. As it turned out, it’s been really a huge help to my legal career. The fact that I have an engineering degree allowed me to go into IP when I first graduated from law school. Even as an in-house counsel it helps me understand the technical side of things. Often I have found it gives me instant credibility when speaking with engineers and technically- minded people at my company.

  • You have had a pretty varied career so far with positions at a law firm and in-house at several different companies. What has driven you?

My first job was as an IP associate at Goodwin, where I represented global tech and life science companies mainly on patent and trademark prosecution as well as general licensing and other IP matters. I worked there for three-and-a-half years.

My first in-house positions were at software or hi-tech companies where I focused mostly on IP matters and on overseeing the company’s patent and trademark portfolios as well as licensing matters.

After a few years of practice, I realized I was interested not only in IP law, but in  other areas of law as well. When I decided to make the move to be Associate General Counsel at Arbor Networks, it was a purposeful decision to become more of a generalist as opposed to continuing on my path as an IP attorney. At Arbor, I was hired to manage a team advising on global commercial agreements. In addition, I was tasked with providing legal advice to the management team and other business leaders on a wide variety of legal matters.  On any given day, I could be advising the company about matters relating to employment issues, revenue questions, or sales contracts.

Last year, I joined RSA Security, which is currently a part of Dell Technologies. But shortly after I joined, we found out that RSA was to be divested, and bought out by outside private equity investors. These past few months, we have been working on transition plans to become our own stand-alone company later this year. It’s an exciting time for RSA, and in some ways, it feels like a startup. Although it’s not the job I originally signed up for, which was working for a large, stable company like Dell, it has been fulfilling in its own way, and I am so grateful to be part of this journey.

Every time I have taken on a new position, it’s been with a goal – either to get new experience, more responsibility, or advance in some other way. For example, at smaller companies, I acquired knowledge and experience, but sometimes there was no next step up on the so-called “corporate ladder." So I sometimes had to take the initiative and find my next role elsewhere in order to advance my career.

  • You have been quite involved over the years with both SABA Greater Boston and SABA North America. Recently, you joined the board of the Bedford Citizen, an online news source for the town in which you live. What other volunteer work have you done and what motivates you?

I served as President for the South Asian American Law Students Association (SAALSA) at BU, so it was natural for me to continue to be involved with SABA when I became a lawyer. I was on the SABA GB board from 2006 to 2010, and served as VP in 2011. Then, my husband and I had our first child and I needed some time to recalibrate between work, a baby, and my sanity!

In 2013, I joined the SABA North America Foundation, the 501(c)(3) charitable arm of SABA North America, because it allowed me to do a lot of work remotely from home or the office, given that everyone on the Foundation board was scattered across the country. I served as President of the Foundation from 2015-2016 and have remained active since, as a Foundation Champion. I also served as SABA NA’s VP for Affiliate Relations in 2017-2018.

The best part about being involved with SABA over these years is not only the leadership experience it has given me, but also a wide network of colleagues and deep friendships, not only locally in Boston, but also nationally.

My husband and I moved to Bedford in 2013. After I got over the initial shock of moving from city life to suburban life, I decided to get more involved in my local community. Like many minorities, South Asians may not always see diversity being represented in their local communities, and particularly in leadership positions. But that doesn’t mean we should not participate. We have to overcome any initial discomfort and try to connect with the larger communities, so that we can be in the room where things happen. Otherwise, we are partly to blame if our voices are not heard.

So, I want to be involved because this is the community where we decided to raise our family  and where my kids go to school. I realized that if I want to make an impact on this community we now call home, I should also invest some of my time and energy in serving on various local boards. 

It was so rewarding when my son came home from school excited to tell me about a new math game that a teacher was introducing in his 1st grade class. As it turns out, I served on the Grant Committee of the Bedford Education Foundation which raises money for our schools and teachers. My son’s new math game was something that we funded.

I’ve also had the honor of joining the board of the Bedford Citizen, an online news source established for educating the public about the local issues and events that affect the understanding and engagement of Bedford residents.  Whenever something that affects the Bedford community happens, the Citizen is at the forefront of the conversation.

  • Curious fact about Lalitha

Lalitha met her husband, Anil Ranganath (also a lawyer), at a SABA Greater Boston networking event!  She says she owes a lot to SABA GB, both on the professional and personal front!

South Asian Bar Association of Greater Boston, 16 Beacon Street, Boston MA 02108 | SABA GB is a 501(c)6 non-profit organization

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