FinTech Female Fridays: Adrienne Valencia Garcia, Senior Blockchain Counsel and IBM Executive
"The studies show that diversity is good for business and we all benefit from having diverse points of view based on different experiences, and yet we still have so much work to do. The key is giving everyone a seat and a voice at the table."
You began your career as a litigator. Did you ever see yourself one day working for a technology company?
Not at all. As the first lawyer in my family, I did not appreciate the variety of roles available to someone with a law degree, and I solely focused on law firms. Thankfully, I received the gift of candid feedback from a phenomenal woman partner who shared that I did not seem “passionate” about litigation. That one comment propelled me on a yearlong journey to find an alternative that would better fit me, which, to my surprise, ended up being a lawyer who negotiates complex technology transactions.
You have been with IBM for over a decade, how has the company changed over the years? How have you adapted to these changes?
IBM has always been a trend-setter focused on innovation. For example, we were investing in and working with AI well before it was mainstream. The same is true for our enterprise blockchain business – we were already expanding the use of blockchain in 2015 when others only associated it with cryptocurrency. Being with IBM has continuously forced me out of my comfort zone with unique opportunities that have made me the business-minded lawyer I am today.
You co-founded the IBM Women's Law Community to promote networking and development opportunities for members of the Law Department. Was IBM or a particular team or team member especially supportive of this initiative? Tell us more about this initiative and what inspired you to start it.
The WLC came about because my colleague, Jannine Gomes, and I were new moms and we wanted to learn how the senior women within the law department juggled family and career. We floated the idea with leadership, and they were extremely supportive, encouraging us to go for it. At first, we co-hosted brown bag conference calls where we “interviewed” two senior women asking about everything from their career path and lessons learned to things they’d tell their younger self. We then posted the recordings as well as articles of interest on our internal webpage for anyone to access. It was extremely rewarding, especially when colleagues in all stages of their careers shared how valuable they found the sessions, and we were able to foster relationships we might otherwise have not made.
Blockchain as a Service (BaaS) by big Tech companies has become a huge trend this year. What is IBM doing differently than others?
It is an exciting time because it means blockchain has moved out of the hype phase. We officially launched our IBM Blockchain Platform in 2015. Notably, IBM was an early member, contributing 44,000 lines of code to Hyperledger Fabric Companies are now seeing the value of leveraging the technology beyond experimenting with pilots or a proof of concept. IBM has differentiated itself as a leader in this space by having flexible deployment capabilities that enhance the ease of adoption as clients are able to run their IBM blockchain platforms using multi-cloud environments - - ultimately enabling greater collaboration and consortia.
What is a current trend in Blockchain that you’re excited about? How do you see the future of IBM’s Blockchain involvement based on it?
I am excited to see companies quickly embrace blockchain to tackle the supply chain related challenges we’ve seen during the pandemic and how they will leverage the benefits of trust and transparency in blockchain as we look to eventually re-open communities. I would love to see IBM’s digital health passport platform called IBM Digital Health Pass become the global standard to support our return to work, school, travel and entertainment. It allows individuals to control what information they share, with whom, and gives organizations the ability to tailor their response to such information, all while abiding with IBM’s Principles for Trust and Transparency in protecting client data.
I see that you also are a volunteer at several organizations, including Diversity in Blockchain (DiB). Can you tell us a bit about your role there, and why you choose to be an advocate for diversity & inclusion?
DiB was started by five incredible women passionate about blockchain who saw the need to make the technology accessible to people from all walks of life. I attended some of their programs, and when they wanted to launch a NYC chapter, I jumped at the chance to co-found it with my good friend Rebecca Rettig. Our first event was oversubscribed, so we had to change venues at the eleventh hour which just validated the need for such an organization! It has been a wonderful experience to combine my passion for diversity with blockchain. As for choosing to be a D&I advocate, I subscribe to Verna Meyers’ quote: “Diversity is being invited to the party; Inclusion is being asked to dance." The studies show that diversity is good for business and we all benefit from having diverse points of view based on different experiences, and yet we still have so much work to do. The key is giving everyone a seat and a voice at the table. I want my daughter to have the benefit of environments where everyone’s viewpoint is valued, where we each take the time to identify our own unconscious bias (because we all have them!), and where we are surrounded by committed allies (or no longer need allies because D&I is the norm). ☺
Connect with Adrienne on Linkedin