Sandra Reid G’98 serves as Senior Legal Director at the multinational technology and media company Yahoo, Inc. In my recent chat with Sandra, she really opened my eyes to the power of joining together expertise in the law with a strong generalist background in technology.
Sandra is a graduate of our Master’s in Information Management (IM) program, and she pursued the IM degree while simultaneously getting her Juris Doctor from Syracuse University’s College of Law. In fact, it was a law professor, the late Ted Hagelin, who originally introduced Sandra to the iSchool while she was taking classes in his Technology Transfer law program. Sandra emphasized to me how helpful her conversations with Professor Hagelin were in helping to sharpen her understanding of the ways that technology and the law interact and shape one another.
While technology law has appeared as a recognized area in books and journals since the 1960s, the exponential growth in this area really began at the dawn of the Internet age, right as Sandra was starting her Syracuse degree programs.
Before Google or YouTube even existed, Sandra recognized that both search services and user-generated content would carry immense legal risks as well as amazing business opportunities for the companies that implemented them.
Coincidentally, Jerry Yang and David Filo, the founders of Yahoo, had started their first Internet service right around the time Sandra arrived in Central New York. By the time she graduated, she had the notion that Yahoo might be the perfect fit for a lawyer with deep interests in intellectual property law and technology. After warming up her career at an intellectual property law firm, a healthcare company, and a mortgage corporation, Sandra began her stint at Yahoo in 2007 as Legal Director.
Nearly 200 Employees
Over nearly nine years at the company, her division has grown to close to 200 employees who provide risk analysis, legal services, and intellectual property advice – almost like a mid-sized law firm embedded within the complex environment of a multinational corporation.
In her current role as Senior Legal Director, Sandra supports mobile product development working directly with business teams, engineers and product managers. Her job is to anticipate the global legal risks associated with the launches of Yahoo’s new products and features. Her ability to foresee these risks requires a clear understanding of a range of technology decisions from the structure of a back-end product platform to the look and feel of the user interface on a mobile app.
You might not expect that a technology lawyer would have any say about the look and feel of a mobile user interface. Yet the likelihood of a company facing regulatory scrutiny in the U.S. or another country can hinge on whether a user clearly understands that activity is being tracked or information is being collected during use of an app.
On top of that, consider the dizzying range of legal environments where Yahoo operates its services. As every iSchool student should know, the telecommunications regulatory structures in any given country profoundly affect how information services are deployed and which services are available to users at what price. Working with country-based legal experts, Sandra has to predict how regulatory agencies across the globe will react to new products and feature innovations that Yahoo plans to introduce. Once she has assessed the probable risks, she then works with the engineers, product managers and business teams to figure out ways of mitigating the risks.
Technology + Law
Sandra accentuated how much she loves her work at the intersection of technology and the law, and she’s passionate about encouraging more women to pursue careers in the field.
That’s why Sandra has chosen to support the It Girls Overnight Retreat initiative that the staff members of the iSchool have run every fall for the past five years. If you haven’t heard of It Girls, the program brings together high school students from across the region to participate in a weekend event that is billed as “Hackathon Meets Slumber Party.”
The It Girls program has helped hundreds of girls refine their interests in technology, clarify their career options, and plan for the college admissions process.
Sandra has appeared at It Girls events, has provided financial support for the program, as well as mentors current students and alumnae who have attended the iSchool for their bachelor’s and master’s degree.
As we closed our conversation, Sandra outlined her advice to other iSchool alumni who want to stay connected or reconnect with the iSchool:
“Find some aspect of the iSchool student experience that inspires you and then make an effort to get involved.”
Thanks for that, Sandra, and thanks for your many contributions as a connected alumna.
There’s only one word suitable for describing your wonderful career experiences: Yahoo!