This in-house counsel Q&A session features Frank McNamara, who was recruited by Carpenter Legal Search to be the first VP, General Counsel at Restek Corporation. Learn more about his experience, what he has found to be helpful in his career, and what he is looking forward to in the future with Restek.
What has been the most exciting facet of joining the Restek team as their first General Counsel?
The people and culture at Restek have turned out to be exactly as (dare I say better! than) advertised. The employee ownership culture is tangibly present everywhere, and you experience it in all interactions with my new colleagues. There is a fantastic sense of “we” and everyone working for the same common goals—across senior management with all employees and across all our global offices. It’s very clear to me why and how they have been so successful, and I’m thrilled to be part of that team now.
What was the sagest career advice you have received, and who offered it to you?
I honestly can’t think of any actual memorable words of advice that have influenced me over the years. But what I do remember very vividly are the behaviors displayed by an early mentor, and then friend and Partner of mine in my formative law firm Associate days. David Antzis was a senior Partner at Saul Ewing when I started there, and he took me under his wing when I was still very junior. The manner in which Dave conducted himself with me, other Associates, Partners, clients and, most importantly, opposing counsel has been a standard I have always tried to live up to in my professional dealings. Dave is an excellent lawyer, and he does that by being smarter and better prepared than the person on the other side of the table. He’s not louder or tougher or more grandiose. He treats everyone with grace and respect, and, at the end of the day, his success is evident. In addition, he always kept his personal life in a great balance with his demanding practice. I have always tried to model those behaviors as best I could for how I want to conduct myself professionally.
If you could pick just one attribute that most defines you and contributes to your success, what would that be?
Along the lines of the career “advice” I just described above, I try to treat people the way I want to be treated—with old fashioned professional courtesy and respect. In addition, I try to be approachable, self-deprecating, and easy to work with—regardless of where a person may sit on an org chart—to put people at ease with being around me. I guess that’s more than one attribute, but maybe it’s really all under the same theme!
Who have been the biggest cheerleaders in your life, helping you to grow not only professionally but also personally?
Without a doubt, my biggest cheerleader, both personally and professionally, has been my wife of 35 years, Cathy. As my career has taken several twists and turns over the years (including a turn in Asia for a few years!), she has always been there to support me, challenge me, pick me up when I need encouragement and apply a stiff kick in the backside when she knows I’m feeling sorry for myself or being too tough on myself. She has an innate sense as to when to do the right thing to help me get to where I want to go in my career.
What did you find to be the most challenging aspect of integrating into a new company?
It is always challenging to join a new organization and try to make those good first impressions, again. You need to learn and embrace a new culture, new internal processes, possibly a new business and, of course, navigate a new set of organizational politics. I think some of those challenges may be a little easier for a lawyer/General Counsel if we establish that, while new and still learning, we are there to enable the business to achieve its goals. When you arrive somewhere new eager to help, people tend to welcome you with open arms!
What is one thing you keep in mind as you look forward to your future with Restek?
While I may be in the “Back 9” of my career, I still have plenty to learn. I’m excited to learn a new business, a new way of doing things with an “employee-ownership mentality,” and how to be the kind of General Counsel a company like Restek needs. This desire to keep learning and pushing myself into new and sometimes uncomfortable places has always been a big motivator for me, and I hope to continue to learn and grow at Restek.
How was Carpenter Legal Search helpful to you during the search process?
Lori was a huge help to me getting to know Restek as a different kind of company and to really understand the kind of General Counsel they were searching for to be their very first one. She really guided me to learn more and more about senior management as well as the Restek culture. However, perhaps more importantly, she was both a sounding board and a “counselor” to help me through the job search process which is usually very stressful and has certain good days and sometimes some frustrating days. However, Lori was always ready to keep me focused in a very even keeled way to remain persistent and patient at the same time. I really valued her counsel to get to the finish line and find the right fit for me at this stage in my career. I can’t say enough great things about Carpenter Legal Search and everyone there!