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This article features highlights from episode 11 of our podcast, The Abstract. You can listen to the full conversation here.

Some people are born with an innate sense of curiosity and an insatiable urge to experiment. Meet Evan Ferl, the current Chief Strategy Officer at Bambee, who was formerly the General Counsel and VP of Strategy and Corporate Development at Poshmark.

Evan kicked off his career at NASA but soon discovered his appetite for strategy was too big to ignore.

This marked the start of his transformation from a legal expert who had a hand in strategy, to a strategist who understands the legal landscape like the back of his hand.

For Episode 11 of The Abstract, we sat down with Evan to delve into his fascinating career path that strays from the norm. He describes his continuous career exploration as, "constantly figuring out who I want to be when I grow up."

Ignoring titles and following passion

When Evan Ferl walked out of law school, he felt somewhat aimless. He didn’t have his whole career planned out. But it was after he started working at NASA that he really found his footing.

“What I loved to do was working inside of organizations and using legal as a means to an end and influence a business or an organization positively.”

But NASA was going through budget cuts, and Evan was left to rethink his career path. He aimed for the next best thing: Silicon Valley.

Evan took the road less traveled by going in-house directly without passing through the conventional law firm route, a choice that earned him more than a few laughs from his law school buddies.

"All my buddies from law school were laughing at me, saying, 'You're ruining your career. You’ve got to go work at a law firm.'"

But he stuck to his guns, and it paid off.

"I didn't ruin my career. Everything is working out just fine. I'm really enjoying what's come of it.”

One of the key takeaways from his experience, especially during his time at a company that went through five acquisitions and a major technological shift from on-premises to the cloud, is the value of diverse experience over high-profile titles.

"I was handling M&As and IPs, while some of my buddies who laughed at me for taking what seems like a little piddly in-house gig were writing the same motion that they had been writing since they got out of law school."

Evan candidly advises not getting too hung up on titles.

"I encourage every person, early on in their career—or at any point in your career—to take the job that you're excited about. That's going to increase the neurons firing in your brain more than the title, because the title really doesn't matter eventually. What matters is what you're doing."

Evan further elaborates on this by recounting his personal choices.

"I've passed up cool titles and way more money to do stuff that I really, really like doing. Money is cool but no amount of money can outweigh the fun stuff that you get to do that you're really passionate about.”

Going beyond legal to delve into strategy

When Evan first joined Poshmark, he worked primarily in a legal capacity. But he wasn't content to just stay in his lane. Over time, he began having conversations with the CEO and other executives that transcended typical legal issues.

"It wasn't just about the state of our business; we talked about the state of the entire ecosystem, like what kind of feature sets were out there, who was getting funding, what our beliefs were on the future, and more.”

Being business-minded

Evan didn't restrict himself to legal conversations. He dove deep into the nitty-gritty of the industry, sharing his perspectives with the leadership team.

The turning point for Evan came during a company event where he found himself "jamming on a bunch of different industry ideas" with the leadership team. His mantra? Don’t be afraid to share ideas.

“I was not just providing legal guidance or business guidance but a gut understanding of the industry, which showed the leadership team that I was engaged. I was actively thinking about this stuff: what other players are doing, the positive and negative impacts on it. I was then contextualizing that into my work.” 

Being outspoken, even if you’re wrong

Evan admits he wasn’t always the most vocal in the room.

"Once you get into the room with everybody, it can be scary. You think, ‘Should I say anything or should I just shut up and nod my head?’"

But he saw a direct correlation between the people who "got stuff done in companies" and those who were "outspoken in meetings." The lesson?

"Remove that need for embarrassment and just lean into it. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and spoke up to realize that I may not always be saying the right thing, I may get things wrong, and I may have the wrong intuition. But I’m always able to have my mind changed and have the CEO let me know that I’m wrong.”

You can't make strides if you're constantly sitting on the fence. In Evan’s case, when the company was moving through a CFO resignation, he showed his interest in taking on more responsibilities.

“I said, ‘I would love for those additional responsibilities to be Strategy, Partnerships, Corporate Development, and things like building our ecosystem.’”

It was Evan's willingness to voice his thoughts and opinions that made room for his role to expand.

“I was pretty transparent about where I wanted my career to go. The GC still wants to be the attorney to the company but I wanted to be unleashed so I could conquer. The CEO was super supportive of it.”

The flexibility of the GC role

Evan makes it clear that the role of a General Counsel can be as flexible as you make it. Some GCs may be content to just manage risk, and that's okay. But Evan wasn’t one of them.

“The GC role, if executed correctly, can inject a ton of positivity and creativity into some of the complementary roles. But I think there's this idea that all we do is sit around and think about risk. Maybe some GCs do that, and that’s okay, but that's not me. If you can show your executive team, your CEO, and the board that you have the ability and the want to execute on greater things outside of your scope, you have an excellent opportunity to do that.”

By the end, Evan realized a fascinating transition had occurred in how people perceived him.

"I felt that previously I was known as the GC that did strategy and corporate development. Now, I'm seen as the strategy-corp dev guy that also happens to be the attorney.”

A bias towards action: Evan’s career and creative pursuits

For Evan, life is not just about following a linear career path but about nurturing various "side-hustles" that make his existence richer and more fulfilling.

"I just get super excited about stuff, and then I feel the best way to do it is just to do it. I hate when things just sit on my Google Drive as scratch notes that I haven't executed on, and my iPhone notes section is just full of business ideas. So, what I've tried to do is have a bias for action anytime.”

This hands-on approach is evident in everything from his ventures in real estate to his multiple business ideas.

"When I started investing in real estate, I thought ‘What's really the worst thing that could happen? What's the best thing?’ Maybe I lose the closing costs on some of these, but the best thing that can happen is that I learn a new industry and make some new connections there. Maybe there's some financial upside, maybe not, but I've had a good time. I can say that I've done it.”

For Evan, this excitement for life extends to multiple areas, whether it's joining a wood bat baseball league or spontaneously buying and selling cars.

"If you're excited about something and have the opportunity to do it, go do it. Don't wait because you may not be able to do it tomorrow, or somebody else may start doing it and you don't have the opportunity to do it anymore."

From real estate and consulting to passion projects like his newsletter Neatworking, which sprang from his resolve to reconnect with people, Evan dives into everything with the same fervor.

"Instead of sitting around and pontificating, I prefer, 'I'm just going to write an engagement agreement today and then we're going to sign people up and help them with their business, let's go.' That's how I operate.”

Evan's life serves as a testament to what one can achieve when they let their curiosity roam free. Not bound by conventional definitions of success, Evan shows how intertwining your career with your personal interests can not only be fulfilling but extraordinarily effective.

To listen to more of Evan’s insights on expanding the role of GC beyond the typical “risk manager” role, check out the full conversation on The Abstract.

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