Episode 38

Product Counseling at Nest, Apple, and a Climate Change Startup: Vineet Shahani, GC, Mill

Episode summary

Introduction: 0:00

  • Introducing Vineet Shahani, General Counsel, Policy and Corporate Development at Mill.
  • Formerly serving as Director of Legal at Google, Deputy General Counsel at Nest before, during, and after acquisition, Senior Legal Counsel of worldwide operations and product at Apple, and lawyer at Latham & Watkins.

Explaining Mill and its environmentalist mission-oriented concept: 2:22

  • Targeting low participation in personal and municipal composting campaigns.
  • Creating a better user experience for composting with a product that reduces food waste, landfill, and methane emissions.
  • Transforming experience with internet of things products at Nest to directly target consumers before scaling out.

Considering work in an ESG (environmental social governance)-related company: 8:01

  • Breaking down a politicized word and concept to tackle a climate change issue that everyone confronts.

Advice for lawyers who want to work on climate issues: 10:18

  • Drawing parallels between environmental legal and compliance work to privacy issues.
  • Recognizing the generational divide between competing interests.
  • Entering the field and elevating yourself to a legal expert through a passion for the environment.

Beginning your path to a full-time counsel role as an outside advisor: 14:41

  • Developing strong relationships with a network outside of the legal community.
  • Finding the confidence to make the ask.
  • Ensuring that your advisor role delivers value to startups offering a share of their limited resources.

Unpacking the phrase “hitting a single:” 18:15

  • Charting a narrative for your own career after enduring a layoff or economic downturn.
  • Weighing the opportunity cost of staying in a job for an extended period versus moving forward to new roles.

Defining the responsibilities of a product counselor: 22:25

  • Pinning down a variable definition.
  • Embedding lawyers into the product development process to ensure that they make it to market without issues.
  • Receiving invitations to product meetings with engineers because your interest in the product beyond legal shines through.

Lessons about product counseling from Apple: 25:39

  • Counseling on different considerations throughout the development process and after the product hits the market. 
  • Taking on the role of precedent keeper.

Transitioning from Apple to Nest: 27:36

  • Dealing with the loneliness of leading legal in a small company without the aid of a large team or outside counsel.
  • Recognizing that doing everything 100% correct in a small company means sacrificing results.
  • Ironing out legal issues in waves as you bring a first product to market.

Leading legal at Nest through an acquisition by Google: 31:37

  • Being one of the reasons that Google restructured as Alphabet.
  • Taking freedom from ownership to pursue an alternative, non-ad-driven revenue plan.
  • Experiencing diverse product and legal issues as Google rolled Nest into its core product.
  • Acknowledging bias between startups and large companies, as well as older and younger startup workers.

Assisting on a political campaign: 37:42

  • Working on an early campaign for Illinois congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi.
  • Using politics to connect with people you would otherwise be unable to meet.
  • Developing relationships as a young lawyer with CEOs interested in the political world.
  • Discussing a future relationship to politics.

What you wish you’d known as a young lawyer: 41:28 

  • Resisting the tendency to think of things as linear.
  • Accepting the fact that you don’t have full control over your journey.
  • Nurture faith in your own abilities as a good communicator.

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Tyler Finn
Head of Community & Growth, SpotDraft
Vineet Shahani
General Counsel, Mill

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