Ana María Sarria, Legal Vice-President, Equion Energía Ltd
How long have you been working for your current company?
I have been working for my current company for 11 years
Briefly explain your career history and what led you to your current position.
I started my career as an assistant and junior lawyer at two of the most prestigious firms in Colombia – Gomez Pinzón Zuleta first and then at Brigard & Urrutia Abogados. The areas of practice were mainly taxes, exchange and corporate law. After that I joined the legal department of BP and started my career within the company. I feel that many aspects led me to my current position – first, the experience I gained at the law firms not only as a lawyer but also as a service provider focused on client management. Once in the company, the legal criteria along with a practical way to practice law gave me an important sense of how to add value to the business through my legal advice. In addition to that, my solid performance and the competencies on management and leadership I have acquired led me to be suitable for my current position.
What is your proudest professional achievement and why?
My proudest professional achievement is the career path I have had in this company since I started as a junior lawyer and very quickly escalated until I became the Legal VP without compromising my values, principles and work-life balance.
What are the greatest challenges that you face in your current role and what do you do to overcome them?
The main challenges I face in my daily job are mostly related to the shortage of resources, maintaining the internal client’s satisfaction, adding value to the business through our legal advice, keeping my team happy and motivated, and maintaining an appropriate balance with my personal life.
How difficult is it for you personally to attain work-life balance and how do you endeavour to do this?
Work-life balance becomes more challenging when rising through the ranks within a company and taking on greater responsibilities and more non-legal activities (mainly managerial tasks). I have been very strict with myself and others in maintaining my balance and always try to prioritize it over any job-related matter. My family and, particularly my husband, has been always very supportive and that, to me, is essential.
Did you have a mentor or role model in your career or while you were studying law? Who were they and how did they help you?
My former supervisor was a great mentor to me. I learnt from him how to be an excellent lawyer without compromising my principles and keeping a balance in my personal matters.
How effective do you think corporate diversity initiatives are? What methods do you think are most effective and why?
I think that corporate diversity matters are effective to the extent that they are sound, reasonable, credible and real. It is not effective when such initiatives sound like clichés or are “nice to have” issues. Rather, they create an important impact when they are genuine, and involve real and tangible models and examples.
Were there any points in your career when you felt you were at a disadvantage or at an advantage because you were female?
I have never felt disadvantaged for being a woman in my career.
What do you think have been the most significant changes for women in the legal industry over the past five years?
I think that women have gained an important place in the legal industry mainly because of their commitment and criteria. It is clear that the legal industry has been understanding and places a premium on such qualities in adding value either to firms or to companies. Nowadays, men are more conscious about the possibility of a woman excelling without having her personal priorities jeopardized.