Spotlight on Aryaka Women – Christiana Khostovan
This is the third blog in the March trilogy series putting a spotlight on “Women at Aryaka”. This time I get to sit down with Christiana Khostovan. Chris is Aryaka’s General Counsel and yet another exemplary woman leader we are fortunate to have in our midst. I had my trepidations quizzing the legal head, but working with Chris is a pleasure. She is a thorough professional with a great work ethic.
Enjoy this Q&A session with her.
[Shashi Kiran] Chris, where did you grow up? What kind of ambitions did you have as a young girl?
[Christiana Khostovan] I grew up in Hillsborough, CA where I attended the same schools that my two daughters now attend. I grew up very much wanting to become a lawyer and was incredibly inspired by a generation of women coming into the business world which catalyzed my move into pursuing a legal path. I was always very good with language skills, as well as an avid reader and writer. I felt that I was always a professional drafter, so the legal field was a natural progression of what came to me naturally.
[SK] I’m sure you’re clearly a role model for your daughters, but who were some of the women role models in your life?
[CK] I was blown away by Sandra Day O’Connor and thought that her being elected as the first woman to the Supreme Court was groundbreaking and served as a strong motivator for me. Women who could stand on their own two feet, no particular person, but a character type, really impressed me and drove me to wanting to be the same way. Female empowerment and a woman making a way for herself is very attractive to me and are concepts that I have taught and reinforced to my two daughters time and again. Christa McAuliffe was also a great motivator. A high school teacher who became the first American civilian selected to go into space. I thought that Christa, not being a professional astronaut and taking a scary thing like going into space and moving it forward, was a sign of brilliance and bravery.
[SK] Clearly you had the DNA of a lawyer. Was getting into the legal profession a natural choice then?
[CK] I attended UC Berkeley for my undergraduate studies where I studied and excelled in the subjects of English, English grammar, and English language skills. I did really well in my prerequisite classes for law school and that made me realize that the field of law is something that I would excel in. I found that I enjoyed writing and the process of drafting and that it is neat that people argue different sides and debate different sides. From there, the process of getting into the legal profession flowed quite naturally.
[SK] People fear lawyers or despise them. So, how do you make people like you?
[CK] Unfortunately, attorneys not being liked is a reputation that exists in my profession. I have been a manager to many people and have been colleagues with many people as well. My role as a lawyer is to be a facilitator, as I help take the goals of my colleagues and make them into realities. I lead this journey and if the people I work with fear me, it would be impossible for me to help them achieve their goals. I can only be an effective architect for legal transactions when people don’t fear me. If I am feared, it’ll absolutely destroy the essential component of trust that is needed for me to successfully do my job. With 25 years as a practicing lawyer, I have come to truly understand that fearing someone and respecting someone are two very different things. Fear is incredibly destructive.
[SK] 17 years at Franklin Templeton. Some years at various startups. Talk about this journey. What are some of your proudest moments?
[CK] I started my journey as a litigator in the late 1990’s which tied into the dot com era. I was one of the first technology transaction attorneys at my firm; many in the profession had no idea what that even meant except that there was this growing demand for technology development and licensing agreements, and we needed to build up the domain expertise to support it immediately. What bolstered my confidence to pursue this area was that I received the highest A in both my contracts and intellectual property classes, the core of technology transactions.
One of my clients at the firm offered me an opportunity to work at Corio, Inc., where they were doing something new called “Application Service Provider” where people could rent software applications, which is now known as SaaS. Corio was at the forefront at the time. Sound familiar in the context of rented network space and my current employer, Aryaka? There will come a day very soon where people, as a matter of course, aren’t running their own networks anymore and instead are finding it much more commercially effective to rent the network from reliable providers like Aryaka, very similar to as they did with software applications.
After Corio, I was offered an opportunity to build the Technology Transactions practice for the Franklin Templeton Companies. What started out as a two-man operation, 17 years later turned into a 120 attorney legal department, with a tech lawyer (me) as its Chief Legal Officer. I helped build this infrastructure with my colleagues and now being with Aryaka, this is my third run at building an infrastructure that is destined to be successful.
[SK] How did Aryaka happen?
[CK] I actually came across the company 5 years ago with the CTO at Franklin Templeton when I was the CLO there. We looked at Aryaka as an augmentation to our own network, eventually to be a replacement if the Aryaka technology proved to be viable, scalable, and secure. Aryaka wasn’t the right fit for us at that time but was certainly compelling.
Today, Aryaka has developed ground a breaking suite of products whose time has come. Outsourced network is the new SaaS and will replace traditional on-prem models for companies whose core competency is not in the network space, saving them time and money; mark my words. Network Security-as-a-Service will be the new SaaS. The company has hired a C-suite of seasoned professionals who have built successful businesses and has extremely stable funding behind it to enable it to take the company to the next level. These three characteristics collectively spell a great future for Aryaka. When this opportunity came about, I took it.
[SK] What would your advice be for women wanting to pursue a legal career?
[CK] Ladies, there is nothing you can’t do if you’re willing to work for it. The field of law is an extremely diverse profession because there is a lot you can do with it. One does not have to practice law with a law degree. Possessing a general legal background is such a facilitator to get into other settings and diverse career opportunities. Yes, the beginning of pursuing a legal career is challenging, as the legal curriculum is demanding and the Bar Exam pass rate is not that high, but if you’re willing to work for it, one most certainly can achieve it. I have 2 young daughters and I always share with them the importance of being able to stand on your own two feet. A sense of accomplishment and self-sufficiency is so important to possess.
[SK] If you were to build a brand new legal team, who would your first hire usually be?
[CK] Great question, as I’m a builder of legal departments! I have built 3 successful legal departments throughout my career and am looking forward to building one for Aryaka as well. The way that I go about building my legal team is to get a thorough lay of the land, while making sure that I’m not disruptive. I like to see where the gaps are and where the strengths are. I would also figure out what we need to accomplish in terms of achieving projected business goals. The team is then built from there.
[SK] What is your idea of fun?
[CK] I definitely love to spend time with my family and friends. I also love to travel, as one of my daughters loves to travel and visit new places, so my family will usually let her take the lead in deciding where we travel to.
[SK] I have to ask this. Have you ever broken the law?
[CK] Well, I’d say that I’m experienced enough and skilled enough to accomplish the goal without violating the law!