Our former partner Gregg Melinson joined the Hewlett-Packard Company in September of 2011 as its Vice President of Global Government Affairs and Deputy General Counsel and was recently promoted to Senior Vice President for Corporate Affairs this past September. Gregg filled us in on his new role and how his mentors and friends at Drinker Biddle have impacted his career.
Q. Describe your current role and the career path that led you to it.
I'm now Senior Vice President for Corporate Affairs at the Hewlett-Packard Company (a proud Drinker client!), which means I’m ultimately responsible for protecting and enhancing HP’s reputation as a global corporate citizen with a broad range of constituents. I still have responsibility for our government relations efforts and a fair number of legal issues, but I also own all of our corporate philanthropy work, global citizenship, sustainability and social innovation, and various marketing and communications initiatives. The career path was simple luck – at Drinker, I was given the freedom not only to hone my legal skills, but also to do a fair amount of communications and marketing work on the firm’s behalf. And I also got to work for great clients like HP, whose general counsel Mike Holston (also a Drinker alum) gave me the opportunity of a lifetime. My government background started at the age of 9, when my dad ran for City Council in Philadelphia…. But once again, Drinker gave me the chance to improve my government skills by allowing me to take a leave of absence from the firm to serve as Deputy General Counsel to then-Governor Tom Ridge. The firm also welcomed me home when my work in Harrisburg was done, and I’m forever grateful for all of the training I received over the years, as well as all of the friendship.
Q: What do you find most fulfilling about your current role?
The scale of a company like HP (with almost 300,000 employees in 170 different countries) gives you incredible opportunities to change the world. At $120 billion in revenues, HP is a bigger economy than most countries – so when we talk, people tend to listen. That kind of influence comes with incredible responsibility, and one of the most gratifying parts of my job is carrying out that responsibility by making sure that the people and technologies of the Hewlett-Packard Company are used every day, not only to drive shareholder value, but also to improve the lives of people around the world. I have also found it incredibly fulfilling, in every organization with which I have been associated (including Drinker) to have had the opportunity to lead growth, working alongside incredibly smart and talented people.
Q. What do you find most challenging?
The most challenging part of the job – and I think this may be true at many, many places – is internal communication. If you think it’s difficult to get your message out to the more than 1000 folks at Drinker, try reaching 300,000….
Q. How was the transition in-house after practicing law for 20 plus year at Drinker Biddle?
Easy – my only regret was not doing it sooner. Not because I wasn’t enjoying my time at Drinker immensely – I was. But because I think all of us could be much better advocates if we better understood the lives of our clients. As Alfy Putnam might say, ”The way that can be told is not the true way.” If you want to practice corporate law (I don’t mean transactional law – I mean representing businesses), you really do need to spend some time walking in your clients’ shoes and seeing what it’s like to live inside a company. You can have the best legal judgment in the world – but it’s very difficult to deploy it effectively without understanding how it will be received.
Q: What skills did you learn at Drinker Biddle that you find most useful in your current role?
The ability to have difficult conversations with grace.
Q: Have you had any mentors throughout your career? If so, what have they meant to your personal and professional growth?
Too many to mention – it’s an embarrassment of riches at Drinker. From my earliest days as a labor lawyer, I was able to call upon the wisdom of mentors and friends like Jack Markle, Jon Kane, Freedley Hunsicker, Kate Levering, Frank Connell, and the not-so-old but very wise Tom Barton. I was able to learn from litigators -- like Pat Ryan, Ray Denworth, Alfy Putnam, Jim Altieri, Mike Holston, Seamus Duffy, John Schultz, and Wilson Brown – and transactional lawyers – like Dick Jones, Bob Shields, Bob Strouse, Dan O’Connell, and Harry Cherken. Showing up at Drinker in the late 1980s was like showing up for your first little league baseball practice and being told your coaches were Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Carl Yazstremski, and Richie Ashburn.
Q: Any hobbies, interests or favorite activities you enjoy when you are not working?
Watching my sons play lacrosse, soccer, baseball, and football. Traveling with my wife and family – particularly to see our many friends and family in Greater Philadelphia and at the Jersey Shore. Searching for a cure for gray hair.