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specialized in negotiating a broad range of technology transactions. But unlike most of her colleagues and counterparts, she did not begin her career at a fi rm. She started off as staff counsel in New Jersey at Lockheed Martin IMS Corporation, a then- subsidiary of aerospace, security. and technology conglomerate Lockheed Martin Corporation. Unlike other Lockheed Martin companies that went after federal contracts, IMS, the information management services subsidiary focused on state and local contracts, managing child support and parking ticket collection for vari- ous municipalities, and implementing the E-ZPass on New Jersey and New York highways. It was there that Walcott discovered her interest in technology transactions. Four years later, Walcott moved to

DSET, a New Jersey-based software startup. “It was an entirely diff erent atmosphere from what I’d known— everybody wore jeans to work and there was foosball in the offi ce,” she says. “At

other ideas. “She advised a fi rm. She promised it would round me out, so I did as she suggested and joined what was then Shaw Pittman. “For me it was like going back to

school. I used it as an opportunity to sharpen my skills. During my four years with the fi rm, I improved my drafting and other core skills needed to be a high-impact adviser. Also, I learned to be a better advocate and better lawyer in general. By the time I arrived at American Express, I was able to marry and merge my early in-house experience with my newly acquired fi rm experience. Personally I felt like the total package: A solid lawyer who not only understood in- house, but also could talk to clients in a way that didn’t make their eyes roll back into their head.” Walcott is successful at a career that

almost did not happen. As a philoso- phy major at Howard University, she thought about going for a Ph.D., but an aversion to teaching prompted her to reconsider. Instead, she attended

sion, I was fi rst drawn to litigation. At Howard, there’s an emphasis on mak- ing a positive impact on the commu- nity. I thought about public interest and human rights law. And though I didn’t land there, I am the proud co-founder of American Express’ celebrated pro bono program which has allowed me to honor those values. [Walcott was hon- ored by the Lawyer’s Alliance of New York with the 2003 Cornerstone Award and the City Bar Justice Center in 2006 for superior pro bono legal work for not-for-profi t corporations.] Walcott was born in Rochester,

There’s always the tension of balancing cool new things with adhering to the law and regulations that are very real but not half as much fun.

the time I fancied myself a two-parts technology attorney and one-part gen- eralist. I was young and thought I knew a lot more that I did, but overall it was great opportunity and I learned a lot.” Ready to move on again, Walcott

set her sights on another in-house position but her trusted recruiter had


Howard Law School. T e idea of a legal career had always been in her head, but she had never been eager about pursuing it. Suddenly, it seemed the most attractive option. “Growing up, my parents had commented on my advocacy skills. T at, and not knowing the myriad of options in the profes-

New York, raised in Massachusetts, an only child given a Swahili name (Wanji is short for Wanjiku) although her parents are both from Guyana on the northern coast of South America. Walcott’s father came to the U.S. on a government-sponsored engineering scholarship, and her mother followed and later earned a Ph.D. “My father, who’s now deceased, always stressed how lucky I was to have been able to choose what I wanted to be. He had little choice in selecting his voca- tion. He was just sort of assigned a career path by Guyana’s government, presumably based on aptitude.” When Walcott began her law

career 17 years ago, she perceived the profession as more diverse than it actually was. “At my fi rst job the business unit was diverse because the state and local government employees with whom we were contracting were diverse. Until I visited corporate head- quarters and saw that things were very diff erent, I had mistakenly thought all companies were diverse at the time. When I joined the fi rm, I was the only black attorney in its New York offi ce. I’m sure that has changed. In the last nine years, I’ve seen American Express Company become more and more diverse. We’ve transformed over time and are defi nitely moving in the right direction.” D&B

Patrick Folliard is a freelance writer based in Silver Spring, Md.



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