SIIA is celebrating Women’s History month by profiling innovative women thought leaders in the AI, ed tech and the privacy space. We’re proud to profile Laura Sheridan, Head of Patent Policy at Google. Sheridan advocates for an effective patent examination process, a patent litigation system that operates fairly for all participants, and transparency in these areas.
What’s your favorite part of the role (don’t worry, it can be nerdy!)
Collaborating with stakeholders across industries to help bring about a balanced patent system.
What are some of the jobs you’ve held in the past?
I was the Head of Patent Portfolio Strategy at Google, where I defined Google’s global patent portfolio strategy.
Before joining Google, I worked at WilmerHale on patent prosecution, litigation, due diligence, and post-grant proceedings before the Patent Office.
What was something you learned that you still use today?
Two (or ideally more) heads are better than one.
Is there anything you would go back and do differently?
I wouldn’t have gone straight to a law firm from college. While I have loved the path my career has taken, it would have been exciting to work as a practicing engineer before making the shift to law. I engaged regularly with engineers in my work as a patent attorney, but I never actually practiced as one aside from a summer internship at Lockheed Martin.
What is something unique about your work style?
I try to treat every opportunity to speak and share my thoughts as equally important, whether it’s during an internal meeting or at a conference. I like to prepare ahead of time, making sure I can succinctly deliver my main point. Afterwards, I conduct my own ‘mini postmortem’ to see how I could have communicated better. Clear communication is critical for this role – even the smallest interactions can result in big learnings.
How/why did you get interested in this field?
I have worked in patents since I graduated from college with an engineering degree. I have loved it the entire time. There’s nothing more exciting than being around technology. When I started on this path, I went to work at an IP boutique law firm as a patent agent and attended law school at night. It was a slog – because it takes an extra year to go at night! The work experience during those four years of law school was invaluable.
What are your top predictions for the field (your focus area e.g., AI, edtech, privacy) in 2022?
I expect to see collaboration across industries to truly address patent quality and litigation fairness.
How do you think we can advance opportunities and recruitment for women, who are traditionally underrepresented in privacy, AI, and tech policy?
By having visible role models in these careers for women to engage with, which helps them to be aware of and stick with these career paths.
Where do you see the greatest opportunities for women in 5, 10 and 15 years?
There are so many opportunities for women in patent law and policy, with roles in industry, government and academia!
What is one piece of advice you wish you had known when you were starting out?
Get to know as many people as possible as soon as possible. There’s no reason to wait until you’re out of law school to start making connections.
What is your organization doing to build mentorship opportunities for women and minorities who are interested in the field?
Google’s Legal Summer Institute is really tremendous. The program aims to improve access to in-house careers at tech companies by expanding opportunities and removing barriers for underrepresented talent in the legal industry.
How is your organization building professional development opportunities?
Google has an Outside Counsel LEAD (Leadership, Education, Advancement and Diversity) Mentoring Program, which seeks to enhance leadership, career development, and access opportunities for women and minority associates by providing mentoring, resources and support.
What are some of the professional development opportunities or people that have made the greatest difference to you and your career?
The Engineering Department at Cornell, where I got my BS in mechanical engineering, really started me off on the right path with visibility into many different career options. They were so dedicated to recruitment of their undergraduate students and provided useful resources along the way.
Are there any non-work activities you engage in that lift women professionally?
I helped to form the NY chapter of ChIPs in collaboration with a group of amazing women in IP. Our goal is to build bridges between women in the field so that there are more connections being made and more visibility into different career options. This has been especially important with the virtual world we’ve been living in for the last two years.