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Nov 22, 2020

Why I Left the Law Firm I Founded For an Opportunity at Netflix

Prior to joining Netflix, I ran a successful media and entertainment legal practice for over 12 years. A couple of years ago, after working on a Netflix title as counsel representing talent, I was introduced to the team at Netflix, and soon roped in as external counsel. As external counsel, over the course of a year, I was exposed to several content deals and saw the company’s deep focus on India and passion for sharing India’s stories to the world. I was aware that the online streaming landscape is evolving very rapidly in India, media consumption patterns are changing, access to high speed internet is becoming widespread and easily available and there is stiff competition in the marketplace amongst streaming services. With this in mind, I wondered if the online streaming services space would be the right place for me to grow professionally and become part of a dynamic new business.

And just about then, Netflix came knocking at my door. When I was offered a position at Netflix, I saw an opportunity to be a part of a rapidly growing organisation that could veritably build and help influence the manner in which entertainment is consumed in India. I took a leap of faith and decided to join Netflix. To leave a law firm which I had founded and built over the better part of my professional career was a difficult decision, fraught with emotion. It was tough explaining to my colleagues and clients that I was moving on and needed to do so for my own personal development. While I had many doubts, one thing I was sure of was self-belief, stemming from the years of experience I had gathered as an entrepreneur, having seen both, success and failure. I was willing to start all over again, without fear of the unknown. While few could confidently predict the future trajectory of this fast-paced industry at the time, by joining the team at Netflix, I believed I would be standing at the leading edge of it. Now, a little over a year later, I can confidently say that it was the right decision.

Netflix is an interesting place to work at and while the culture memo is a curious piece of writing to most newcomers, to me it was a validation of years of work. As a business owner, I had to imbibe some of these values to succeed. The culture memo talks about -- “freedom with responsibility” and “context, not control”. These values were at the very core to the way I operated. I have always worked with a high degree of freedom, putting clients’ interests first; this was the same at Netflix where we have the freedom to operate and create our own rules but with a ‘Netflix first’ approach. I have built teams, allowing them to operate independently, giving them the right tools to succeed and this was the same at Netflix, where we are encouraged to give our teams all the context they need, enabling them to make independent decisions. “Open feedback” though not completely alien to me was a step up at Netflix. While I was used to feedback sessions once or twice a year, the open, immediate and continuous feedback culture at Netflix though a shock to me initially, has really helped me improve.

So luckily for me, it was an almost seamless integration into the new culture. In my early days at Netflix, the culture memo was also a guiding post to look at, whenever in doubt. And I did have many doubts as early as on day 1. But the folks at Netflix were warm and kind, and soon they made me feel a part of the team. These early interactions set the foundation of trust and helped me build meaningful relationships with my colleagues.

I had a good handle on my work itself. So, I immersed myself into the job at hand, thus internalising the culture. However, living a new culture takes time as well as an understanding of the people behind the business. The more one lives it, the more naturally it comes to you, none of it is forced onto you and everyone working at Netflix lives it… that is the beauty of this place. You live with the culture every day. In my first few months, I observed the culture and looked for aspects I could integrate into my work; some of being at Netflix felt different (like the open feedback and using Google docs (which by the way I love now)), some of it, natural (like freedom and responsibility and context, not control), but in the Netflix environment, none of it felt out of place.

Which brings me to finding one’s balance in a business which is high on culture as well as performance, and finding that balance is key to success. I have learnt that trusting your colleagues, working together, doing your best every day, being open and inclusive, knowing that your every contribution affects the business and that learning through mistakes... are all part of finding that fine balance. I am grateful for the opportunity I have to work with some stunning colleagues, and the diverse experiences I find myself immersed in, every day. Not only has my year at Netflix taught me to be a better lawyer, it has taught me to be a better person.

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