In the latest edition of our "Splunker Stories" series, we met with Splunk Product Legal Counsel, Natasha Walwyn Robinson.
We sat down with Natasha to learn more about the path which led her to Splunk and how she’s taking her passion for diversity to create an equitable and inclusive environment.
What did you do prior to joining Splunk and how did you end up at Splunk?
My first role in technology was as a contracts manager on the commercial contracts team at Oracle back in 2010. Since then, I have worked for various technology companies in business and legal roles of increasing responsibility and complexity.
I chose Splunk because:
- I wanted a fully remote role with a large legal team
- I wanted to expand my knowledge of cybersecurity
- I wanted to work for a company where diversity was truly celebrated and not just for show
Splunk checked all these boxes!
Tell us about your story. What experiences made you who you are today?
I was very fortunate to have several role models to guide me over the years.
I come from a family of courageous history makers and trailblazers, with several of my family being engineers and lawyers.
My grandfather was a member of Lincoln’s Inn and the first native attorney general of St. Kitts and Nevis after they gained statehood from Great Britain. He defied tremendous odds at a time where it was extremely difficult to succeed as a Black man from a relatively obscure part of the world.
Another experience which made me who I am is during my time as a legal intern for one of the coolest tech lawyers you’ll ever meet, Theo Gray. Working with Theo was a turning point in my legal career, because she saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. I’m grateful for her support over the years.
I enjoy intellectual property law practice and speak regularly on the importance of making way for more diverse lawyers to enter the field because of our long history of inventorship. Black inventors, in particular, are responsible for some of our most helpful technologies.
Marian Croak is one of my personal inspirations. She developed VOIP (voice over internet protocols) and holds over 200 patents in data and voice communication. I can’t tell you how excited I was when we connected earlier this year.
Admittedly, I still struggle with the reality that my people continue to experience racism regularly at work and even while doing simple things like going for a jog, driving a car, or just living.
This is still quite prevalent in the legal and technology fields. Black lawyers who practice at the intersection of law, technology and business are few and far between. According to the American Bar Association’s 2020 Profile of the Legal Profession, Black lawyers represent 5% of the profession even though Black people represent 13% of the U.S. population.
This fact is unacceptable.
Black technologists also have immense difficulty securing and retaining roles. We have the requisite qualifications and education but it is extremely difficult to enter into this world and obtain support or mentorship once we get here. Much of the work I do at work and outside of work is to help move the needle on this issue.
How have your unique experiences and insights made you successful in your career, and at Splunk?
I am a very proud mom and I would do anything for my girls. They bring me so much joy and laughter and teach me the meaning of selflessness every day.
In December 2004, I survived a plane crash. This taught me to bring an attitude of gratitude to every role I play in life. I recognize there are many people who do not get a second chance.
I also try to make a concerted effort to improve the well being of others. Philanthropy is very important to me and I am passionate about supporting others with career development.
For example, this past July, I co-organized a career sponsorship event for all Splunk employees. We obtained support from all nine of Splunk’s employee resource groups as well as contributions from executive leaders, John Sabino (Customer Success) and Elaine Mason (HR). More than 300 Splunkers attended and we received great feedback. I look forward to working on more initiatives like this in the near future.
What do you enjoy about working at Splunk?
Splunk was founded just under 20 years ago and our accomplishments thus far have been impressive!
I am excited about the stage of growth we are in and the new leadership we have to help move us forward.
I’m inspired daily by my colleagues who are extremely hardworking and committed to the company’s success.
I’m also thrilled with the number of employee resource groups and representation of employees in these groups across the company. While there is always room for improvement, I am confident Splunk will get there in due time.
Which Splunk Value (Innovative, Fun, Disruptive, Open, Passionate) resonates most with you?
Passionate: I am extremely passionate about being a mom and diversifying the legal and technology industries.
Open: I genuinely enjoy meeting and getting to know people from all walks of life. I love hearing their stories.
Fun: My team is both conscientious and thoughtful, and we know how to keep it light and have fun.
Splunk's vision is "A world where data provides clarity, elevates discussion and accelerates progress." How does your work contribute to this?
As Product Counsel, I help my business partners bring Splunk’s vision to life by partnering with them on various strategic and day-to-day legal matters relating to the development and release of Splunk offerings.
For example, I support the introduction of new solutions and channels, ensure production readiness, build scalable compliance strategies, and address customer requirements. I also review product plans for issues related to intellectual property, open source, data privacy and security, marketing, competition, payment, and regulatory compliance.
Splunk's mission is to "remove the barriers between data and action, so that everyone thrives in the Data Age." What does this mean to you?
The digital divide and the data divide are very real and persistent social issues. For example, in Mecklenburg County (where I reside) is home to Charlotte, North Carolina. This is one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. however there are 56,000 households without internet access.
Upon learning this information, I was inspired to action.
I Iead the Blacks In Technology Foundation Charlotte chapter and in this capacity made a pitch and was awarded an AvidExchange TechRising Tech Idea Incubator grant to create a program to close the digital divide. Upon receiving the grant, I partnered with another nonprofit organization to teach programming to students at a local Charlotte middle school. Each student was given a tablet and a Lego robotics kit. We hired talented high school students in engineering themed high schools to teach some of the classes. We served over 100 underrepresented youth this summer. I hope to renew the program next year. You can learn more about this work here.
What can we find you doing outside of work? Hobbies or interests?
I enjoy spending time with family and finding healthy ways to prepare my favorite Caribbean and African dishes in homage to my family roots.
Anything else that you'd like to share that you haven't already?
I look forward to what’s to come at Splunk. Every day presents a new opportunity to make a positive impact.