This week’s spotlight shines on Dana Kromm, a partner in the Mergers & Acquisitions Group at international law firm Shearman & Sterling. Dana has extensive experience in cross-border transactions and represents portfolio companies of private equity clients.
Introduce yourself to our audience. Tell us who you are and what you are currently focused on.
I’m a partner at Shearman & Sterling, a large international law firm. My practice is private equity and mergers and acquisitions, generally in the technology space, with a particular focus on healthcare IT transactions. I’m also very involved in the firm’s women’s initiatives.
On the personal side, I’m a wife and mother – my husband is a stay-at-home dad and author, and my daughter Emmeline is 8 and an avid student, soccer player and horsewoman. Horseback riding is something my daughter and I enjoy together.
What has been the biggest challenge in your career to date?
My biggest challenge has been figuring out how to feel good about the amount of time I spend working versus the amount of time I spend with my family. It is incredibly important to me to be an excellent lawyer, but it is also incredibly important to me to be a present, involved parent.
When I considered whether I wanted to pursue being a partner at my firm, I really struggled with whether I could manage both “jobs” in a way that I could feel proud of. What I’ve come to realize is that all aspects of life require compromise, and that as a woman, I’m often too hard on myself.
My continued challenge is to give myself a break, and realize that I’m doing a good (probably great) job at both. It is also very fulfilling to me that my daughter listens to my work success stories with pride, recounts stories to me about her successes, and frequently finishes her stories with “girls can do anything!”
What was your biggest career breakthrough moment?
Making partner was definitely a breakthrough moment. But I also think there are smaller victories over the course of a career that are really inspiring and motivating. I recently had a business person on the other side of a transaction (read: not my client) tell me that I was the best M&A lawyer he had come across over many years of doing transactions. While not earth-shattering alone, I think moments like these really inspire me to be confident and push me to be even better next time.
Finish this sentence, "I knew I had 'made it' when…"
I don’t think I can say this yet! I am very happy with where I am in my career, but there are many things I still want to achieve. I think in my practice, there is constant evolution, change and growth, so I’m not sure I’ll ever think I’ve “made it.”
If you could go back and talk to your younger self (before your career really began), what professional advice would you give her?
The number one thing I wish my younger self had done better is to recognize the importance of cultivating and maintaining professional relationships. Cultivating diverse professional relationships, both strong and loose, is the key to success in all aspects of professional life. These relationships can facilitate new business, ease transitions, make negotiations on current matters easier, form the basis of new friendships and provide opportunities for learning.
Share your two cents about money. What lessons have you learned about money along the way?
It feels better to have money in the bank than material things. Having money in the bank gives you a rest-easy-at-night feeling that you don’t get from having a huge house or a fancy car. Living well within your means give you a feeling of security, and it facilitates planning for the future.
What is your secret to success?
Nothing fazes me. I’m cool under pressure. I think all problems have solutions, and the cool and collected people get to the solutions quicker and more creatively. Also, I like to have fun! I really believe that everyone needs to have fun. For me that fun is horseback riding. It’s hard, dangerous and exciting, and requires you to be in the moment – but it’s also amazingly fun. Having that outlet helps me set aside the stresses of the past week, recoup and get ready for the week coming.
Why are you a member of Ellevate Network?
I joined Ellevate Network because I think it is a great resource to facilitate networking. In addition, Shearman & Sterling provided the means for all of our US-based women associates to become members, and I really wanted to set an example for them about the importance of networking and being active in the business community.