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January 25, 2017

Alumni Spotlight: Troy Calkins, Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary at Workiva Inc.


  Name: Troy Calkins
  Job Title: Workiva Inc, Executive Vice President, General Counsel, and Secretary
  Drinker Biddle practice and years: 1995 to 2014, Corporate & Securities
  Education: Michigan State University, B.A, 1988 University of Michigan Law School, J.D., 1991
  Hobbies, Family, Civic Activities: Cooking and travel

Technology that can turn two-dimensional drawings into 3-D models is somewhat common today, but in the 1990s it was revolutionary. In 1995, Gardner Carton senior partner George McKann asked associate Troy Calkins to sit-in on a client pitch from a company with this technology, Engineering Animation, which also had software that allows users in multiple locations to collaborate and work on the same files.

“Ford had engineers in Dearborn (Mich.) and in Australia and Europe all collaborating on the design of a single car model, and they could log into this computer system and see all the same engineering and data,” Troy said.

Engineering Animation hired the firm for its Initial Public Offering (IPO), and Troy was part of the team that represented it. Over the years, he worked with the company’s general counsel and management team on more transactions, including two follow-on offerings, at least half a dozen acquisitions and the eventual sale of the company. Meanwhile, Troy’s career at the firm continued to grow as he gained more experience representing early stage companies, venture capital companies and other public companies with their corporate and securities compliance needs.

In 2009, the founders of Engineering Animation came back to Troy and partner Kim Rubel with an early stage company that later became Workiva. Troy and Kim represented Workiva as outside counsel for several years. As the company grew and started exploring an IPO, it needed a general counsel.

Today, Troy is executive vice president, general counsel and secretary for Workiva, which created Wdesk, a cloud-based, SaaS productivity platform for enterprises to collect, link, report and analyze business data with control and accountability. Troy said he wouldn’t be in his position today if George hadn’t invited him to that meeting 21 years ago. Working closely with George and Kim in the Corporate and Securities Group was a highlight of his career at Drinker Biddle.

Moving in-house

Troy is responsible for all of the legal and compliance matters for Workiva and manages a staff of five lawyers. The legal team handles a range of responsibilities, including customer and vendor contracting issues, compliance with securities laws, labor and employment matters, real estate, and intellectual property.

The transition from outside counsel to in-house was a big change, Troy said, and he initially focused his CLE efforts on general counsel and other courses outside of his comfort zone. He said it took a while to grow accustomed to going beyond legal analysis to a strong business role, chiming in with questions and opinion on things that might help the business grow.

“It’s nice to feel you’re making a contribution in those ways,” he said. “It keeps things very interesting. It’s helped push me to learn new things and to develop new skills and perspectives.”

When Troy joined Workiva in 2014, one of his first challenges was guiding the company through its IPO. It was a big undertaking but the process went smoothly, he said, and the company went public in December of 2014. Building a culture of compliance and staying ahead of the curve on legal issues that come with day-to-day business decisions is another challenge. Workiva has offices and sells its products in other countries such as the Netherlands, Canada, the United Kingdom and other parts of northern Europe so the company is often dealing with international data security laws as well as each country’s securities and exchange filings. Workiva’s customers are sophisticated and know what they need to do to protect their data, Troy said, and work closely with them to make sure those standards are met.

“We’ve worked with counsel in various countries as well as some outside consulting firms that have helped us put together our privacy standards and certification process,” he said. “While Europe has led the way and has had the highest privacy standards, data privacy is increasingly an issue here in the United States.”

The rise of cloud computing

 Overall, businesses are becoming more tech-savvy about their data. Six years ago customers didn’t understand the cloud and why organizations would want to store sensitive data there. With high-profile data breaches that have taken place over the past several years, and in some cases breaches of their own internal systems, Troy said more businesses see the security benefits of the cloud and working with technology experts. Customers have a greater understanding of the potential legal liabilities, he said, and are asking smart questions when negotiating contracts.

Workiva’s customers are also very enthusiastic about their products, which makes the work fun and interesting. Workiva started out focused on securing financial data and over time customers have taken the software and run with it to do more complex things. For Troy, this means his legal team is constantly learning new areas of the law as customers pull them into new arenas. For example, health care customers have HIPAA concerns and other privacy control standards.

The company has an annual user conference, at which Troy said he has enjoyed the opportunity to meet customers.

“It’s always fun to go to that and have customers walk up to you, grab you by the arm and say, ‘We just love Wdesk. Your product has changed our lives,’” he said. “It’s a very rewarding feeling to know that the people that you are selling to really appreciate the fact that you’re offering it to them.”

He also loves the youthful and vibrant work environment.

“Many of our employees are under 30, and working with a lot of young people who are very excited to be doing what they’re doing in an industry that’s very much in its early stages gives me a lot of energy,” he said. “There’s a level of buy-in that you might not see at an older, more established company.”

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