Member spotlight!  Interview with Deborah Lofton, Chief Legal Officer at Qlik

As the Chief Legal Officer, what are your responsibilities at Qlik? 

I’m responsible for all legal matters affecting Qlik   In particular, I need to ensure compliance with all laws affecting Qlik and all of its subsidiaries. We operate in 28 countries, and we do business in well over 100 countries through our partners. So, it’s quite a vast array of laws and regulations that we need to comply with. Since we have our HQ in the US and used to be a US public company, our frame of reference is usually to think of US laws and then figure out where in the world the laws are different. One way we implement compliance with applicable laws is through our contracts including form agreements that we have developed. And, if there is variation from the form or we are using someone else’s form, someone in the legal department needs to review it. I feel very confident that we have a good system in place to make sure we are compliant from a contractual standpoint. 

Another big area of compliance is with respect to employment laws: This is probably where we find the greatest variation across the globe. The US is an “employment at will country”, which allows employers to hire and fire “at will” so long as it is not discriminatory. Many countries where we do business do not have that system in place. You have to go through different processes to terminate an employee; Sweden for example. It is very different in Sweden compared to the US, but what you learn over time is that once you have an understanding of the differences you can figure it out. 

We at Qlik feel very proud of our history of treating people fairly no matter the circumstances so that guiding principle is key to everything we do. Even though we are not a public company anymore, we maintain all the same business processes and compliance standards as when we were public. 

How big is the legal department at Qlik in Philadelphia? 

We have 23 people working in the legal department. When I first started it was me and two others so I am very proud of the team that I have built. Out of those, 15 are lawyers and then we have a couple of paralegals, contract specialists, and administrative assistants that help us get our job done.

What are some of the legal challenges that companies in the Big Data space?

GDPR is a big one. It is probably the most interesting and complicated issue we are currently dealing with and we are dealing with it daily. Two years before GDPR went into effect, we started implementing GDPR across the entire company: including into our product. We want to help our customers make sure that they are GDPR compliant. It has been a tremendous amount of work but we are very proud of what we have accomplished.  

How has the implementation of GDPR affected Qlik?

It’s a big sea change for us. Europe has always been ahead of the game when it comes to data privacy. Prior to GDPR, the EU data protection authorities developed a uniformed standard and the US similarly had its way of doing things. When GDPR came through, it was a game-changer  and we took the position, given how global we are, that we were just going to apply it everywhere, including in the United States. In my view, GDPR is going to be the global standard. Now, we have states like California saying that they’re going to adopt their own data protection rules based on GDPR that are supposed to go into effect in 2020/2021. 

Why did Qlik move to Philadelphia?
There are different theories as to why. I was not at Qlik at the time but what I know is that when Qlik wanted to expand to the US, we our first Qlik outpost was in North Carolina. 

In 2004, some new investors came in, other changes happened and we ended up coming to Radnor, Pennsylvania. Exactly why, I don’t know but things like that the Philadelphia Airport at the time had a direct flight to Copenhagen and other parts of Europe may have played a part.  Philadelphia has a talented work force that has served us well for over 15 years.

What do you think distinguishes Philadelphia as a great place to set up a business?
In my experience when people think about Philadelphia the first industry they think about is the pharmaceutical industry and I think that is still true today. Philadelphia is also very much still a place for manufacturing. With the education center that we have here with all the universities, there’s a bit of everything in Philadelphia. And people who come here, like to be here and tend to stay in Philadelphia.

Would you say that there is a “Swedishness” left in the company?
Yes very much so! The whole mindset of the company is still very much an acknowledgment and appreciation for our history. It’s part of the fabric of the company. You see the Swedish design element throughout our new office in King of Prussia with every  visible representation of Qlik.  You can’t escape it.

The most important part of the Swedish heritage that is the fabric of Qlik is the importance of consensus decision-making and people wanting to work together for the better good. We continue to live by our 5 core values which were developed many, many years ago which guide our actions both internally and externally.

How does that compare to the American decision-making style?

Often Americans are known for quick decision making.  In my opinion neither is good or bad.  What you need is a good healthy balance, but you have to be aware of it. And when that balance exists, it can be a great asset. You have to be nimble and make quick decisions, but you also have to reflect and think about the impact of the decision and most importantly how you will communicate and implement the decision. You can’t let that consensus decisions lead to indecision, but effective decision-making requires a balance.

Is there any country that is easier or harder, legally, to work with?

We certainly have countries that we know are going be more of a brain teaser to work with. Russia comes to mind, it’s a hard place to do business because they have regulations that other countries don’t necessarily have. And there is also an additional compliance regime that we have to abide by because you can’t sell to certain parties in Russia due to export control laws and things like that.

Do you have a favorite project where Qlik software was used? 

We had a project a while ago where we measured the impact of climate change, which was very interesting. Another fan favorite is one for World Cup soccer. My faviorite apps are the ones I rely on in managing the legal department.  The uses of our products are endless. It is used widely in any industry from sports, financial services,  retail, manufacturing – you name it and we are there.

Where is Qlik headed? 

We’re heading to the cloud! In 2019, we have launched our enterprise cloud product where customers can build application and analyze data solely in our cloud or on-premises  We let the customer decide.

We also acquired Attunity, a data integration platform which helps customers move and manage their data in the cloud.

Where will Qlik be in 10 years? 

Certainly, data literacy is where the world is headed. Decisions have to be based on facts and not emotion. The survival of our race is dependent on it, so we need to figure this out. We need to have data that can be trusted and applications that can make sense of that data. Being in the cloud makes that a lot easier for people to manage and use data that they trust. AI may be big too but from our standpoint, we can’t eliminate the human part out of it. 

We thank Deborah for taking the time to talk to us!

Our favorite quote from Deborah:
“As a lawyer, you’re always dealing with ‘what can go wrong’? But you can’t fear change. If you fear change, you are not going to move forward.”

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