Collaboration is Key

Andrea Wood, VP of legal services at TELUS, discusses taking a stand in the mobile industry

Don’t say Andrea Wood doesn’t have what it takes. In addition to waking up at 5 A.M. five days a week to keep herself healthy, she has, over the course of her career, built a global corporate legal team, fought one of the most contentious mobile-industry legal battles in Canada, and landed a job with TELUS, one of the nation’s biggest wireless carriers.

Advantage managed to connect with the wife and mother of two barely three months into her new mandate as TELUS’s vice president of legal services. Below, she details the past experiences that led her there.

Advantage: Prior to TELUS, you were at Alliance Atlantis. How has that experience informed your ability to contribute in the mobile industry?
Andrea Wood: The mobile industry is undergoing a period of convergence, so content deals are becoming increasingly relevant in the wireless space. Content delivery to consumers has always been important in the entertainment world. At Alliance Atlantis, those of us in the legal department were given great responsibility to be commercial dealmakers, more than I have seen in the telecommunications world, so my negotiation experience is extremely valuable and transportable across industries.

What are some of your most notable accomplishments?
At Alliance Atlantis, I am most proud of the team I built. We were a team of 30 lawyers and paralegals located across the world. They were truly top-quality professionals, and we worked well together as a team.

At WIND Mobile, my role was less management-oriented and more hands-on. We had yet to launch the network when I arrived, so it was an extraordinary time. We had to do all contracts that formed the foundation of the business, from retail-distribution deals to technology agreements. We were building the network—as well as a team—as quickly as we could.

We were also faced with a regulatory challenge to our ownership structure. Following a public hearing, the CRTC concluded that WIND was offside. A series of appeals led all the way to the Supreme Court, which, in the end, denied leave to appeal and left WIND in the position of having been found to be compliant with Canadian ownership rules. I am proudest of having navigated that challenge and of having contributed to building WIND’s business through this legal fight.

Andrea Wood’s
Career Milestones

Earns her bachelor of arts from the University of Toronto

Earns her bachelor of laws from Osgood Hall Law School at the University of Toronto

Earns a master of laws from the London School of Economics

Serves as an associate at Dentons (then known as Fraser, Milner, Casgrain LLP)

Works as the executive VP and general counsel at Alliance Atlantis

Assists Bennet Jones LLP as its head of national media and entertainment

Serves as chief legal officer at WIND Mobile

Joins TELUS as the vice president of legal services

How did you decide to transition from WIND to TELUS? What finally convinced you to leap from the scrappy upstart to the “The future is friendly” giant?
I felt that I had learned everything I was going to learn from WIND. I loved being there, but by the time I left, they had largely built their network and won the foreign-ownership fight. My biggest file had been won, so I was interested in intellectual engagement and an opportunity to grow professionally.

TELUS seemed most interested in my management and content experience at Alliance Atlantis, coupled with my telecom experience at WIND.

TELUS publicly announced your arrival with some pretty high expectations. Were you nervous at all?
TELUS is easily the biggest company I’ve worked at, so I was worried about what that meant. I didn’t know how I’d feel about being in a big organization and wondered if it would be more bureaucratic.

At WIND, I came from a team of two lawyers. Together we had to manage all legal issues: HR, technology, leases, marketing, and litigation. At TELUS, I am able to focus on the things I do best, and it’s a relief to have very qualified people doing the rest. TELUS is a big company, but the number of people I work with is limited, so it feels very comfortable, which was a happy surprise.

What do you appreciate about TELUS’s culture? How does it enable you to work to your highest standards?
Collaboration is an important value here, and I have found that people really walk the walk. The mobile business is very complex. You need input from lots of stakeholders across the board. I have been pleasantly surprised at how collaborative the TELUS team is and how helpful they are to me as I transition into the role.

What needs to be in place for a legal team to do its best work?
A great team needs a mix of lawyers with different areas of expertise and different levels of experience. A real mix of good skill sets is very important.  The team itself needs support within the organization and from the leadership team—and recognition of the value that the legal team brings to the table. Respect has to be earned, so hopefully the legal team is providing great services, being practical, collaborative, respectful, and pleasant to work with.