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At a time when Tim Stow’s law school cohorts were just trying to keep their heads down in junior associate positions at their first law firm, Stow effectively served as a general counsel of an $800 million business division. This was not the plan.
“I just always felt impatient to break out and live my life,” Stow says. “My career seemed to play out consistently with that mantra.”
Stow, currently global head of ethics and compliance at Galderma (along with twenty-five-plus years of leadership experience), was raised in the UK, but was an international business partner before he was old enough to rent a car in the US. He defied the norms of his peers and bypassed the traditional firm years of his youth to go in-house. He’s worked in Belgium and Switzerland twice and effectively toured the US with roles in Philadelphia, Boston, Milwaukee, and Atlanta (also twice).
But it’s not just the geographic locations. It’s the diversity of the roles. In Philadelphia, Stow was doing strict M&A work. In Boston, he was suddenly a compliance lawyer. In Atlanta, a much broader GC role. But, again, how?
“I guess I’ve just backed myself,” Stow says simply. “I’ve always had good mentors and coaches, who would take me under their wing and allow me to grow into a role.”
Stow says that throughout his career, he’s taken several different roles based only on the trust he placed in his mentors. Had it not been for a past coach who saw him operate in London and Brussels, Stow never imagined he would be able to assume M&A duties in Philadelphia.
“But that person knew what it took, and he could see in me that I could make it work,” Stow says. “It was the same for Atlanta. I don’t think I fully appreciated just what it meant to be a US general counsel, but I took it on faith from a mentor whom I place a high premium on their understanding of me. You put your faith in someone’s judgment of you and just go with it. I think other people’s default might be to talk themselves out of it.”
Coming to Galderma wasn’t quite the kind of leap of faith of previous moves, but Stow still had a very significant task ahead of him. Galderma spun out of Nestle in 2019 and in 2020 Stow was brought in to completely reset the compliance function.
The executive needed to create a compliance structure that wasn’t so much a reflection of Galderma’s past, but one that would make it more agile and responsive for the future. The compliance head was able to tap into his network and bring in several specialists over the last two years.
“At the time, we were able to bring in some savvy, tenured professionals which, frankly, made it a little easier for me,” Stow explains. “I was able to provide a legal perspective to these matters, but in terms of the nuts and bolts of compliance, I was more reliant on my team.”
Stow loves building—teams, structure, any tangible project where he can see the value he’s bringing to the wider organization. But that tangibility factor was, and continues to be, challenged by two significant factors. The first was the pandemic.
“Building and maintaining culture is certainly a challenge during a pandemic,” the head of compliance says. “I really felt that onus was on us to be amongst our business stakeholders, sitting alongside them, and making sure we’re aligned with what they’re doing.”
Additionally, the global nature of Stow’s role virtually assures that he’ll rarely have the luxury of seeing his entire compliance team in one room. The executive admits he feels a twinge of jealousy any time he sees a team collaborating in a physical space. But given the nature of the role, Stow understands the need to evolve, and he’s leaned into it.
“One of the best experiences I have had was in a role where the legal function was onsite with the rest of the business,” Stow says. “I was literally sitting alongside leadership and was able to provide real-time counseling, in-person. While we are now back in the office post-pandemic, we still need to continue to find ways to utilize virtual platforms to ensure compliance is able to be an effective partner for the business.”
Fortunately, Stow is never one to back down from a challenge. His resume is proof. And while the executive was building a compliance program, in many ways, from scratch, it was more a case of learning from a respected legacy program and improving upon it for Galderma’s more refined needs.
“In some cases, that blueprint was helpful, but when it came to hiring new roles, I was able to articulate what we were looking for properly, because I had literally written the job descriptions myself,” Stow explains. “That was enormously helpful when it came to recruiting a high-performing team.”
From these solid foundations, Stow has had to further pivot in recent months, moving some of his key compliance roles from Switzerland to a new global capability center in Barcelona, Spain. This resulted in him having to, once again, draw upon his deep reservoir of ‘building’ skills to go out and re-hire for certain new positions in his group.
“Because of this, not all of my original team have been able to stay with the company. But these colleagues built components of the program so quickly and efficiently and did such a nice job that, thanks to them, we are now well placed to go to the next level. We know a lot more about what we need and can therefore bring in new people to match these more bespoke requirements.”
There is still so much to do, and that’s why Stow’s excited in his role. He’s continuing to impact a new company from its very inception. And should something pop up that even he hasn’t experienced, there’s nothing to worry about. Stow isn’t merely able to overcome a challenge, it’s what drives him.