Jacob Varghese joined Maurice Blackburn straight out of university and is a remarkable story of continued success to his current role as CEO. He credits this opportunity to the exposure he was provided in working in different teams across the organisation: class action, social practice and domestic litigation funding to name a few.
These roles allowed him to gain a deep understanding of the workings of the firm and the intricacies of the industry. Organisational leaders, as Jacob describes, either come from a people or management background or a sound technical foundation – he was the latter. His transition to leadership came with its challenges, to which he equipped himself with a strong core of mentors, deepened his understanding of organisation design and continued to read and upskill himself.
His biggest reflection on life in leadership comes from his dealings with others. Often we are tuned to maintain a certain mindset or give off a certain perception, but Jacob feels his ability to be open with others about his thoughts and feelings allowed him to forge stronger connections with those around him. He believes in engenders trust in people, as they appreciate the opportunity to build a sense of authenticity and trust around the relationship.
Much of the job as CEO is about communication, and part of that is understanding your audience. Jacob speaks about the importance of the way we communicate, the subtle messaging behind communicating the values and vision to that audience. Being prepared to share your own emotional state puts others in a position to share their own feelings.
On the technical end, Jacob speaks about the two important aspects to strategy. The first, formulation, is about the tacit knowledge and experience that comprises the direction of the business. The second, and most fundamental, is the communication and execution of said strategy and how it emanates through an organisation.
Such a time for Jacob to reflect on that came in 2020. A year in which he feels we didn’t necessarily change the way we work – but we saw a preview of where the world is going. In a time like this, he believes that if you’re not embracing change and if you’re not using technology to do so – you’re losing.
He believes people are at the core of this change and harnessing the growth of his organisation along the journey he feels it is the right people, with the right training, in the right headspace.