Katy Motiey: Overcoming Obstacles And Building Relationships Through Loyalty Leads To Success

Katy Motiey: Overcoming Obstacles And Building Relationships Through Loyalty Leads To Success

Katy Motiey, currently the EVP, Chief Administrative Officer — HR, Legal & Corporate Secretary at Extreme Networks, has an impressive academic and professional background. But she also has an intriguing personal background that reads like a movie script.

Motiey was born in Iran, moved to the United States when she was a one-month old, but moved back to Iran with her family when she was three and her father became ill. Shortly after their move, Motiey’s mother became a widow. At that time, women in Iran lacked custody rights over their children and property rights over their assets. Faced with a custody battle and a civil family lawsuit over her assets, Motiey’s mother landed a job as the head librarian at the U.S.-embassy run library. In 1974, very progressive family protections laws were passed, giving her family a period of relative stability. During the Iranian revolution, the family’s property was seized for a second time. Motiey’s mother moved the family back to the United States and started over yet again. Motiey credits much of her work ethic, tenacity, and approach to her career to the rather unusual circumstances of her upbringing.

Staying Fueled by Inherent Passions

Motiey’s immigrant experience shaped her desire and focus to go to law school very early on. Much of Motiey’s childhood was spent discussing refugee issues and the need to obtain visas and green cards for her extended family members. As an undergraduate at Georgetown University, Motiey was accepted into the Early Assurance Program at Georgetown University Law Center, without even taking the LSAT. During law school, she joined the Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics as Notes and Comments Editor and wrote an article on ethical violations by immigration lawyers. Over the years, the paper has been a common citation in decisions spanning numerous jurisdictions. After spending time as a judicial clerk, the reality of financing a law school education drove Motiey to join Skadden Arps. Despite joining Biglaw, Motiey never let go of her passions. “While I thought I would go into immigration law, I am very comfortable with where my career has taken me,” she explains. “My initial passions haven’t left me because I’m still an advocate of helping people and doing the right thing — even, at times, to my detriment.” Motiey stays true to her passions by staying fueled by her sense of what’s equitable and fair. “I truly believe it’s possible to advocate on behalf of my client in a way that honors my sense of what’s just. I don’t think I could ever let that need go, as it’s the fiber of my being,” Motiey says.

Loyalty Leads to Opportunity

“I learned at an early age that while you may lose all of your worldly possessions as a result of circumstances wholly out of your control, you have to stay true to who you are and be grateful for the people that come into your life offering their support,” Motiey says. This awareness has allowed Motiey to build on her existing relationships within her network and develop one of the biggest keys to her success: loyalty. When Motiey started at Magellan Navigation, Magellan was a robust company focused on growth. During her seven years with the company, however, Motiey watched the business go from “hot” to “cold” as the effects of the financial crisis hit the markets. “I had so many people tell me that I should leave and jump ship, but I knew in my gut that this decision just wouldn’t be the right one for me,” she explains. “My sense of loyalty and responsibility to the board and executive team was critical. Seeing things through to the end is critical for me and has been key in cementing my relationships,” Motiey says.

The results of her efforts have kept bearing fruit over the years. After two years at Spansion, Inc., the company got bought and Motiey was fielding a number of job offers. However, she stayed, demonstrating her loyalty and dedication to professional relationships. When Spansion’s CEO became the Chairman of the Board of Directors at Extreme Networks, he rewarded Motiey’s loyalty by recommending her to the CEO to run the legal and eventually HR, facilities, and real estate departments. To Motiey, relationships will always be worth more than salary. In fact, she likens relationships to long-term goals and considers the immediate rewards of a specific job only as short-term accomplishments.

Staying Engaged and Giving Back

In light of Motiey’s two-decade-long in-house senior executive career, one naturally wonders how she has stayed committed and engaged in one profession for so long. Motiey says, “I like people and when I work with good people, it keeps me engaged.” Motiey also credits her upbringing as one of the reasons she’s never wanted to pursue a different path. “I’m an immigrant and that keeps my drive going and keeps me hunting for opportunities,” she says. “Given everything my mom gave up over the course of her life, I am committed to taking advantage of all the freedoms in front of me.” Although Motiey acknowledges that the general counsel path can be quite work intensive, she is focused on making sure she also lives life to the fullest, outside of the workplace.

Motiey wrote a fictionalized account of her mother’s experiences in Iran and is actively thinking about how to best use the proceeds from her novel, when published, to give back to the community. “Lots of women are single moms or have had issues in the Middle East and didn’t have the privileges my family had because of my mother’s education and work with Americans,” says Motiey. To that end, Motiey wants to start a non-profit as an avenue to keep recycling the proceeds and maximize her impact. Motiey’s career serves as an example that following your passions and morals can lead to success on your own terms, even in the fast-paced, competitive legal profession.

This article was originally published by Above the Law.

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