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Exploring tech, law and sustainability

Welcome to our new blog series, The People Behind the Power, where we will introduce you to the Verne Global team members who are helping power your journey to sustainability. First up is Verne Global's new General Counsel, Hildegard van Zyl, who shares how her explorer personality has influenced her career and why it's such an exciting time to be a part of tech law.

Hildegard van Zyl is Verne Global’s first General Counsel and joined the company in December 2022. Although she started as a financial services attorney, she soon developed a keen interest in IT services and all aspects of tech law after joining Amazon in 2015. Hildegard has practised law and completed a range of multi-million dollar deals in New York, Australia, Luxembourg and the U.K, in both public and private sectors. She is passionate about sustainability and biodiversity and thrilled to support Verne Global in its commitment to sustainability. 

Hildegard van Zyl, Verne Global General Counsel

How would you describe yourself?

I’m a natural explorer and it’s a strong theme that has played out in my approach to my life and my career. I’ve lived, worked and studied all around the world, so I bring a broad international perspective to the table. 

I love being able to explore novel areas of the law. When I first got into private practice my goal was to get as much exposure to different areas of the law as possible. Given that private practice is built upon specialisations, I realised early on I would need to take risks and be single minded about the type of work I wanted to do if I wanted to grow my skill set and stay interested in the law. 

How did that influence your career path?

I knew I was more of a generalist at heart, so I began searching out opportunities to enable that. When I went in-house and joined Amazon they really encouraged me to move through different areas of the business. I would say that they value good judgement and versatility more than expertise – when I was there they typically didn’t hire legal subject matter experts, but rather curious individuals. At Amazon, I got exposure to operations, transportation, e-commerce, media infrastructure & distribution, devices, video streaming and an interconnected web of laws that apply to all of the above. It also sparked my interest in technology and how it shapes and responds to our needs as consumers (like the way we engage with media content) and the values we focus on as a society (like privacy). 

I’ve also realised I love being a student of the law. Because of the societal shifts that happen with technology, it’s made tech law so relevant and topical. It has prompted me to do a master’s degree in tech law and innovation at the London School of Economics, which gives me a chance to explore timely issues like cyber law, artificial intelligence and how it should be regulated, digital rights, intellectual property and more. It’s a very exciting time to be involved in this kind of work. 

What are you most excited about in coming to Verne Global?

I think it’s an ideal time to join Verne Global as the company is at a very exciting point in its growth trajectory. The company’s explorer mindset and focus on sustainability seems to be a good match with my own. Operationally, they also sit at a different layer of the tech stack than what I’ve primarily been involved with to date, so it’s a great opportunity for me to grow and learn and to draw from my different, but relatable, experience in other fields. 

I’m looking forward to being able to help in a variety of areas ranging from contract and corporate law, construction law, procurement law, employment law, the odd dispute, an array of compliance and regulatory considerations, and much, much more (in multiple jurisdictions!). 

The highlight of this opportunity is to be a part of a company that is at the forefront of key issues facing the data centre industry. Verne Global’s approach to sustainability and delivering transparent metrics enables its customers to make the best decisions about where their data is stored. Sustainability and transparency are going to be at the forefront of the data centre industry for years to come and so being in a place where I can help set company policy in this space is a privileged position to be in.