From violin and hockey stick to legal contracts: Rachael Zavodnyik’s journey of becoming Head of Legal, APAC at Infosys
Two immigrant “omnipresent” parents, a home that was filled with passionate, musically inclined people, and an environment where everyone was encouraged to talk, participate and have opinions; Rachael Zavodnyik experienced an inclusive and diverse environment from a very young age, which later became her stepping stone in understanding the value of connecting with people and seeking strengths in emotions.
As Associate Vice President and Assistant General Counsel at Infosys, Rachael feels that “being a lawyer was her destiny because she loves talking and arguing,” traits that she developed growing up with her extended family.
“I had an idyllic childhood. I was a child of two immigrants and grew up with both my parents and extended family at home … Our parents were always there and included me and my sister in everything, every event, conversation … Participating was a part of our home culture. We travelled the world with my parents. No topic was off-limits, we were encouraged to ask questions … There was an open environment,” Rachael tells YourStory.
Rachael’s story is a part of the ‘I am the future’ series wherein YourStory is speaking with various business leaders who have had inspiring and successful professional journeys at Infosys, and are now giving back to the ecosystem through mentoring, encouraging, and nurturing new talent.
From playing the violin to negotiating contracts
Rachael was introduced to music when she was only three years old, and for the longest time, thought of becoming a professional musician and teacher. “My mother was a musician and teacher, and I think we didn’t really have a choice but to absorb ourselves in the art. I started playing the violin at a very young age,” she adds.
Her parents pushed her and her sister to pursue their passions. It wasn’t just music, but she also played hockey until university.
“My father would take me for training early in the morning, and so would my mother. My sister played basketball and went sailing … There were people around who they introduced me to, who furthered my interests, and encouraged my questioning. There was always a discourse at the table,” Rachael recalls.
While music has always been an “integral” part of her life, her interest in law piqued when she was a 16-year-old. As Rachael’s mother knew of a barrister, they decided to go ahead with this plan.
“The barrister dragged me to court; I read case notes and advice. He asked me to share my opinion about several things, and I think I loved those two weeks in the chambers. It was fascinating, stimulating, and I was hooked from that point. Not that it stopped me from playing music; I have music [in me] forever,” she shares.
Sharing about her love for law, Rachael confesses being intrigued by contracts, and that she “loves reading and negotiating them”.
“Most jobs are 5 percent inspiration and 95 percent perspiration. My job gives me so much energy because I like what I do. Whether there are technology contracts and digital transformation, outsourcing, or structure of the deals, I enjoy everything,” she adds.
Journey at Infosys
Rachael started at Infosys Sydney in 2014 and today, seven years later, leads all legal and government affairs in the APAC region. Her time at Infosys has helped her reflect and build her leadership skills.
“It’s alright to be wrong. It’s easier to say sorry and move on than let it percolate inside … I don’t have a problem with people correcting me, my work. I respect everyone’s opinions. We can agree to disagree and get on with our work,” Rachael adds, talking about how her attitude has been a key enabler for her professional life. Being an “emotional person”, she also learned to “pack some of her emotions away” so they don’t become a hindrance for her. However, she strongly feels that “it is a very useful thing to be empathetic and be emotionally aware”.
A memorable aspect in her journey at Infosys has been her visit to India.
“Visiting India and being at the Infosys Bengaluru campus was a mind-blowing experience. I felt welcomed and invited. The Infosys campus was another world,” she tells YourStory while recalling how she enjoyed a variety of Indian food, and immersed herself into the flavours and sounds of the streets.
Creating business impact
Rachael hopes to encourage aspiring professionals to be confident and fearless while putting across their point and be aware of their skill set. “It’s important to also find someone to talk to, find your cheerleaders,” she adds while talking about creating an impact through passing on her learnings to the next generation.
“I have big aspirations and I want to create a positive impact. I want to pursue excellence. I want to be recognised for running a well-oiled machine in my team,” quips Rachael as she speaks about her motto of making it easy for others who work with her. Emphasising on the importance of connecting with people and adopting an open attitude, Rachael wants to break the cliche of people having terrible experiences with lawyers.
“I want to create something that is not so difficult to understand, and is easy to pass on … I want to be remembered as a significant contributor and a significant teacher by the legal team and the Infosys business teams,” says Rachael, signing off.