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Frank Kenniasty: Motorola Solutions Inc.
In the global business world, in-house counsel offers much more than expert legal insight, this team is also part of key management, assisting in garnering new business and helping support sales, revenue and business partnerships — all with the legal backing to ensure these decisions are made effectively and in the company’s best interest. Motorola Solutions Inc., a worldwide enterprise serving more than 100,000 public safety and commercial customers in over 100 countries, connects people through technology and relies on a strong legal team to navigate the ins and outs of the global marketplace.
A key member of Motorola Solutions’ in-house legal department is Frank Kenniasty, who serves as a senior counsel for the company. Now residing in Columbia, Maryland, Kenniasty has been part of the team since 2011. “Motorola Solutions connects utility workers and first responders to seamless communication networks, applications and services by providing them with real-time information and by arming them with intuitive, rugged radios and devices,” says Kenniasty. “Our products and services support a wide range of customers — police and fire departments, federal customers, as well as large retailers and hotels.”
Kenniasty says his time in the Air Force and various roles in the legal field helped prepare him for his position with Motorola Solutions. “I think every little experience you have prepares you for what’s ahead,” he says.
Coming from a military family, Kenniasty’s father encouraged him to join the Air Force when he was a young man. “I was stationed in Lubbock, Texas, and I wanted to be a fighter pilot, but in the training I was tested and disqualified due to my allergies,” he recounts. “I was offered a position in USAF Acquisition and Procurement and moved to Sunnyvale, California.”
In this role Kenniasty dealt with contract issues in the procurement of weapon and defense systems and other military affairs. He moved between several Air Force bases, from Sunnyvale California to Seychelles, a small island in the Indian Ocean, to Los Angeles and then Patrick AFB in Florida.
“Working with Air Force contracts really sparked my interest in law,” he says. “After 14 years with the Air Force I decided to take a voluntary separation agreement and I ended up in law school at the University of Florida in Gainesville. At 33, after a long and successful career with the Air Force, I made this huge change in lifestyle.”
Upon graduation, Kenniasty took a position an associate in a law firm in Florida and later as the in-house lawyer for a communications company in Florida, where he spent eight years. “I enjoyed this work,” he says. “I did arbitrations and trials at the law firm and spent a lot of my time working with internal clients when I went in-house. Then I went on to work as the general counsel for a smaller company in Orlando before assuming my current position with Motorola Solutions. But the opportunity to work in-house at Motorola Solutions seemed like a really good opportunity for me with my background in federal procurement.”
The specific area of government contract law and intellectual property (IP) Kenniasty was involved with in the Air Force bodes well with his work today. “These areas are still focal points and two main areas I practice in now,” he says.
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Kenniasty says as senior counsel, he serves two primary functions: one being a business partner to help the Motorola Solutions senior management support sales and new business. “I work with management to help close deals with large commercial and public safety customers,” he says. “We review the deal and make sure all contract terms are properly handled.”
The other main capacity involves compliance. “We operate in a highly regulated environment, including data privacy, IP, foreign-corrupt practices and federal regulations in government contractors, plus a host of other compliance issues,” explains Kenniasty. “Our legal team makes sure the proper programs are in place to handle compliance issues. At the end of the day, we’re looking to grow and build business, but do so in compliance. Being able to articulate compliance issues in a way that doesn’t alienate your internal client is a challenge and something I’ve worked on over the years.”
To manage the global movement of Motorola Solutions, the firm’s legal and compliance functions employ more than 100 employees globally in various capacities — all overseen by a chief administrative officer who oversees legal, HR, communications, marketing and government affairs. As senior counsel Kenniasty has approximately 13 people reporting to him directly on a weekly basis. “I work with all parts of the legal team — lawyers, compliance, business development to our security manager and more,” he says.
With lawyers and legal professionals spread across the country and the globe, Motorola Solutions has devised a mentoring program to connect people across different functions and help employees engage in one another’s work and interests. “This new in-house mentoring program started in the legal department,” says Kenniasty. “I have two mentees and I’m also mentored by another person in management. So far the results have been great. We discuss career goals, things that are working or not working, how to manage people and different personalities — it’s a good way to network inside our large organization and meet people you might not have worked with normally.”
Keeping the lines of communication open, especially in this fast-paced environment, is important, says Kenniasty. Building these relationships as well as adding value and contributing to company growth are the aspects he appreciates most about his position. “Being in-house, you have to be more attune to how you’re providing value to the company,” explains Kenniasty. “What I really like is being able to be involved in key business aspects and having a seat at the table when these important decisions are made.”
At Motorola Solutions Inc., Frank Kenniasty’s role as senior counsel allows him to be a greater part of the overall problem-solving approach and an integral point person in strategic growth decisions.