WICT SOUTHEAST BLOG WRITER, ANA ADLER SAT DOWN WITH David Pernini TO ASK HIM SOME QUESTIONS AND GET THE SCOOP ON WARGO FRENCH’S LEVEL UP: CHARTING A NEW COURSE WHEN YOUR CAREER IS AT A CROSSROAD FOR WICT SOUTHEAST. DON’T MISS THIS EXECUTIVE MEMBER EVENT, MAY 21ST IN ATLANTA.
Name: David Pernini
Where do you currently work and what’s your current role?
Managing Partner – Wargo French, a full-service law firm based in Atlanta, Miami and Los Angeles
What is your background and did you get involved with Cable Television?
It was through the law firm. My dad was in the Navy so I moved all around as a kid and landed in Atlanta in 1997. The Cable Industry is so big in Atlanta that, when you practice law, it’s almost impossible not to get involved. Working with the Cable Industry was something that happened organically. I think broadcasting in all forms brings up so many diverse legal issues that remain interesting and challenging. It changes so much; you always have to be looking 3 or 4 steps ahead as to what the next technology is going to be. We’ve seen in our lifetime so many different types of technology and what appears will be the next great thing often fizzles out quickly and the technology you didn’t expect becomes huge. I remember when I first heard about Twitter and I thought it seemed like a silly idea and now it dominates. You have to be prepared.
Why did you join WICT and why do you support it? What about WICT makes it important for other men to join?
I joined WICT through Wargo French. We’ve always had very strong women lawyers here. It always surprised me how for a long time in the legal profession it was just assumed that you had to be the white male with the gray hair to get the corner office. There’s so much talent out there that’s ignored and shouldn’t be ignored just because it doesn’t fit that paradigm. So, when Wargo French started supporting WICT it seemed like a perfect idea, and having men be a part of WICT reinforces that overcoming the existing paradigm is not a women’s issue but a societal issue and it makes it more difficult to ignore.
On May 21st, Wargo French is hosting an upcoming WICT executive event about pivoting careers during times of change. What tips can you give our readers if their job is currently at a crossroad?
I think that everyone, at some point, reaches a crossroads in their career. Success comes from recognizing the adversity that you run into and learning from it in a good way. I’m a huge UVA basketball fan. In last year’s NCAA tournament, UVA was the number one team, they were supposed to be the best team in the tournament. The way it works in the tournament is that the best team plays the worst team in their bracket to start out. So that happened last year and UVA lost, they lost to the worst team in the tournament, and it was the first time in the history of the NCAA tournament that a number one seed had lost the first game. But they didn’t just lose, they got solid beat by 20 points, it was humiliating. This year UVA won the National Championship. It was fascinating to watch how the team did that. They didn’t just pretend that they had not had a humiliating loss; they embraced the adversity. They decided “this is not who we are, but we also cannot ignore that it happened, so how can we learn from that, own it and go forward?” I think we all can learn lessons from that story because adversity happens. You’re going to encounter it, so you need to learn how overcome it, get the panic gone, and just take one step forward and do the next right thing. In my view, we can take the hardships that come up and say, “I own this, what does this teach me going forward, how can I learn from this, yet keep true to what I want?” I find that’s ultimately the hardest part, people deciding what they want. That can be tough to give anyone advice on. People have to take the time to look at themselves and say, “here’s what I have, what is it that I want out of this?” Figuring out what’s important to you. Unfortunately, in the business world, we all want to make money, but that can’t be the only thing because it’s ultimately very unfulfilling.
What would you say is the best career advice you’ve ever been given?
Many of our readers are fresh out of college, what career advice would you give your 21-year self?
I don’t know if this is the best advice that I’ve been given but it’s the one that I often use as a lawyer, and it’s that it’s called the Practice of Law, it’s not called the Perfect of Law. Mistakes are going to happen. Your goal should be to make no mistakes, but you can’t have that as a realistic view. You will make mistakes, everyone makes mistakes. When you do, see why it happened, see what you can do to prevent it in the future, acknowledge it and then move forward. I think if you try to pretend you didn’t do it you won’t learn from it. Conversely, if you focus on your mistakes too much, you’ll be stuck there. To go back to the UVA game, there’s a quote UVA coach referenced, “if you treat adversity right it will buy you a ticket to a place you couldn’t have gone any other way.” I just love that reflection.
The WICT touchstone theme this year is Inspire and others will follow. What characteristics do you admire in other leaders? What has worked for you in inspiring others to follow?
Calmness in an emergency. In litigation, which is what I do, you’re in a fight. There are always bad things happening and sometimes they’re worse than others. Being able to keep your cool, under those circumstances, is what I look for in people I’m going to follow. In turn, when the associates that work for me come in and they’re panicked about a situation, I try to stay calm about it without ignoring how serious it is.
This is a random thought but, someone gave me and my wife this advice for our wedding a long time ago: When you’re planning for a wedding accept that two things are going to go wrong. When they happen, instead of panicking, you remember there were going to be things that go wrong and they did. Having that attitude when something comes up allows people to press forward.
One caveat is that calm can sometimes go too far, and calm can be viewed as a lack of understanding of the magnitude of the problem. That’s really the balance of a good leader, being able to stay calm and still show that I understand how serious a problem is, especially with clients. If I call the client and I’m just completely calm just as their world is falling apart, that can also be problematic. I need to have the empathy to show I understand what they’re going through. To show I’m not just being calm because it’s not important, I’m being calm because I’m trying to get to the solution.
Wargo & French LLP and WICT Southeast are partnering together May 21st in Atlanta provide executive members insights on navigating career paths when changes arise. Learn more
Ana Adler is a tri-lingual freelance content creator whose mad skills include the words writer/producer, video editor, project manager, copywriter, and mamá.