Assistant General Counsel - Power Generation Preston Ray
This article is from the “Cummins: All Access” series, a compilation of unique, reality-based stories featuring Cummins employees. The series is designed to give a behind-the-scenes perspective of Cummins employees as they develop their careers.
Cummins corporate legal team is a group of legal experts trained in both the legal boundaries of law and analysis of business transactions. In an effort to optimize the legal team’s capabilities, Cummins recently rotated three in-house attorneys into new roles in the various business units to determine. Preston Ray stood out as the optimal choice for Assistant General Counsel for the Power Generation Business Unit.
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In addition to his role supporting the Power Generation Business, Preston, an Indiana University graduate with a J.D. in Law, shares global responsibility for complex transaction including mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures and strategic long-term customer agreements.
“I was in the private practice world for a number of years before joining Cummins. I look back now and am glad I made the choice because every day is a different challenge. We deal with cross functional areas with different partners and nationalities. I’m constantly challenged by something new.”
Because Preston’s role deals with global business situations, his day often starts at different times. Today, he joins an early morning teleconference with the head of India’s law department to talk about the new global transactions team and continued direction to launch the initiative. The colleagues end the call with their teams aligned to global needs and an agreed-upon scope of work.
“It’s great to speak with my international counterparts because you get a different perspective. Law school in the USA often only shows things from the US perspective, especially in the case of business law. However, in China for example, a contract is just the beginning of a relationship. Further, as we spoke with our India team this morning, we realize we need to keep in mind the varying cultures we’re working in and how that can affect our approach to business law.”
By mid-morning, Preston is on another teleconference with an attorney in the UK office, who he mentors and manages. Preston is discussing the first six months of his colleague’s new assignment in a segment of the Power Generation business and the attorney’s long-term goals beyond his day-to-day activities. It’s a chance for Preston to give back and help someone who is looking for guidance in specific situations unique to Cummins business.
“When I look back on my career, the people I’ve worked with often times define my satisfaction with a job. There are days that jobs are great and days when we face great challenges. The support and friendship I get from people help me learn something new every day. When I’m working with young lawyers, I’m always trying to help them learn from our business and make the best of their day, too.”
For lunch today, Preston walks around downtown Indianapolis and takes in the sights like the Indiana War Memorial. He enjoys exploring the budding culinary scene of a busy metropolitan area, including today’s visit to a favourite butcher shop, tucked away from the local traffic.
After lunch, Preston has an impromptu strategy conversation with a colleague to discuss recent acquisition work in North America. The diverse group is strategizing to ensure the right support is in place and utilize a whiteboard to evaluate their team planning approach toward the scope. Defining everyone’s role in a collaborative setting is critical, while ensuring each team member is comfortable with his or her goals and objectives. At the end of the conversation, both agree to recommend engaging a partner firm in Puerto Rico well versed in international employment law.
Preston heads back to his desk after the meeting and receives a request from the Association of Corporate Counsel in Indiana. The group has extended an invitation to an event for in-house attorneys to discuss hot topics around the state. He has also been asked to function as the treasurer for the not-for-profit organization and Preston reflects on the invitation, as he begins preparing for the meeting later in the week.
“It’s important for me to participate in not-for-profit work, including work I’ve done in the past with the Indianapolis Bar Association’s low asset will program. Cummins actively encourages us to participate in those organizations that mean something to us outside of work. Not-for-profits are a way to give back and put resources into what makes a community special. We hope we can lift up those who may not have the same opportunities.”
Later in the afternoon, Preston begins planning for a business trip to Singapore for a meeting with the Cummins local legal team and external partner law firms. Cummins likes to get a sense of how law firms operate in Northeast and Southeast Asia, so international travel is important. During the normal workday, it can be challenging to connect across the time zones, so he will schedule face-to-face meetings as the business necessitates.
“It’s innovative because we’re a technology and customer-facing company. Everything has to be focused on value delivered for internal and external customers and what is presented. It’s good to meet those who are entrenched in the business at hand so they can see our passion and the goals we establish for protecting our business.”
After the tentative itinerary is established, Preston reviews the plan with his supervisor to gain feedback and perspective. She approves the trip and supports his commitment to developing local leaders to become better employees. He wraps up the meeting and leaves early to attend his eight-year-old’s soccer practice. Cummins encourages employees to spend time with their families, especially when they’ve had an early start to the business day.
“I enjoy the global travel. We go to Brazil, London, Belgium, China and realize the business is growing and we have global work to do. At the same time, I think the balance here is focused on spending time with family when I’m home and having the opportunity to use technology to connect globally. Cummins is committed to work-life balance. Everyone works hard here. People understand you are expected to take your vacations and take care of your loved ones, even if it’s as simple as soccer practice.”