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Although they came from much different places—he from Bernardsville, N.J., and she from Providence, R.I., via Russia—Irina and Chris Ridley, both of the class of 2010, share strong family foundations, and the self-confidence to become risk-takers.
Irina, the only child of engineers Alla and Arkadiy Yegutkin, was born in Russia and raised in Providence by parents who “placed incredible value in the importance of hard work and perseverance.” She is Senior Corporate Counsel and Privacy Officer at Counsyl, a Bay Area-based molecular diagnostics lab. Her parents instilled a never-give-up/relentlessly-pursue-your-dreams mindset. They wanted her to become a doctor, she wanted to become a lawyer—and Irina figures she compromised by becoming a health care lawyer.
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“Health care was a way to merge my interest in science with my fascination with law and analytics,” Irina said. “With my focus on health tech, I am able to contribute, in a very small way, to the evolution of a historically stagnant industry and see the dividends pay off daily. At Counsyl, I am responsible for a wide range of things—from privacy to corporate governance to strategic/business development considerations, and other legal issues and crises that a company might face.”
Irina also serves on the board of directors for WISP, an organization dedicated to helping diversify the historically male-dominated areas of privacy and security, and is a member of the Board of Directors of the law school’s National Alumni Association.
“Health care was a way to merge my interest in science with my fascination with law and analytics.”
Before joining Counsyl in August 2016, Irina worked as the Compliance and Privacy Officer for Omada Health, a San Francisco-based digital therapeutics company, was in management consulting at PwC and Deloitte, worked for Northern District U.S. Judge Thomas J. McAvoy ’64, and Judge Arthur J. Gajarsa of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (who officiated at their wedding) and served as legal advisor for the Czech Republic League of Human Rights. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and got her MBA at RPI while getting her law degree.
Chris, the youngest of six and the son of a practicing lawyer and interior decorator (John and Althea Ridley, respectively), learned to speak up and absorb information at the dinner table. He is a crisis and public affairs strategist at Edelman, a global communications/marketing firm, and is based in the Bay Area.
“Growing up in such a large family impressed upon me a lesson that still resonates today—make your voice heard, but work as a team,” Chris said. “Perhaps most importantly, we were always expected to have a perspective on the affairs of the world. Knowing what was going on beyond our bubble was non-negotiable.”
“It eventually made me realize that the thread running through all of my work, and what excited me most, was risk.”
Chris attended Loyola University in Maryland, before transferring to Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City, where he studied political science and then enrolled at Albany Law, where he studied health law but had no intention of practicing in the traditional sense.
“I was never interested in practicing law, per se,” Chris said. “I just really valued the mental approach it gave me to tackling problems. I really benefited from not going to law school right out of college. I worked for a few years and it made me appreciate that lawyers were problem-solvers for companies.”
Chris worked in various health care roles, ranging from government affairs to compliance, before, during and after law school. “It eventually made me realize that the thread running through all of my work, and what excited me most, was risk.”
He was working for a biotech company, Genentech, in San Francisco, when he decided to focus on political risk. Through working with a San Francisco politician and doing public affairs at City Hall, Chris found his niche at Edelman.
“I work in a boutique advisory practice role here, focusing on helping companies prepare for and respond to difficult media situations, and helping companies tell their story in a way that influences broad swaths of stakeholders, from customers to regulators,” said Chris, a member of the senior advisory council for the Silicon Valley Talent Partnership. “The ability to quickly analyze an issue and understand the strengths and weaknesses of its angles and the competing arguments around it is very much a trait learned in law school.”