“Go in headfirst and go in hard”.

Navigating a career at the top is not for the faint-hearted, but Joan Mill’s relentless optimism, determination and love affair for IP technology has helped propel her forward as CPA Global’s new Managing Director for EMEA.

A former competitive athlete who traded the track for the gavel, in the last five years alone Joan Mill has founded and sold her own IP business and led CPA Global’s customer transformation practices across Europe. With a new promotion under her belt and an unyielding passion for IP, Joan is establishing herself as a woman you will want to watch.

No shortcuts. No sprint finishes

“What makes a great athlete is not all that different to what makes a person successful in business,” says Joan.

From the age of 11, competitive athletics was a major part of Joan’s life.

“I was taught that without the hunger and discipline to win, I would not succeed,” Joan adds, but willing herself to run faster was never going to make a difference. “I had to spend the time each day getting stronger and improving to get closer to my end goal.”

Training six times a week and taking herself to competitions throughout her school years, Joan began to draw attention. At age 16 she was scouted by the athletics coach from Brunel University.

“The mentality is the same in business. It is easy to think that what you are doing daily is somehow not directly contributing – but if you cannot push yourself to improve your own performance day-to-day, you will never move forward.”

A love affair for learning

Sport, however, wasn’t Joan’s first love. Before running there was a short-lived fascination with singing, dancing and one particular pop icon.

“If you asked me what I wanted to be when I was a younger, the honest answer would have been Michael Jackson,” says Joan. “I was a typical child who loved performing, but by the age of eight I had set my sights on becoming a lawyer”.

With a place at Brunel secured through its sports programme, Joan surprised her athletics coach by electing to study law and not read sports science.

“My parents never had to push me to study,” explains Joan. “My mother would often encourage me to stop, to take a break and eat something! The conflict was that I did enjoy it! I’ve always loved learning and accomplishing what I put my mind to.”

At a crossroads after finishing her degree, Joan asked herself if she truly had what it took to become the best in her sports discipline. Despite undeniable talent, she knew the answer was no.

“I had to commit to something where I could be the best. I turned away from athletic competition and chose a legal career”.

Numbers don’t lie

Starting work in the legal sector after University, Joan found herself frustrated by the rules that governed legal professionals.

“I do believe that things are black and white and I love the idea of having something written in regulation or law that can guide decisions,” says Joan. “The problem is, sometimes there are grey areas too.”

Joan decided to go back to university to explore a newfound passion – finance. “There are no grey areas when it comes to numbers – they don’t lie!” adds Joan. After studying for an MBA in applied finance, Joan interviewed for a role with Deutsche Bank. Getting down to the final two candidates, she lost out on the job following a series of psychometric tests. At the time, she was devastated. But Joan now recalls this rejection as a significant turning point in her career.

“Being very studious is part of my character and I had thought for a long time that this was enough,” Joan comments. “My experience at Deutsche Bank taught me different – I needed to think out of the box and start using the right side of my brain!”

The breakthrough moment

After a brief stint with Lehman Brothers, Joan was headhunted by CPA Global to act as an advisor to its management team.

“It was my first real taste of IP and it was a perfect personal fit of business and law,” explains Joan. “I love doing analysis and in the IP industry this empowers businesses to execute a vision with the insight and understanding they need. It’s innovative, creative and certainly a space without too many restraints,” says Joan.

In 2014, Joan’s flair for IP drove her to develop an IP proposition of her own.

“I secured investment and negotiated use of Salesforce to launch NovumIP - the first platform supporting the entire IP lifecycle,” Joan explains. “I was responsible for everything associated with this new brand and it was an incredibly sobering time. Delivering concepts, plans, sales and marketing, I immediately discovered what I didn’t know and isolated what I needed to learn…quickly!”

“It was exciting to see my idea combining IP and technology come together – but it was hard work!”

Next step: Managing Director

NovumIP was acquired two years after its launch and Joan had the opportunity to return to CPA Global. As Executive Vice President Sales, Marketing & Consulting EMEA at CPA Global, she proved be a highly effective leader with a wealth of industry knowledge and a cast-iron focus on delivering CPA Global’s ambitious growth strategy. These strengths, combined with a self-confessed love for the “thrill of the deal”, made Joan the ideal candidate for CPA Global’s new Managing Director, EMEA.

“Being asked to step up as Managing Director is an incredibly proud moment,” says Joan. “The desire to effect change has influenced every one of my career decisions to date and I am not stopping now. I want our customers to know that everything CPA Global does is a result of direct feedback from them. Our success rests on how we facilitate for them to add value to their own clients.”

“Empowered women empower women”

When asked about the advice she wished she’d been given at the very start of her IP career, Joan is quick to apologise for her cliché answer; “Everyone says it, but it’s true! Remember it’s ok to make mistakes. You will not get everything right the first-time round, but don’t let this limit you. Learn from it and progress”.

For advice she would give to women considering a career in technology, her words are somewhat bolder.

“Women have played an important role in IP from the dawn of this age, and the number of women in IP awards and conferences now being held give an indication of just how far we have come,” says Joan. “But there is still work to be done.”

“My advice for women is to always be outcome focused – plot your steps for success, find that can-do attitude and don’t let preconceptions ever hold you back.”

Where once Joan was inspired by women innovators such as Dr Shirley Jackson and Patricia Bath, she is now herself a role model for women looking to forge a career in the IP industry, actively mentoring others to emulate her success. 

“We don’t talk about the Women Oscars - the Oscars are the Oscars,” adds Joan. “Until we get to a stage where we can talk about IP awards and conferences as just that, there is a need to recognise and acknowledge the achievements of women who have helped to build IP to what it is today and levelled the playing field for others.”

“The IP industry has transformed so much since I joined a decade ago, and the addition of technology continues to create genuine excitement. Now is an incredible time to launch a career in IP, so if you want in – don’t let anything get in your way”.