Engineers Canada's Seung Byong Light Go didn't want to be a lawyer until he landed in-house

With mathematics training and a fondness for logical reasoning, Go loved combining business and law

Engineers Canada's Seung Byong Light Go didn't want to be a lawyer until he landed in-house
Go says the challenges at a professional organization are different than at entrepreneurial companies.

Seung Byong Light Go didn’t choose a legal career because he wanted to be a lawyer – but now delights in being one.

“I chose law because it offered opportunities to do other things,” he said. “Instead, I’m so grateful and happy to be a lawyer.”

Not any lawyer, mind you. But an in-house lawyer. More particularly, currently general counsel and corporate secretary at Engineers Canada, the organization representing professional engineers nationwide.

The road was circuitous, to be sure. Mathematics was what came naturally to Go.

“I love problem-solving and logical reasoning,” he said. “So, I got a master’s in math at Memorial University. I explored political science, economics and even dentistry and medicine before going to law school.”

But not in Canada.

South Korean-born Go grew up in St. John’s, Newfoundland, after his Christian missionary parents settled there. But they never sought permanent residency before returning to Korea, which created immigration problems for Go and hindered his domestic law school applications.

Eventually, Go found his way to law school abroad at King’s College in London. He returned to Canada hoping to qualify professionally here, and in 2012 began working as a law clerk with Benson Buffett, a full-service law firm in St. John’s.

In 2015, Go began his articles with Robert Regular, a sole practitioner in St. John’s, where he focused on criminal and administrative law.

Neither of his private law firm experiences worked for Go.

“I did all kinds of work as a clerk and student, but I didn’t enjoy it, partly because I ended up doing a lot of things I wasn’t comfortable with.”

Following his call, however, Go immediately found employment in-house with Vendasta Technologies Inc., a Saskatoon-based marketing platform and software company with an entrepreneurial culture.

“The irony is that I had no idea what I was getting into, but I fell in love with the job,” he said. “It was everything I ever wanted in terms of legal practice, learning and business experience, and social environment.”

Go’s job description embraced only contract negotiation. But as the only lawyer at Vendasta and with a support team that consisted only of one paralegal, Go’s responsibilities broadened from building and implementing a process to streamline the company’s numerous contracts (23,000 at the time, 60,000 when he left) to privacy, fintech, security, human resources, intellectual property, and financing among other duties.

In the four years Go spent with Vendasta, the company grew from 250 to 600 employees.

“With my colleagues, I had to learn to handle growing pains and strategize our navigation through uncertain times,” he said. “But learning the new roles, getting acquainted with new clients, and coping with the dynamic environment of growth was fast-paced, constantly presenting new challenges and fostering a sense of excitement in the air.”

Go’s most crucial lesson amid all this?

“I learned that complex challenges involve interdependent elements and that it’s better to aim for progress in conjunction with others than seek an immediate legal solution on my own.”

A turning point came when Vendasta initiated an IPO that stalled due to market conditions.

“When the IPO died in April 2021, it didn’t seem like there was going to be any more growth in the job,” he said. “I’m not a creature of habit. I need excitement.”

That’s when some professional contacts told him about the position at Engineers Canada, resulting in an offer he accepted toward the end of 2021.

“The timing was fantastic, and the transition was seamless,” Go said.

But the work was different.

“It’s more regulatory compliance focused as opposed to financial or transactional.

“And it includes trademark defence as a big part of the job, as well as interacting with regulators to ensure that what they do corresponds with engineers’ needs.”

Sound risk management is also crucial.

“I provide strategic solutions to all legal matters impacting the organization, especially with regard to contracts, RFPs, privacy, employment, policy development, IP and regulatory compliance,” Go said. “As corporate secretary, I provide operational and oversight support to the board, so I have two reports whose work is in corporate governance.”

The challenges are also different in Go’s new position.

“One of the most exciting things is that relative to other professions, the public has only moderate familiarity and trust with engineers,” Go said. “Engineers Canada aims to bridge the gap by creating and promoting a national marketing campaign that will showcase the profession.”

And the regulatory landscape is changing quickly.

“Part of my job is to assist Engineers Canada in fostering collaboration among the 12 provincial and territorial regulators that license the country’s 300,000 engineers to ensure that our profession remains trusted by the public and attracts future engineers.”

And the highlight of Go’s career?

“All the learning,” he said.

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