Zendesk Appoints New Chief Legal Officer – The Start of a Trend?

Are the uncertainties around AI making CLOs more valuable than ever to top tech firms?

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Published: March 28, 2024

Rhys Fisher

Shana Simmons is the new Chief Legal Officer at Zendesk, as the CX solutions specialist looks to protect itself against the “complexities” of an AI-influenced marketplace.

Simmons will supervise all legal operations at Zendesk, offering guidance on strategic initiatives and directing corporate governance efforts.

The new CLO replaces Shanti Ariker, the former General Counsel and Chief Privacy Officer at the company, who joined the software supply chain platform provider JFrog last year.

Speaking about the appointment of Simmons, Tom Eggemeier, CEO of Zendesk, outlined how AI is providing new and unique legal challenges – commenting:

“The CX industry is undergoing a fundamental transformation as next-generation technology like AI becomes essential for meeting customer demands. Shana’s strategic insights and expertise will help us navigate the complexities of a rapidly changing marketplace.

Her leadership will ensure our products are built responsibly and uphold our core values of trust, transparency, and a commitment to our customers’ best interests.

These AI concerns appear to be shared by video communications giant, Zoom, who recently appointed Cheree McAlpine as its new Chief Legal Officer – suggesting a possible trend amongst these major software providers.

Indeed, one could argue that McAlpine’s appointment was in response to the recent criticism that Zoom has faced due to its use of AI and customer data.

The complaints stemmed from difficulties users encountered when attempting to opt out of various AI features, such as automated meeting summaries – leading to concerns regarding the use of user data to enhance Zoom’s AI services.

In discussing the risks of GenAI in a recent article, Kenneth White – Manager of Institutional Governance at the World Economic Forum – highlighted the importance of CLOs:

“As an organization’s most senior executive responsible for legal strategy and corporate governance, CLOs are uniquely positioned to advise their boards on AI-related risks, through risk assessment frameworks, and develop enterprise-wide mitigation policies while strategically meeting business priorities.”

How will Simmons look to handle the threat posed by AI? Let’s take a closer look at her background and experience.

Say Hello to Shana Simmons

With an extensive legal background, Simmons joins Zendesk after 15 years in senior legal positions at major corporations.

Most recently, she served as Chief Legal Officer at Everlaw – a cloud-based solutions provider for legal teams – where she was responsible for building the legal team and guiding the company’s strategic growth, with strict accordance to risk management.

Prior to her stint at Everlaw, Simmons was the Head of Go-To-Market Legal at Google Cloud Platform, where she and her team helped GCP transition from a startup to one of the market-leading cloud computing suites.

Away from her work life, Simmons clearly has a deep interest in the role of AI in the legal system, having written several articles on the subject for Legal Dive, where she champions the need for a human-centric approach.

Speaking about her new role at Zendesk, Simmons said:

I’ve watched Zendesk’s incredible evolution and can’t think of a more pivotal time to join an industry-leading company focused on doing the right thing by all our stakeholders.

“Legal strategy is important to every aspect of business, especially as we continue to lay a solid foundation for the use of AI in enhancing customer experiences. I’m looking forward to working alongside the leadership team and board to contribute to Zendesk’s success.”

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