Miguel Carrillo really thought he would become a marine biologist. As a child, he was fascinated by marine life, along with the tanks and equipment that keep the underwater world blossoming on land. When Carrillo was a kid growing up in Mexico City, his dad bought him the twenty-one-volume series of The Ocean World of Jacques Cousteau, and it ended up occupying much of his young imagination.
Perhaps Carrillo would have dived into a career devoted to the high seas had he not one day accompanied his uncle to an appointment at a prestigious law firm in Mexico City. It was 1987, and Carrillo’s uncle was a plaintiff in a civil case and had a meeting with one of the firm’s partners. Carrillo remembers exactly what the lawyer was wearing: a navy suit, a red tie, and impeccably shined shoes—a high schooler at the time, Carrillo remembers practically seeing his own reflection in them. And that was before he even noticed the lawyer’s diplomas hanging on the wall behind his desk. It was right then Carrillo knew he was going to become a lawyer.
It wasn’t just a feeling. Carrillo set two objectives modeled after the impressive individual he’d met. First, become a lawyer with all the grace and panache on display in the office that day. And, second—but actually coming before the first—obtain a master of laws degree in the United States, much as the lawyer had while living in New York City. Few, if any, know where their lives are headed in high school. Carrillo on the other hand followed his plan to a T.
After graduating from law school in 1994, Carrillo began his career journey as an in-house lawyer with Danone de Mexico, where he quickly learned that the curriculum he had absorbed in college had been much more focused on litigation law than business law. “Two different worlds,” he explains.
While at Danone, Carrillo began to understand that there was a separate education process in getting familiar with not only a company and its products and services, but also how that company does business in other jurisdictions. “I found a gap between private practice and the work that is required in a multinational company,” says Carrillo, now at Iron Mountain as vice president and senior counsel, international. “Working as an in-house lawyer with international experience has given me the opportunity to study diverse laws and their applications from many cultural perspectives, which truly has been invaluable.”
Regardless of the industry, products, or services a company may provide, ultimately Carrillo knows that he needs to deliver his services in accordance and compliance with the law. As he moved on to positions at Gillette and, later, IBM he strengthened his skill sets to develop much more than just legal knowledge—he developed tools to embrace challenges going forward.
“My team’s multiple approaches to different problems is a result of their different cultures and ideologies—but they always work in a collaborative way to empower each other.”
Carrillo would earn his own master of laws degree in 2012, beginning his now eight-plus-year career at Iron Mountain on a high note. By continuing to develop his leadership skills, Carrillo has positioned himself as an expert in leading multinational legal teams whose strengths lie in their diversity. “Developing international experience has given me the opportunity to study diverse laws from many cultural perspectives. That has truly been invaluable,” Carrillo explains. “My team’s multiple approaches to different problems is a result of their different cultures and ideologies—but they always work in a collaborative way to empower each other.”
Water may have been Carrillo’s earliest passion, but now it’s the rest of the planet that seems to be under his watch. His four-region territory includes Latin America, India, Asia/Pacific, and northeastern Europe—as well as the Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey. The international legal team has been focusing on implementing policies and procedures regarding the contracting processes with Iron Mountain customers in every region. “We put in place escalation metrics to approve exceptions and limitations of liability,” Carrillo says. “We’ve harmonized the terms and conditions of customer agreements so that when businesses want to do transactions in multiple countries, they will deal with the same customer agreement for the most part.”
Bringing business to Iron Mountain, while simultaneously enabling it to be cascaded through the company in a seamless manner, is a big driver for the VP. “My thought has always been to excel in all things that I do, I don’t want just want to be seen as part of the pile,” Carrillo says. “The legal function has to be a value-add for businesspeople at the company.”
As Carrillo’s scope has expanded, his leadership style has adapted, in part because of support he received from bosses at Gillette and Iron Mountain. “I think I moved from more of a ground-control approach to much more of a play-to-win one,” Carrillo says. “I try to guide my team and support their decisions.” That can be difficult with a can-do attitude like his. He may know the answer to the question, but many times he keeps it to himself in order to let his team grow and develop at their own rate, in their own style.
Carrillo still loves the sea. He still loves fish tanks and thinks back fondly on the hours he spent learning about the mysteries contained within the ocean. But even Carrillo is willing to admit that it would be pretty tough to run legal for most of the world if you’re underwater.