Anne Brooksher-Yen – Celanese
“Be careful of what you wish for,” the saying goes. But for Anne Brooksher-Yen, who’d spent 10 years in New York City firms after earning her J.D. in 2006, the only hazard in taking a job at Celanese, a Fortune 500 chemical company in Dallas, was the role would deliver growth opportunities beyond her expectations.
Drawn to Celanese’s company culture in 2016, Brooksher-Yen was promoted three times in less than four years. What she discovered along the way was a leadership opportunity that would help boost her community service work—an area that had long been close to her heart.
That came in 2019, after her first promotion to senior associate general counsel, when she was invited to partake in a leadership development and community service program called the Celanese Community Impact Program, a six-week externship involving leaders from across the company. That initiative earned the Celanese and its program partner Social Venture Partners the DCEO Innovative Collaboration Award in 2020.
“It was a springboard to our work in other areas,” Brooksher-Yen says of participating shortly before her promotion to chief compliance officer in early 2020. “Our success was derived from our leadership taking us out of our comfort zones to really challenge us in new ways, which ultimately empowered us. As a company it allowed us to take a huge jump forward to expand other initiatives.”
Ready to rock
Arriving at Celanese with experience in business-related litigation, compliance and counseling, Brooksher-Yen quickly added environmental law and quality to her repertoire.
“I saw a huge potential for growth and internal mobility from the beginning here,” she says, noting since her arrival she was promoted to head of litigation and environmental law, to her current title of chief compliance officer and chief counsel for litigation, environmental law and quality.
“I wanted them to pile on responsibilities to keep me on my toes,” she says. According to Brooksher-Yen, the company—whose products include acetic acid and engineered materials used in everything from automobiles to medical hip implants—is making improvements in sustainability.
“It’s incredible to work at a place that takes its commitment to the environment, its employees and neighbors so seriously,” she says. “I like that I get to be part of the solution.”
Brooksher-Yen is working with her team to develop what she calls “microlearning”: small-scale tutorials designed to convey key legal concepts. The initiative launched in July 2020, the idea is to raise awareness on a variety of compliance matters.
Using this new training model, she and her team have held 30-minute live webinars quarterly to keep employees apprised on topics ranging from “Insider Trading” and “Fraud Prevention” to “How to Create and Maintain a Respectful Workplace.” Key information is also offered monthly in single-paged “blasts” distributed company-wide via email, called Compliance Moments.
“It serves to spark interest and curiosity without being overwhelming, or a time drain,” she says. Innovation, she says, is what’s driven her development within the organization’s legal department—whether it’s expanding global business technologies, or leading internal education initiatives.
“It’s important to be creative and engaging in how we approach the everyday business of our jobs,” she says. “If we get bored with our work, our clients will get bored with our work, too.”
Perhaps one of the most rewarding aspects of her job, Brooksher-Yen says, is being involved in leadership and charitable projects outside of her day-to-day responsibilities.
Prior to engaging in the CCIP leadership program in 2019—where she worked with three nonprofits to improve the lives of disadvantaged people in South Dallas—she developed the company’s first pro bono legal project that year. The volunteer program pairs in-house lawyers and outside counsel to work on projects. That effort earned Celanese the Creative Partnership Award from the Texas Lawbook and the Association of Corporate Counsel’s Dallas-Fort Worth Chapter.
“It’s exciting to use our legal skills to connect with people on a variety of projects,” she says. “Innovation at our organization is not just at the product level; we also take that creative approach to our work and our communities, wherever we find the need.”
The legal team is encouraged to get involved with other goodwill initiatives—from helping veterans get benefits to handling land lease and immigration cases. It also includes assisting students at Paul Quinn College (a historically Black college in Dallas), by offering mentoring support on topics like public speaking and resume building.
“I love that these projects capitalize on the depth of skills of my colleagues and engage them in a way that we weren’t able to before,” she says.
Creativity and criticism
Brooksher-Yen says her days as an English literature and creative writing major at the University of Arizona helped her develop problem-solving and conflict resolution skills—a mandatory requirement for any aspiring attorney.
The Yuma, Arizona, native got plenty of practice in college by turning every blank page into something that could captivate her audience and then accepting feedback from professors and classmates about her work.
“The ability to take criticism is the hardest thing to do. I had to listen to the feedback to make the stories better but also stand up for myself and have confidence in my voice,” Brooksher-Yen says. “It was a perfect experience heading into law.”
After graduation in 2003, Brooksher-Yen earned her J.D. at New York University School of Law in 2006. Immediately she jumped into the fast track of practicing business-related litigation, product liability, commercial arbitration and internal investigations.
Now happily raising a family in Texas with her husband, Tim, Brooksher-Yen only has to look at her daughter, Eleanor, and son, James, to realize that her work is making the world a better place for them. She’s grateful for her prior experience that gave her the tools to develop meaningful business and humanitarian projects at Celanese—a legacy she can leave to her kids.
“The world can be a challenging place,” says Brooksher-Yen. “I’m eternally grateful to know I work at a place where I can make a positive difference with both my business partners and the underprivileged communities where there’s disparity. That’s the best part of coming to work every day.”
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