Features

Kimberley Honeysett – Varex Imaging

Nothing superficial in her legal oversight at Varex

One has to understand what’s beneath the surface. So emphasizes Kimberley Honeysett, chief legal officer and general counsel of Varex Imaging, a company that specializes in doing just that as the B2B manufacturer of components for medical, industrial and security uses.

And Honeysett knows her employer well, having been among the leadership responsible for its establishment in January 2017. Prior to then, Varex was the imaging components segment of Varian Medical Systems Inc., the Palo Alto, California, manufacturer of products and technologies that fight cancer, and where Honeysett had served in multiple capacities since 2005.

Kimberley Honeysett | Chief Legal Officer | Varex Imaging

Kimberley Honeysett | Chief Legal Officer | Varex Imaging

In the spring of 2016, the Varian board opted to spin out the imaging components business into its own public company. Honeysett, as assistant general counsel and chief counsel for corporate services, volunteered to be a project manager. Two strong and independent companies emerged, with Varian stockholders receiving 0.4 shares of Varex for each Varian share held prior to Jan. 20, 2017. The new Varex then enlisted Honeysett to move to Utah and become senior vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary.

“It certainly has been the biggest role of my career,” she tells Vanguard in August from Salt Lake City. “It was a very rewarding experience and provided me with an opportunity to move outside the roles I had become accustomed to. Since the spin, each company has been able to concentrate on what it does best.”

A full agenda

Honeysett has had much to concentrate on herself, setting up policies and procedures and assembling her own department that’s grown to more than 25 legal and compliance professionals.

Post-split, she strengthened Varex’s competitive position by helping complete the $276 million acquisition of PerkinElmer Inc.’s medical imaging business, whose digital flat-panel X-ray detectors complement Varex’s portfolio. Other acquisitions and investments have followed, including a 2019 deal for Direct Conversion, a Swedish-based maker of photon-counting technology that enables greater clarity in imaging and collaborations relating to nano-tube technology.

“What really drives me is collaborating with our business teams and how much we can accomplish when we work together towards a common goal,” she says.

Kimberley Honeysett | Chief Legal Officer | Varex Imaging

According to Honeysett, her team prides itself for partnering with business units and has helped Varex grow its revenues from $600 million in 2017 to nearly $900 million in the fiscal year that ended on June 30. She oversees four U.S. lawyers and another in Germany as well as a paralegal and nearly 20 compliance personnel.

Creativity is her mantra, and Honeysett encourages others to float ideas that might strengthen the legal/business relationship. Among those ideas has been a center of excellence for trade compliance in the Philippines where Varex had a facility near international trade schools. From those schools, Varex has hired and trained professionals who assist the company in classifying a backlog of products and related parts.

“Trade compliance can be complicated and classifying a broad range of parts and products can be very labor-intensive. The sheer volume of transactions was more than our small team could handle,” she says. “The process streamlined, Varex is better positioned to take advantage of free-trade agreements and other duty-savings mechanisms.

Expanding the worldview

The COVID-19 pandemic stalled another idea Honeysett remains optimistic about launching. Whereas some companies offer rotation programs so leaders can temporarily serve other roles, such a system isn’t as practical for specialized lawyers and compliance professionals. But a geographic rotation program help a U.S.-based lawyer further develop professionally and culturally by being stationed for a few months at a Varex office in Europe or Asia Pacific, and vice versa.

“This would give my team more insight into how work is done in other places and allow them to share global best practices with local teams, both in their home location and while stationed elsewhere” she says. “We were set to launch this program in April 2020, but the pandemic put it on hold. It’s an option for the future and we have the structure in place to make it happen when the time is right.”

Kimberley Honeysett | Chief Legal Officer | Varex Imaging

The structure is also in place for those under her wing to be all they can be. As a young lawyer, Honeysett says she benefited from mentoring and is committed to doing the same on behalf of others within and outside her department.

When a team member left in 2021 to be general counsel elsewhere, another team member asked if she could take on some of that individual’s responsibilities even though she didn’t have experience. Honeysett consented and has continued to mentor and guide the attorney as she expands her skillset.

“Part of my responsibility as a leader is to help others grow into being our next leaders. It reflects well on all of us when team members excel,” she says. “Nobody should feel confined to their lanes or feel like they don’t have a safe space to spread their wings.”

She means business

While Honeysett’s lane has historically been corporate law, it has widened to encompass many subjects, including shaping strategy and supporting Varex’s ESG efforts. She landed in corporate law after focusing on intellectual property and litigation as a Cornell Law School student following her graduating UCLA with a degree in communications.

“My personality style is much more aligned with creative thinking and reasoning,” she says. “I have really enjoyed working with innovators on many levels.”

Kimberley Honeysett | Chief Legal Officer | Varex Imaging

She did much of that in her only private role, a 1995 to 1999 stretch with the former Bay Area firm of Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison. Afterward came six years as senior director of legal affairs at Siebel Systems Inc., and then the 11-plus years with Varian, which led to Varex. She also chairs the supervisory board at MeVis Medical Solutions, a publicly traded Varex affiliate in Germany.

All the better, she says, that her role might factor into a healthier and safer world.

“Although I landed in life sciences partially through luck, it’s something I really connect with. Working for a company driven by purpose that makes a difference in people’s lives is something I hope to never change,” says this married mother of a 14-year-old son and a 12-year-old daughter. “Our purpose is very attractive: To give back to the community through creating products for the healthcare and industrial markets that make the invisible visible and help improve and save lives throughout the world.”

View this feature in the Vanguard Fall II 2023 Edition here.

Published on: September 8, 2023

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