Careers

Work Is a Zoo for Former HP Lawyer


Life took an interesting turn for a Hewlett-Packard lawyer who was on the board at the San Francisco Zoo in 2007 when an escaped tiger killed a teenager.

Lawyer Tanya Peterson had never managed a nonprofit or cared for wild animals, but she was “dispatched to do damage control for six months,” the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Four years later, Peterson is still on the job as director of the zoo.

“Getting dressed used to mean reaching for a black suit,” the story says. “Now, Peterson has an affinity for high-end clothes and animal prints. She recently wore a leopard-print turtleneck, gold earrings shaped like giraffes, leather gloves with cheetah spots, Prada sunglasses and black corduroys.”

After law school, Peterson had clerked for a federal judge and worked at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. HP was one of her clients, and she eventually moved in-house. She became a frequent visitor at the zoo because it had a calming influence on her daughter, who has epilepsy, the story says. She was tapped for the zoo job when neither the board chairman nor another leading candidate wanted to take it on.

She cut the budget, made some small improvements based on employee input, and started a fundraising campaign. The zoo is now halfway to its goal of $10 million.

“I wanted to have an impact when I went to law school,” Peterson told the newspaper. “This is not quite the way I thought I’d do it.”

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