Christopher Van Nuys of tech firms LEMO USA, Northwire wins North Bay Forty Under 40 award

Christopher Van Nuys

Age: 38

Operations manager and general counsel, LEMO USA; general counsel, Northwire, Inc.

635 Park Court, Rohnert Park 94928


Read other profiles of this year's winners.

Responsibilities with your company: As operations manager, I oversee the strategy, execution, and alignment of business processes associated with manufacturing engineering, production, purchasing, planning, shipping, receiving, warehousing, and facilities.

I have the privilege of working with an incredibly talented team of people to bring LEMOs world renowned products and services to the U.S. Market. As general counsel, a role which spans two corporations--LEMO USA in Rohnert Park, and Northwire, in Wisconsin, I oversee the legal context of each organization, making recommendations to senior management and the board of directors to mitigate risks, manage liabilities, and advise on matters relating to corporate governance and compliance.

In addition, I work closely with senior management to recommend, draft, and negotiate contracts, many with some of the largest corporations in the world, spanning industries as diverse as medical devices, oil and gas, entertainment, military, and test and measurement.

In 25 words or less, how do you exemplify the spirit of being a top Forty under 40 professional?

Relentless dedication to mastering my professions and never content to stop learning.

Years with company: 13

Length of time in current position: Operations manager (5 years); general counsel (< 1 year)

Number of companywide employees:120

Number who report to you:65

Greatest professional accomplishment: Passing the California State Bar Exam while working full-time. We were in the midst of negotiating a number of large commercial contracts with major customers, and I was supporting other managerial and operational activities which made it difficult to be away from the office.

I took just one week off of work to prepare for the bar exam, which later turned out to be in vein, since not one of the subjects I studied that week was tested. I passed on the first attempt nonetheless, which I chalk up to the incredible instruction I received during my four years at Empire Law School.

Greatest professional challenge: Ensuring business continuity during the 2017 wildfires. We serve customers all over the United States (and in some cases, beyond), and our products support devices in markets like medical, military, aerospace, test and measurement--too many to name, but generally mission-critical environments. Ensuring continuity without putting additional strain on an already impacted community was, in a word, challenging.

Best advice received: Take a deep breath

Single most important event in your professional life in the last 12 months: Becoming general counsel for a company that I care so deeply about, and seeing the company invest their patience in that process. For the last four years, I was working full-time as the operations manager for LEMO USA and attending law school in the evenings.

Studying was reserved for the dead of night, early mornings, and all-consuming weekends. Add to that the raising of a young child, and a second child born midway through law school and, well, with ample opportunities for failure, it was a recipe for one of the greatest challenges of my life.

With the support of an incredible family, an understanding employer, and an unparalleled faculty, I persevered to eventually graduate as the 2019 class valedictorian, receiving nine California Witkin awards in the process and recognition by the California State Legislature.

I had the distinct privilege of giving the valedictory address in front of my friends, family, and colleagues. Shortly thereafter, I passed the bar to embark on the next adventure of my career.

What steps is your company taking to sustain your organization and morale in the current economy?

Regardless of the economy, LEMO, as a privately-held, family-owned corporation, has always had an employee-first focus. Thanks to a successful strategy and a lot of hard work, we're growing (and often hiring).

Moreover, we reinvest in the local community. For example, the company supports a variety of local charities on its own and on behalf of its employees. In addition, we match the charitable contributions of our employees, ensuring that the charities employees are most passionate about receive additional support.

Furthermore, like many companies during the 2017 wildfires, we were forced to shutdown or reduce operations in order for employees to heed evacuation warnings, care for their loved ones and the community, cope, and plan for next steps. LEMO provided the time employees needed for this process so that employees could focus on what mattered most: family, rebuilding, community, and charity.

Next professional goal: Continue building a world-class operational team at LEMO to execute consistently on the mission, vision, and strategy of the organization, and successfully lead LEMO and Northwire through increasingly complex legal landscapes.

Christopher Van Nuys

Age: 38

Operations manager and general counsel, LEMO USA; general counsel, Northwire, Inc.

635 Park Court, Rohnert Park 94928


Read other profiles of this year's winners.

Education: Juris Doctor (Magna Cum Laude), valedictorian, Empire Law School; master of Legal Studies (Magna Cum Laude), Empire Law School; bachelor of science in Global Business Management, University of Phoenix

Hometown: Rohnert Park

Community/nonprofit activities: Working full-time, raising a young family, and attending law school concurrently virtually precluded any additional activities (charitable or otherwise). That being said, my wife and I became very active during the 2017 wildfires by providing books for children displaced by the disaster.

It was tremendously rewarding--so much so that my wife and I are considering starting a nonprofit to continue in that direction. Furthermore, now that I'm an attorney, I look forward to joining my peers in providing Sonoma County with pro bono legal services.

Mentor/admired businessperson: Farhad Kashani, president of LEMO Americas. Farhad's background is a blend of engineering and business, but I've watched him excel across all disciplines. I still have a lot to learn, but I'm privileged to have the opportunity to learn from one of the best.

What is your most disliked industry buzzword?

Most of the buzzwords in my industry are meaningful, usually being associated with products, services, or compliance requirements, so nothing springs immediately to mind.

Typical day at the office: In both operations management and in law, there really are no typical days at the office: each day brings new challenges, new rewards, and I find that exhilarating.

Best place to work outside of your office: Home

Hobbies: Spending time with my family, our two dogs, studying law, business, programming, and languages.

What you wanted to be when you grew up: This is tough because I've wanted to be so many things. My earliest memories are of wanting to be a marine biologist, and later, a game designer. From there the list goes on, and continues to grow to this day.

#1 thing you want to accomplish by the time you turn 40: I would like to learn a language: Mandarin or French.

First job: At a remarkably early age, in the early 90s, I was employed part-time by West Coast Online, a Rohnert Park-based internet service provider.

I had the opportunity to work at trade shows and describe the World Wide Web to attendees (which was still very new to most of the world at that time), help with phone calls, serve as a lightweight technician, and do the occasional programming. I have nothing but fond memories of the job, and am still grateful to its owner for being willing to employ a young, eager kid obsessed with programming, networking, and technology.

As I recall, after roping my dad into driving me to their office, I asked to speak with the owner and offered to do anything--mop the floors if necessary--to have a job with the company.

Social media you most use: LinkedIn

Favorite book: “Dracula” by Bram Stoker

Favorite movie: Too many to choose

Favorite App: Snapchat filters with the kids.

Favorite after-work drink: Wine

Last vacation: Caribbean Cruise with my family

What does your mom or dad brag most about you?

That I'm passionate and persevere no matter the odds.

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