ChIPs Closeup: Q&A with Twin Cities Chapter

An interview with Kirsten Donaldson and Robin Sannes

Kirsten Donaldson, Vice President, Legal, Digital Media Association (DiMA)  

Robin Sannes, Partner, Dicke, Billig & Czaja, PLLC  

Q. When did the chapter form?  

“The chapter formed in 2019 and celebrated with a launch party at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, MN hosted by the intellectual property law firm Schwegman Lundberg & Woessner, P.A. We had docent-led tours of the art gallery, roof deck mini-golf, beautiful views for the reception, and a great time for coming together and building connections.” (See picture of event.) 

Q. Chapter Goals and Priorities 

Together, Kirsten and Robin are excited to build a chapter to increase women in IP with a focus on career and personal advancement. The Chapter is here to provide regular events, mentorship, connection, educational opportunities, and foster the next generation of members in the ChIPs community.  

Q. What was your path to a career in STEM/STEAM? 

Kirsten remembers launching potatoes off the roof in her high school physics class and discovering the joys in science while also participating as an oboist in the orchestra, fostering her love of music. She decided to combine science, tech, music, and law throughout her career in IP law and policy. Kirsten is dedicated to helping girls see the plethora of possibilities and career paths that the arts and sciences can provide: even without a hard science background.  She is very dedicated to mentorship and to building confidence and curiosity for girls in STEAM and STEM, particularly in the K-5 age range, given the statistics about just how critical development of STEAM and STEM is at this early age.  

Robin wanted to be an interior decorator and then a doctor. At university, an immunology professor suggested she pursue a career in patent law. Soon after, she got a parking ticket that she didn’t think was right so she gathered her evidence, presented her case, and had the ticket dismissed in court. She enjoyed the legal process and decided to go to law school where she discovered an interest in patent law. “That’s why mentorship is so important in helping people find their paths,” Robin said.   

Q. Why ChIPs 

Robin: “I was at an American Bar Association event and met someone who had just attended the Global Summit. It was inspiring to hear about a community with access to women leaders in IP who are outstanding role models and wanted to find a way to get involved.”  

Kirsten: “I have been involved in ChIPs for over 10 years but remember my first Global Summit like it was yesterday. I was blown away by the incredible positive energy in the room and the opportunity to hear more of women’s stories, thinking “how can I be like you?”!  Throughout the years, ChIPs has fostered amazing connections with women leaders throughout the country and the world. When I moved back to Minnesota, I wanted to form a local chapter to bring more of that ChIPs energy to the Twin Cities.”  

Q. Best practices you can offer other chapters? 

The board has eight members who meet monthly. It is a diverse group of women and has included in-house counsel, law firm attorneys, members in academia, and association counsel. 

“We assign two people to collaborate on each event with a target of one program every two to three months. We have found it is helpful to focus on inclusion by hosting a variety of events based on location, type, and accessibility.” 

Upcoming Events  

  • Golf Lessons, May 24, 2022, sponsored by Dicke, Billig & Czaja, PLLC. The event will be held at the TPC Twin Cities in Blaine, MN. Members will participate in putting, chipping, and hitting lessons followed by a happy hour.  
  • Ice Cream Truck family-friendly social at a park, details coming soon! 
  • Joint Trivia Event with Silicon Valley, details coming soon!  

Past events include:  

  • Virtual Brazilian Truffle-Making party, February 24, 2022, sponsored by Robins Kaplan LLP. The ingredients were sent out in advance and members joined in the fun of making and eating truffles together. (See screenshot)  
  • Lakeside Walk at Lake Nokomis, October 26, 2021, sponsored by Mother Nature. Members joined together for a Healthy Habits event to enjoy some not-so-serious social time together outside.  
  • Dress for Success, an event to inspire and give back, December 18, 2019, sponsored by Schwegman, Lundberg & Woessner, P.A. The event featured Melissa Buss, in-house counsel from 3M, and The Honorable Hildy Bowbeer, District of Minnesota, who talked about tips for dressing professionally, tips for professional speaking and presentation, and participants contributed to a clothing drive. 

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