Not to rev her own engine, but Rebecca “Becky” Wickhem House said she has “one of the coolest jobs in the world.”
As assistant general counsel at Harley-Davidson Inc., she covers a lot of ground for the Milwaukee-based motor company: from hammering out tour deals with Kid Rock’s agents to protecting the intellectual property of the “blood, sweat and tears” underneath the iconic bike maker’s engineering efforts.
“Our brand and image permeates everything I do,” House said. “We aren’t just manufacturing products to get people from here to there. It’s a lifestyle.”
House started at the company in 2010, under a new CEO and on the heels of a recession that hobbled purchases and production. It was an uphill climb at first, she said. There were tough worker negotiations at a plant in York, Pa. and her own professional transition from private litigator to business counsel who can “see that there are risks worth taking.”
But there were exciting new experiences, too, such as meeting rock stars and working on deals for motorcycles to appear in Hollywood features.
The Whitefish Bay resident and Janesville native said she felt the reach of her and her colleagues’ work most when meeting with dedicated bikers at a Milwaukee Harley anniversary bash. One couple had attended Harley Owners Group parties in Australia, Rome and Milwaukee, she said.
“To interact with them,” House said, “it opens your eyes to how people live the experience.”
Working at Foley & Lardner LLP before Harley twisted her throttle, too. For 12 years, House was a business and commercial litigator at Foley, where she met her husband, Bryan.
Above most other cases at Foley, House said she best remembers the final one, which involved cross examination of an expert witness in a shareholder dispute as her middle son – she was five months pregnant with him at the time – repeatedly kicked.
House’s ability to stay calm and collected has been a boon for the Sojourner Family Peace Center, where she agreed to stay an extra term on the group’s board as it worked to complete both a merger and a $26 million capital campaign and building project.
“A lot of others would have balked,” said Carmen Pitre, executive director at the domestic violence resource nonprofit. “Becky has this amazing capacity for cutting to the heart of an issue, state what it is and plainly see where we have to go. Then, she gets us there.”