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June 27, 2020

Q&A – Erich Andersen: Global General Counsel, TikTok

Julie Q. Brush

Erich Andersen is the Global General Counsel of TikTok, the most popular video making and sharing app in the galaxy. Prior to his leadership role at TikTok, Erich served as Corporate Vice President and Chief IP Counsel for Microsoft where he led the global IP function for the organization. He enjoyed an amazing 25 year career at Microsoft before his recent transition to General Counsel. Erich is a Bruin through and through having attended UCLA for undergrad (summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa) and for law school. Not only is Erich incredibly accomplished and whip-smart, he’s also one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. I spoke with Erich at the beginning of the pandemic and he was kind enough to provide his insights below:

You’ve been through other economic downturns, what is unique about this one?

Well, to start, this economic downturn one originated with a global pandemic, which has not happened in my lifetime. That makes it feel very different from the other downturns I’ve experienced. Even though we’ve seen the Fed and other global economic regulators take action in the last several weeks, it’s unclear whether these steps or others that follow are going to pull us out of this downturn because Covid-19 cannot be managed in the same way as a classic macro-economic downturn. It also seems that some parts of the economy, like transportation, retail and hospitality will take much longer to recover that other parts.

From an executive’s perspective, how can an employee increase his/her value to the organization during these challenging times?

I think employees who show their resiliency during these challenging times will be valued. The modern workplace is one that requires people who can learn and grow and adapt. This is one of the greatest challenges of our lifetimes and yet I see many people around me who are thriving. They inspire and me and others to do our best as well.

       Erich Andersen

What is your advice to other GC/CLOs and managers on how to keep their teams mentally healthy, motivated and positive? 

Stay connected to your people! It is easy to get absorbed by the day-to-day legal work and treat working from home as a time to pull back. It’s really important to keep up one-on-ones and group meetings and find out how people are doing. Show empathy for what employees are going through. Many of them are now juggling childcare and feel the loss of time with valued friends and family. The strain grows as the stay-at-home period goes on. Leadership in these challenging times means being engaged and empathetic to our teams.

What have you learned about yourself during this pandemic? 

I’ve been reminded how much I love my family and how much they mean to me. I’ve also learned that I’m pretty good and blocking out challenges and focusing on getting a job done. Focusing on my work and my family has helped keep me grounded while every day the news brings terrible reminders of what this global health crisis means for all of us.

Top 3 ways the professional world will change after Covid-19?

I think we’re all learning that ‘remote working’ is not only possible, but has a lot of advantages for the employee and the employer. I was not surprised to see Mark Zuckerberg recently say that he thinks 50% of the jobs at Facebook will be remove after Covid-19. I think a lot of companies will make similar conclusions when the Covid-19 pandemic is over. I’ve noticed that some professionals who felt they had to keep up a certain level of professional appearance when working with clients, for instance, have let that go out the window on many days during the Covid-19 pandemic – I like the change. Finally, I’d say video calls are very much mainstream now. I think a lot of us were holding on to voice-only communications with video calls just starting to seep into the day to day work experience. I know a lot of people have no gone “all in” on video calls, which I view as a positive development.

What are you doing to stay mentally and physically healthy while you are quarantined?

I’m trying to exercise as much as possible – that’s my stress reliever. I’ve also enjoyed catching up with some old colleagues and friends and reading some books that have nothing to do with work.


Note: my interview with Erich Andersen occurred prior to the death of George Floyd and these questions and responses only address issues related to the global pandemic.

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