The Thrive Questionnaire//

Former Chief of Staff to Michelle Obama Talks About Whitehouse Burnout

Plus why she is conditioned to sleep with her phone.

Thrive Global: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
Tina Tchen: I know it’s contrary to Arianna’s advice, but I do check my phone the first thing out of bed.

TG: What gives you energy?
TT: The people I am with and get to work and play with are what have always given me energy.

TG: What’s your secret life hack?
TT: Fun TV! I’ve always found watching fun TV shows are my go-to ways to unwind and decompress. And there are now so many to choose from!

TG: Name a book that changed your life.
TT: Our Bodies Ourselves, the women’s health self-help book from the 70s. It’s hard to remember now, but women’s health and women’s sexuality back then was never talked about, and this was the first book to explain so much, especially to my coming of age self.

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
TT: It sleeps next to me, but the sound is only on for calls, not emails or texts. I really do try now to look at it less now that I’m not at the White House, where you really had to constantly be on the alert for anything.

TG: How do you deal with email?
TT: I try to answer emails right away, because I’ve learned if I don’t, they will get lost in the pile of new incoming emails that come in. But my inbox looks terrible, because I am not a good filer and deleter!

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?
TT: Take a nap. I am a good short burst power napper.

TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
TT: During 2016 – we were juggling making the most of our initiatives in the White House, with the election, with finishing strong with our final events, with all of the emotion involved with coming to the end of an amazing nearly ten year journey (from his announcement for President to the last inauguration day).

TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?
TT: There was an instance in the White House when a decision I had participated in led to some blowback for the President, and I felt terrible as I (along with others involved) should have caught the issue ahead of time. And I confess that I dwelled on it for weeks, until other colleagues pulled me aside and said stop it – no one else (especially the men involved) is taking on this burden, and neither should you. This taught me that you need to put any real or perceived failure aside and just move on.

TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
TT: “Someday we’ll look back on this, and it will all seem funny.” Bruce Springstein, Rosalita.

Tina Tchen heads Buckley Sandler’s Chicago office, and draws on more than 30 years of experience at the highest levels of private practice and government service. She provides corporations, boards of directors, and individuals with unique litigation, counseling, and crisis management skills.

Over the course of her extensive career, Ms. Tchen has handled complex civil litigation and enforcement matters in both state and federal courts in Illinois and across the country. She has represented major global corporations and their officers and directors in a wide range of matters, including consumer class actions, corporate investigations, government enforcement actions, executive compensation, and breach of contract litigation. Ms. Tchen also has represented public agencies in state and federal class actions, and successfully argued before the United States Supreme Court on behalf of the State of Illinois.

Prior to joining Buckley Sandler, she served as an Assistant to President Obama, Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls, and Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama. Since joining the firm, Ms. Tchen has been instrumental in spearheading the Time’s Up movement’s Legal Defense Fund, which provides legal support to women and men who have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.

Ms. Tchen serves on numerous strategic advisory boards for organizations, businesses, and nonprofits, including the U.S. Afghan Women’s Council, Quantum Leaps, Inc., Civic Nation, the United State of Women, Women in the Service Change Initiative, and Gender Equity is Common Sense.

Prior to joining the Obama administration, Ms. Tchen was a partner in corporate litigation at Skadden, where she practiced for 23 years. She received her J.D. from Northwestern University School of Law and her B.A. from Harvard University, where she was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and an editor of The Harvard Independent.

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