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WJA 2023: Erika Schenk

Staff Report//May 11, 2023

WJA 2023: Erika Schenk

Staff Report//May 11, 2023

Erika SchenkGeneral Counsel and Executive Vice President of Corporate Compliance

World Wide Technology, St. Louis

As the name indicates, the St. Louis-based company World Wide Technology has offices around the globe.

That meant that in 2020, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and protests in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, attorney Erika Schenk encountered a new set of challenges.

World Wide Technology faced questions such as: “How do we best keep our employees safe? How do we make our workplace safe?” recalled Schenk, who serves as the company’s general counsel and executive vice president of corporate compliance.

As it turned out, there were no uniform solutions that the company could apply across its offices, Schenk said.

“Every location — even within the same state, down to the county or the city or the municipality — there could be different rules in place,” Schenk said.

When the pandemic struck, “I was constantly monitoring and getting updates from different government organizations around what the rules were at that time,” Schenk said.

For example, in Singapore, where the company has offices, the Ministry of Manpower set limits on what percentage of a companies’ employees could work in the office and the number of hours they could spend there.

The company’s operations had to be “very calibrated,” Schenk said. “We had to make decisions as to how we would implement those rules with our workforce.”

After the protests regarding police conduct, Schenk helped implement resource groups for the companies’ Black and Hispanic employees. Schenk also served as an executive sponsor for a Pride group for its LGBTQ staff.

“The reason I’m here is because I like working with people. I like bringing people together. I like solving problems, and I like being part of a solution,” she said. “This job gives me the opportunity to do all of those things.”

While attending Saint Louis University School of Law, Schenk became interested in corporate law because she saw that it required collaborating with others to solve problems.

“You’re helping businesses and people come together to figure out how to do business together,” Schenk recalled. “I found that far more rewarding than other aspects” of the law “where it felt more adversarial.”

She spent 14 years at Bryan Cave, much of it leading its commercial practice team, which provided legal advice to companies and helped them finalize deals. Then she moved to the in-house counsel sector at Boeing and then World Wide Technology.

Whereas on the outside of companies “it’s a lot of work for a short burst of time and then you close the deal, and they go away,” working inside companies, “you see the after-effects,” she said.

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