In our monthly highlight section, we are thrilled to showcase Thomas Chow, one of our esteemed executive board members. With a background in the tech industry and a passion for the intersection of law and technology, Thomas’ journey to becoming a lawyer is nothing short of fascinating. In this interview, he shares his path to the legal profession, his decision to go in-house, his involvement with TechGC, his favorite moments within the organization, and how he leverages its resources to find answers to work-related questions.

Unexpected Turns

Thomas’ journey into law was an unconventional one. With a background in the tech industry, he initially planned to pursue a technical career. However, his interest in the study of law, policy, and politics led him to major in sociology during college. Thomas’ love for reading, writing, and public speaking, combined with his technical background, made pursuing a legal career a natural fit. This realization prompted him to apply to law school, paving the way for his successful transition from the tech industry to the legal profession. In Thomas’s own words: “I’m a geek through and through… Maybe there’s a good fit for me as an attorney here.”

The decision to go in-house came when he faced a significant turning point in his career. After trying to build his own clients as a litigator focused on technology, he recognized the challenges in that path. It was during the recession of 2008 that he faced a pivotal moment. Laid off from his firm, he had the choice to join another law firm or embark on a new challenge. He chose the latter, taking on an in-house role at TechSoup. Driven by the desire for a new challenge and a different perspective, he embarked on the in-house journey that has shaped his career ever since.

Discovering TechGC

Through his professional network, Thomas became acquainted with TechGC. The organization gained recognition as an up-and-coming group during the mid-2010s. It began with invite-only dinners in San Francisco, and as he witnessed colleagues and acquaintances joining the group, he became increasingly curious. Recognizing the value of this community of experienced and aspiring General Counsels, he decided to contribute his own knowledge and expertise to TechGC. The opportunity to mentor and provide guidance to a group of professionals with a shared passion for technology and law was a driving force behind his involvement.

Reflecting on his favorite moments within TechGC, Thomas highlighted two significant experiences. First, during the challenging times of the pandemic, TechGC stood out as an organization that navigated the virtual landscape with success. It provided quality digital content, facilitated networking opportunities, and even secured perks like DoorDash credits. The community’s resilience and support helped maintain a sense of sanity amidst the isolation. The second highlight for him was the executive retreats, particularly the one held in Hawaii. Being able to engage in strategic discussions and share insights with seasoned General Counsels in a picturesque setting allowed for valuable brainstorming and candid conversations. The opportunity to gather with seasoned general counsels, and engage in candid conversations about strategic leadership and team management, proved invaluable. Additionally, Thomas fondly recalled a special experience during an executive retreat coinciding with his birthday. After the conference concluded, his fellow attendee, Ryan Loh, shared the news, resulting in an impromptu birthday celebration. The room filled with laughter and voices singing “Happy Birthday,” creating an unforgettable memory and highlighting the genuine connections within the TechGC community.

Connecting offline

When faced with work-related questions, Thomas Chow has found his own unique way of utilizing the resources offered by TechGC. While some may heavily rely on the listserv, Thomas prefers a more personal approach.

For me, it’s about reaching out directly,” Thomas explained. “If I encounter a question I haven’t considered before, I often pick up the phone, or schedule a lunch with one of the fellow GCs I’ve met through TechGC events, such as curated dinners.”

This personalized interaction allows him to engage in in-depth conversations, hashing out the complexities of the challenges he faces. It goes beyond simply seeking information; it’s about seeking guidance and insight from experienced professionals who have encountered similar situations.

“When you’re dealing with nuanced issues like approaching your board or working with a finance team that disagrees, being able to talk things out with people is the most helpful,” Thomas emphasized. “TechGC provides a platform for these discussions and connections, enabling us to tap into the collective wisdom of a diverse group of GCs.”

By fostering these connections, TechGC has not only expanded his professional network but also enriched his knowledge base. “TechGC has added a substantial number of people to my roadmap,” he acknowledged. The diverse perspectives and expertise shared within the community have proven invaluable in his decision-making process.

Community Connector

Thomas joined TechGC almost 3 years ago in January 2020. Since then he has attended 23 events, both live and virtual, including 9 dinners. He has also contributed as a speaker in 5 occasions, and in recent months has provided valuable insight and answers to 20+ open questions on the Braintrust.

He’s been a roundtable speaker at our TechGSea summit in Hawaii, as well as our Experienced GC Virtual Summit. In Hawaii, Thomas lead our most experienced GCs in a breakout session on intelligent risk taking, where they talked through a theoretical situation and how to navigate the associated risk.

Learn more about Thomas here.