Maaike de Bie has been easyJet’s group general counsel for just over a year and is tackling a whole host of issues already – and not all in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here, she discusses working from home amid legal challenges against the government and managing the fall out from easyJet’s cyber attack in May, as well as the airline founder’s public disagreement with its board’s strategy.
Describe your home workspace in three words.
Bright, flowers, books.
What are some of the major challenges in your industry at the moment?
I work in aviation so the challenges are well known, including us partaking in a legal challenge, together with IAG and Ryanair, against the government for its flawed quarantine regulations.
As an overlay, we also had a cyber incident this year and our founder/controlling shareholder decided to very publicly disagree with the board’s strategy which has resulted in much additional work. All in all, a very busy time.
Sadly we have to downsize and reduce our work force, all directly linked to the pandemic – before the outbreak, we were looking at one of our best years.
How do you think the GC role will evolve going forward as a result of the pandemic?
How this evolution is as a result of the pandemic is hard to predict and most certainly will differ for each company. Given the challenges we face at the moment – our function is at the heart of everything that is going on and so if anything, the pandemic has highlighted its importance.
What would be your three top tips for others GCs during this crisis?
(1) Breathe, (2) take one day at the time and do the best you can each day, (3) make sure you take time to re-energise – this is a marathon not a sprint and health and wellbeing (including mental wellbeing) is paramount.
What are the most helpful and unhelpful things external advisers can do for you at the moment?
Helpful – by working with us to think through the many challenges we are going through and to realise that we do not have time to dive deep into every angle – so we need our advisors to focus on the critical aspects and highlighting key points we need to focus on, this helps us keeping the many balls in the air without dropping them.
Unhelpful is the opposite.
How are you spending your weekends? Is there a Netflix/book recommendation you’d share?
I wish I could provide you a Netflix/book recommendation as at the moment weekends are very much like weekdays for me at the moment.
One series that I am watching in the background is set in a city I used to live in – Montreal – and is called Bad Blood (Netflix) – it is a gangster series which my husband loves and is good background tv for me as I am working.
What are you most looking forward to when lockdown is over?
Background music or silence?
What’s the best part of working from home?
The short commute and having family meals – something I have not managed well as part of my working life and something that is definitely changing for the future going forward. Having these dinner moments are most precious.
What time do you tend to start your day, take lunch and finish up? How often do you take breaks and try to ensure a work-life balance at home?
Work life starts between 7-8 am and continues to whenever is needed, usually late in the evening. I do make time for my walk or run every day – it is the one thing I absolutely need to stay sane (and healthy).
Also, as I mentioned before, I have a family meal every night which is amazing and something I really treasure. I try to take the advice of my trainer – 45/10/2 – which stands for ‘move every 45 minutes’; ’10 minutes of daylight every day’; ‘2 minutes of HIIT everyday’. I don’t always manage.
Do you prefer phone calls or video calls?
Am fine with both.
Do you get dressed properly every day?
Not sure what ‘properly’ means but yes, I do get dressed everyday – I go for smart comfortable.
Have a few minutes to spare? Take the Legal Week job satisfaction survey and tell us your thoughts on working life at your firm. Click here to take the questionnaire and enter the prize draw, all submissions are strictly anonymous.