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Jennifer Oberhausen

Jennifer Oberhausen recently started working for Microsoft as Senior Corporate Counsel on the telecom team.  In that role she advises Microsoft product teams as they develop new products and navigate telecom policy and legal issues globally.  I’ve known Jen since she was a first-year associate and she has consistently demonstrated her legal and policy acumen at law firms, at a major wireless trade association and now at Microsoft.  It was wonderful to catch up and get a sense of what Jen has been up to lately.

Q. What attracted you to the field of communications?

A. Really, I was drawn to the people in the communications group in my first law firm, and then it turned out that the subject matter was a great fit, too.  I’ve found that with technology developing so quickly, the presence of new legal and policy issues that need to be addressed is constant.  That means that the work is never monotonous and it’s possible to become an “expert” within your organization on new areas of law much earlier in your career than if you were practicing in a more static area.  I also like that we constantly need to be learning – not just about what regulators and policymakers are doing, but also how new technologies work and how the business landscape is changing.

Q. Have things unfolded in your career more or less the way you planned?

A. Yes and no.  First off, I have to say when I was younger, I wanted to be a veterinarian, but my animal allergies made that infeasible.  If you are talking about my career as an attorney, if I’m being honest, I never had a concrete plan, but have tried to focus on developing a career that continues to be engaging and challenging, while also fitting together with my life outside of work, too.

After interning for my Mayor in college and the FTC and FCC during law school, I did always think I’d work in government early in my career, but that didn’t materialize.  So in that regard things have not worked out the way I planned.  But I have managed to develop a career path that I find interesting and engaging on a daily basis, and I’m very grateful for that.

Q. What’s the most interesting or challenging thing that you’ve done in your current position or during your career thus far?

A. I just started working with the team at Microsoft, so everything is still new and challenging!  On the substantive side, I’m working to build on everything I know from the past decade plus of experience mostly with domestic telecom law and policy and expanding that to a global scale.

If we talk about my experiences in other positions, I would say that it was fascinating and illuminating to be part of international delegations at the World Radio Conference and CITEL as critical spectrum issues were being debated.  There’s nothing else like it I’ve experienced.

Q. Is there something interesting or someone who surprised or impressed you during your career and why?

A. The thing that most caught me by surprise was how quickly you can grow your network within the FCBA and this field in general, without even realizing it.  I still remember walking into FCBA events as a brand-new associate and not knowing a single person in the room.  It didn’t take long before I had made a few good friends, and then suddenly I would walk into an event and know almost everyone in the room.  Now, those same friends I made as a very junior attorney have gone on to serve FCC Chairs and Commissioners, make partner in their law firms, and have risen in the ranks of their in-house counsel roles – seemingly all in the blink of an eye.

Q. What do you enjoy reading?

A. I’m a news junkie.  It’s a bad habit, but most days I peruse the New York Times, Washington Post, and LA Times before I even get out of bed.  I also have an ever-growing pile of novels that I’m planning to read, but I never seem to make much progress on those now that I have an endless supply of news at my fingertips at all times.

Q. Can you share perspective on the pitfalls to avoid or other career advice for those who are just getting started in the communications field?

A. For a lot of people, I think the best advice is not to be too hard on yourself.  No one will expect you to know everything or know how to do everything perfectly, so just do your best with what you do know how to do and be honest when you’re stuck or have questions.  If that happens, reach out and ask for guidance.  That will save you a lot of stress and time, and you’ll pick things up before you know it.

Q. What’s something interesting about you people are not generally aware of that you’re willing to share?

A. For the past three years or so, I’ve been a little bit less involved with the FCBA as I’ve been working with my alma mater, the University of Notre Dame, to launch the Alumni Association’s first affinity group for LGBTQ+ alums – ARC ND.  As you might imagine, it’s a lot of work to build something from the ground up, so that’s been taking up a lot of my free time. 

Q. How has your life changed as a result of COVID-19? 

A. Before COVID, I lived in the city in DC, I rode my bike or took the bus to work every day, and I hadn’t owned a car in more than ten years.  Well, none of that really worked anymore during a pandemic.  I bought a car in May 2020 – mostly over the phone and via email – and ended up gradually moving out of DC.  First, I was just visiting family in Indiana for a couple of weeks, then I decided to stay a little longer, because like everyone else, working remotely became the new norm.  After realizing that, I left DC for good in October of 2020.  Now I live in California and will be traveling up to Redmond every couple of months.  So, pretty much everything has changed!

Q. How long have you been an FCBA member and what to you is the value of FCBA membership?

A. I joined the FCBA when I interned at the FCC during my last semester of law school – more than 11 years ago now.  The FCBA has served as an invaluable resource to make friends in our field, many of whom then became colleagues at one point or another, to learn about new areas of law, and to stay connected.  I’m incredibly grateful for the people in the FCBA and would encourage anyone starting out in our field or looking to reconnect to make the most of it, in whatever way makes the most sense for you.