How TikTok COO Vanessa Pappas Manages One of the Most Influential Jobs in the World

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How TikTok COO Vanessa Pappas Manages One of the Most Influential Jobs in the World

While Pappas originally thought she would become a veterinarian, getting her first computer when she was 12 years old changed everything. “It opened up a whole new world for me. I remember playing games with people from different parts of the world. It just completely blew my mind,” she says. “That was a moment when I recognized the power of technology and realized it was something I wanted to be a part of.”

And TikTok is certainly where it’s at. Going forward, Pappas says, the company will continue to go big, especially when it comes to “live usage and consumption.” She also mentions investing and exploring the e-commerce marketplace…but staying true to TikTok’s mission of inspiring creativity and bringing joy to consumers will always come first. 

So how does Pappas inspire her own team, and what is the most misunderstood aspect of her job? For Glamour’s latest edition of Doing the Work, she reveals all that and more.

How I define what it means to be a good boss

A good boss really empowers you to do your best work and supports you in your endeavors. That’s something that I strive to do and enable my teams to do. When I look back at the bosses I’ve had and the mentors I’ve had, that’s one of the common themes.

What bosses need to do better

A bad boss is someone who doesn’t enable their team by micromanaging and doesn’t give them the freedom to do their best work. Maybe more subtle is: leaders who are not able to clearly communicate so you never know where you stand. Are you doing well? Are you not doing well? That should never come as a surprise. Having really clear communication from your leader is critical.

The most misunderstood aspect of my job

I would love to know what people think about this role. You know, a title like chief operating officer can feel really broad or just not specific in terms of what your day-to-day looks like. There are so many things that I will do in any one particular day, whether that is reviewing an upcoming product launch that we have for our creators or giving feedback on the creative for an ad campaign that we have or thinking through our latest safety policies. It really is broadened. But I’m keenly focused on how we’re fostering an enjoyable, safe, and inclusive community in everything that we’re doing. Everything that I prioritize is focused on that.

My favorite part of my job

It really is seeing the positive impact that we had had on our community. A woman from Australia, who was an agoraphobic, posted a video talking about how she was really struggling through the pandemic and she got on TikTok and she found her community. She went down the rabbit hole of a green thumb TikTok about how to garden and transformed her space. She had plants growing everywhere and saw this community supporting her on TikTok as she was sharing everything. It really gave her a sense of confidence to get out there more and changed her outlook on life. So if I’m at my local cafe talking to a waiter or in a business meeting and my business partner says, “My family member’s life has changed,” in terms of getting on TikTok, knowing that you’re putting smiles on people’s faces is just an incredible feeling. That to me is my number one thing that inspires me.

The one area I’m a perfectionist about

My schedule. I am a ruthless organizer in keeping my calendar, and the reason behind that is because I want to make sure I’m prioritizing the right things. I set weekly priority meetings. I look at what are the business objectives, what am I trying to achieve this week, and is my time and the commitments that I’ve made in line with what I’m trying to accomplish? I also do that to ensure that I have a good work-life balance. I’m very particular about making sure that I’m blocking time off for my family.

How I prioritize my personal life

A lot of it is just owning your calendar. I will block family time because that is precious time that I’ve set aside and cannot schedule over it. Obviously, if there’s something urgent that needs attending, then that’s a conversation I’ll have. I’ll tell my wife, “Tonight I’m not going to be at the dinner table, but here’s what I’m going to do instead.” It’s really getting a sense of balance in that regard and making sure I’m still finding ways to prioritize family moments. That’s why it’s so important taking my kids to school in the morning and having dinner with them in the evening.

My unique desk snack

I don’t snack too much during the day, but my go-to snack would be Vegemite on toast, which is an Australian snack. It’s an acquired taste, that’s for sure. I don’t think many Americans would take to it as well. It’s very salty. You have to look for international food markets that carry it.

The gift I love to give 

I love getting people gourmet food baskets. If I can find one from a local gourmet store that I can send, I love that, particularly for folks who are new parents. People are always getting baby gifts when they welcome a child, but people forget about the parents. In those first few weeks, your whole world has been turned upside down and you’re not one to be cooking meals for yourself. Getting a gourmet food basket, whether you’ve just closed a deal, had an amazing milestone in your work or in school or in life, or had a baby, that’s my go-to. People love food!

My standard greeting or goodbye 

We don’t send too many emails at work, but I’ll usually say “Cheers,” which is not a very American, or common, thing to do. Otherwise we have our own internal communications tool, like Slack, so we sign off with emojis all the time, like little smiling faces or fist bumps or the power arm. I love the fist bump.

How I celebrate after a productive day at work

A nice glass of wine. If I’m wanting to be a little bit more decadent, I make a spiced hot chocolate with cayenne pepper and maple syrup. It’s great.

My stress reliever after a tough day

Watching TikToks! It really is my go-to for decompressing at the end of the day because I know it will make me smile. And spending time with family, honestly. Nothing resets my day like spending time with my three-year-old, my five-year-old, and my wife. Every now and then we’ll change it up and either go for an evening walk by the beach and watch the sunset, or we’ll grab some musical instruments and run around the house and make a ton of noise, which I’m sure our neighbors love. Anything like that just breaks up the day.

How I deal with disappointment

My mom taught me early on—and my wife says this too—is to imagine a year from now if that thing that you’re worried about at this moment is going to feel the same. Are you going to have the same sense of attachment to it? Does it really matter at the end of the day? And more often than not, in the grand scheme of things, these aren’t things that are really going to change the situation dramatically. It makes it a lot easier to put it into perspective. 

The advice I wish I could give my younger self

Don’t be afraid to take risks, because you can always be back to where you were, if you hadn’t changed anything. Don’t worry so much about what people will think or what the expectations are. Because at the end of the day, it’s just you judging yourself and how you’re faring in that moment. Don’t give yourself such a hard time and be a lot more open to try things out. I think it always ends up working out for the best.

What I miss most about being in the office

We’re all missing that real-world experience of getting to see one another in person. Having that connection changes things so radically. I think people would be happier at work if you could humanize the other person’s perspective, understand where they’re coming from, and find that sense of connection. That camaraderie and really embracing more opportunity to have those moments to come together—that’s what I really look forward to.

What TikTok made me purchase

One of our most popular hashtags is #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt. Dry-erase notepads was a fun one for me. There’s this self-cleaning water bottle that I use. A lot of it is home office supplies.

The home appliance that makes my work day better

My big pandemic purchase was buying an espresso machine at home. Can’t live without it. It’s called the Appartamento.

Jessica Radloff is the Glamour West Coast editor. You can follow her on Instagram at @jessicaradloff14. She is not on TikTok yet, but has promised Pappas she will join before the end of the year.

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