To an outsider, Erica Anderson’s career path up until this point might sound linear.
She’s been part of teams at Twitter, Google, CBS News, MTV News and more. She’s lived in New York City, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., and has networks across all types of fields and demographics.
In reality, she says, her career has been a winding path filled with professional leaps.
“The truth is I made up every single job I’ve had so far except for my first job out of college,” Anderson, BAJ’06, said. “That is an amazing position to be in, that these people trusted me enough, that I was worth taking a risk on. ‘One day at a time’ is my motto.”
Anderson studied journalism, political science and religious studies at IU. IU encouraged her curiosity, propensity for asking questions and entrepreneurial mindset, she said.
She loved learning about the history of journalism.
“I think the institution is so important. I think the role it plays in society is essential,” Anderson said. “I’m so passionate about the mission, and what I took inside of these places was a deep belief in that journalistic institution.”
That belief in her personal mission and in the ideas she was bringing to the table has generated a wealth of opportunities.
“When you go into a place with a strong personal mission, which for me was to help the platforms (while working at Twitter and Google, primarily) understand the history of journalism, to give them context to what they were disrupting,” she said. “That was my north star.”
Anderson started working on the side as a citizen journalist for MTV, reporting on the 2008 election while she worked in public affairs in Washington, D.C.
“I learned a lot about social media and digital strategies in the early days,” she said. “So I parlayed that into a consulting business, and Katie Couric hired me — CBS News hired me — to move to New York City and help her get up to speed on social media, especially Twitter.”
After her work at CBS, Twitter recruited Anderson. At the time, the company had about 300 people, she said, and she moved to San Francisco to focus on growing the journalism and news community on the platform.
“I had this dream job at CBS, but I knew if I went to Twitter, I was going to be pushed to learn so much that I knew would serve me,” she said.
The early days at Twitter were incredibly special, Anderson said.
“We were touching the sun every day,” Anderson said. “It just felt like we were on this rocket ship, and the most unbelievable things were happening every single second. Like the first time the pope tweeted or when Osama bin Laden was killed, and it was reported on Twitter — we were literally making history. I was surrounded by the most talented, creative, original people, so that was definitely a beautiful chapter.”
Anderson continued blending her passions for media and technology at Google, working on mitigating dis- and mis-information spread. She has also served as executive producer for Vox Media podcasts.
“(My job path has been) finding the most important problem and making a case to work on it,” Anderson said.
She also developed her advocacy skills, becoming part of the team leading the 2018 Google walkout in response to a New York Times investigation reporting how the company had paid millions of dollars in exit packages to male executives accused of misconduct without disclosing their transgressions.
Because she believes in community, Anderson said, advocacy was a natural extension within her work.
“From the beginning, it was personal to me to advocate for equal rights in the workplace,” she said.
She started an LGBT group at Twitter and lent her support to the Google walkout.
“As a lesbian, as someone who grew up in Indiana where it did not feel safe to be gay, and I felt like I had to leave, I felt as if I needed to find ways and opportunities to stand up for my community,” she said. “Everything is about collaboration.”
Now, her collaborative efforts are focused on her role as co-founder and chief business officer at The New Savant.
“The through-line of my career has definitely been having an entrepreneurial mindset,” Anderson said. “Even with MTV and CBS and Twitter, I was creating new things, and that actually is consistent with what I’m doing now.”
The New Savant, founded by Anderson and her partner Ingrid Nilsen, is a modern scent studio creating handmade candles.
The idea blossomed when Anderson and Nilsen returned to Indiana for a visit, she said. While here, Nilsen picked up candle-making materials and experimented with creation.
On their drive back to New York, Anderson and Nilsen discussed trying to make the new passion a successful business venture.
“I was like ‘I love this idea. Can I help you set up the business around it?’” Anderson said.
The first collection sold out in seven minutes in December 2020, Anderson said. The business now has a devoted consumer base.
This new position is filled with new challenges and rewards, Anderson said.
“I took this risk to start this olfactory business, which I don’t have subject expertise in, but I am learning so much about the future of scent, about our sense of smell, about the role it plays in our world,” she said. “I’m learning so much."