It was 2008: I had been working in tech for nearly 10 years, or in Facebook terms, since Mark Zuckerberg was 13 years old. I was an early Facebook user, an avid fan and excited about Facebook’s bold mission. When Sheryl Sandberg joined Facebook as Chief Operating Officer, I noticed. I knew that helping to build Facebook would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. At the very least, I had to raise my hand at the chance.
I picked up the phone and called Sheryl. I had met Sheryl socially, but did not know her well. I was oddly surprised when I was able to reach her. I had no idea what Facebook needed. I only knew I wanted to do something that mattered. I figured I didn’t have much time, so I launched right in: “Sheryl, what is your biggest problem and can I help solve it?” We later laughed that I hadn’t even taken time to exchange pleasantries.
I realized when I heard her response that I might have just jumped into the deep end without knowing how to swim. “Recruiting,” she said. “We have amazing people, and we need to continue to build the team.” I had never led a recruiting organization, a fact the little voice inside my head repeated dozens of times.
Fortunately, I was emboldened because nearly every role I’d ever had was a role that I had not done prior. I think of my career as a jungle gym, not a ladder: jumping from rung to rung, side to side, up and down, learning new things, pursuing new experiences, and focusing as much on the journey as the destination. It has always been important to me to work on things that really matter, and that is often something different at every company at any given point in time. Occasionally, exploring the jungle gym requires a move down in terms of level, as was the case for me when I joined Facebook. Sometimes that can be a springboard, and sometimes not. It’s a decision that each person has to make individually. It’s a move I’ve been willing to take to pursue areas in which I believe I can have the greatest impact.
After just a few months in the Recruiting role, the head of HR decided to leave his role to return to his engineering roots. I said to him, “It’s so great that you’re moving over to lead Product. We’ll have to find someone great to lead HR.” And then he said, “I think you’re going to do that.” I was stunned. “I’m going to do that? Oh, no, no, no. I’m not going to do that. I’ve never done that before…”
I have been leading HR and Recruiting for Facebook ever since. It’s hard to believe it’s been five years almost to the day since I made that fateful phone call to Sheryl.
What have you never done before?