When Sheryl Sandberg recently held a session on Silicon Valley’s preferred question-and-answer site Quora, the Lean In author gave insights into Mark Zuckerberg, 18 month plans and recovering from loss.
WHEN I JOINED FACEBOOK THERE WERE ONLY 550 EMPLOYEES. Late-night meetings and all-night hackathons were a core part of the culture. I realised even before I started that I wasn’t going to totally fit it. One night as Mark and I were considering working together, I called Mark at 9pm. He said he was at a dinner and asked if he could call later so I told him I’d be up for another 30 minutes. The next morning he reached out asking if I was feeling okay; he assumed that I’d been sick since I went to bed at 9.30pm. I explained that with two young children, 9.30pm was often my normal bed time. I love that Mark is now experiencing parenthood first-hand! I don’t think he yet has a 9.30pm bedtime, but maybe one day he will.
MARK HAS DONE A REALLY GOOD JOB improving the efficiency of meetings at Facebook this year. He asks people to send materials in advance so we can use the time for discussion and we try to be clear about our goal when we sit down for a meeting – are we in the room to make a decision or to have a discussion?
ONE OF MY FAVOURITE POSTERS AT FACEBOOK SAYS, ‘Nothing at Facebook is Someone Else’s Problem’. The inequities that persist are everyone’s problem – gender inequality harms men and women, racism hurts whites and minorities, and equal opportunity benefits us all. We need to help everyone understand that equality is necessary for our industry and economy. We quite simply can’t afford to miss out on the contributions of half the population. The numbers of women in tech are plummeting: women were 35 per cent of CS [computer science] majors in 1985, but only 18 per cent today. Women are missing out on high-impact, flexible, well-paid and exciting careers, and the industry is missing out on their ideas. By 2020 the US will have 1 million unfilled roles in computer science and engineering – if women majored in CS at the same rate as men we could cut this gap in half.
EDUCATE YOURSELF AND OTHERS ABOUT BIAS. One of the most important things we can do to promote diversity in the workplace is to correct for the unconscious bias that all of us have. All of us – including me – have biases. Organisations which consider themselves highly meritocratic actually show more bias. To share just one example, people with so-called ‘black-sounding names’ get fewer callbacks for interviews after submitting résumés than those with ‘white- sounding names’ – and applicants called Jennifer are likely to be offered a lower salary than applicants called John. We need to educate ourselves about bias and take actions to manage our biases.
WE CANNOT GET TO AN EQUAL WORLD WITHOUT MEN LEANING IN AT HOME and those who do have stronger marriages and healthier, happier, more successful children. If you’re a manager or leader, think about what you can do to make work work for parents. For example, at Facebook we believe that mothers and fathers deserve the same level of support when they are starting and growing a family so we offer all parents around the world four months of paid leave.
THERE IS NO STRAIGHT PATH to where you are going. If you try to draw that line you will not just get it wrong, but you will miss big opportunities. As Pattie Sellers of Fortune magazine says, careers are not ladders but jungle gyms. You don’t have to have it all figured out. I recommend adopting two concurrent goals: 1) A long-term dream. It doesn’t have to be realistic or even specific. For example, you might say you want to work in a specific field, travel the world, have more free time. Even a vague goal can provide direction. 2) An 18-month plan. Set personal goals for what you want to learn in the next year and a half. Ask yourself how you can improve and what you’re afraid to do (that’s usually the thing you should try).
I STAY MOTIVATED BY WORKING ON THINGS I really care about… The world’s problems can feel impersonal and distant, but a single image instantly makes them personal and real – and I think that’s what happens on Facebook and Instagram… On a personal note, Facebook is helping me get through what has been the hardest year of my life. When I lost my husband suddenly and unexpectedly in May, I felt very isolated – I shared on Facebook and the support of strangers and friends made a huge difference. Recovering from loss is a huge part of the human condition and by connecting with people on Facebook I was reminded that I was part of that global community. Anything you experience, no matter how tragic or devastating, is something that other people are also going through. There’s something universal about the ability to connect and share and say to someone else, “It gets better.”
Read more in Issue 30 of Collective Hub, on stands now