Facebook Global Marketing VP Carolyn Everson: Relationship Building Is Everything
10:30 am, October 18th | by Laura Donovan
As to be expected, Facebook global marketing VP Carolyn Everson is constantly on her toes and does a lot of traveling, but the former MTV ad sales executive is happy to make time for empowering events for women. The tech powerhouse, who made CNNMoney’s 2010 “40 under 40″ list, just had the opportunity to speak at American Express’s two-day Women’s Conference, where she discussed the importance of risk-taking and fostering relationships in the workplace. When it came to selecting panelists, AmEx chief diversity officer Jennifer Christie knew Everson would be a good pick. Christie told The Jane Dough of the selection process:
“We really look at the key themes or barriers we want to tackle as it pertains to their advancement. And then, we ask our senior women and men to tap their own networks to suggest someone that has a story or expertise that our women could learn from. We like to find people that know us, our heart and people that are passionate about our journey to grow…By holding this conference every two years we are kept honest and accountable to breaking down the barriers and bringing more women into senior executive roles at American Express.”
Everson felt honored to partake in the gathering, and here’s what she had to say about it and what young women can do to propel themselves forward in their careers.
What was your big takeaway from the conference?
I think there were three key messages. One was to be willing to take risks and make goals for your career. That does not mean thinking about how to get the next promotion but to be really thoughtful with regards to your career. When you’re willing to take risks, we believe you’re going to be really rewarded…Secondly is to identify sponsors, more importantly to have sponsors identify you, and you have to earn that respect internally from your peers and your bosses but when someone is looking out for you and sponsoring you it could make a big difference in your career. It’s different than mentorship. It involves the relationship, it involves hard work. The third part is to be comfortable with failure. You do need to have failure to learn lessons. There was a venture capital investor on the panel who talked about, you know, they learned mostly from their failure. Each one of us talked about failures we may have had in our career that have really given us valuable lessons. As leaders, to be able to reward or talk about failures is something that I think we should all do.
So do you have any experiences with failure?
I had an experience early on in my career where I was working on my own business plan and it did not work out. It got funded but it did not work out and I did not stay with the company once it got funded. Going through that early in my career taught me a number of things. One is sort of to never give up on a dream. So getting back on the saddle, so to speak. Have confidence in yourself and your skills.
What’s your advice for young women starting out in their careers who want to one day hold a position like yours?
One: believe that anything is possible. I think no one should set limits on themselves. You’re probably capable of a lot more than you think are. Just believing that you can have [something great] is really important. It’s really important to believe in yourself. The second is to never underestimate the value of relationships. I would not be the person I am today if I had not built this network of clients that has talked about the work that I’ve done and the person I am. It was Sheryl Sandberg who recruited me to Facebook and she interviewed a number of CMOs and it was through those conversations that my name kept coming up and that builds on a track record of success, relationships. The third is to not feel like you have to make a decision between having a family and having a career. I think when you feel like you’re forced to make that decision it’s an awful decision. One of the things I try to inspire younger women to do is understand that they can have families, they can have pets, you can have a great career, they just have to be clear about what their priorities are on any given day. If your priority for that particular day is to see your children’s annual physical, then that’s what you do. If you have a really important meeting and you’re not going to get home in time for homework, then you’re going to choose that. Just be really clear about what your priorities are each day. If you do decide to get married at a young age, whoever your partner is, and no one told me this when I was 25 and got married, but choosing your life partner is important because they are also your sponsor and your champion. That’s a really important part of succeeding. I think having discussions about what your dreams and priorities are is important as well.
Well unfortunately not everyone is going to have a champion, so what would you say to a young woman who lacks that support system?
I think if they don’t have it at work, it takes time. Sometimes it’s hard in your twenties to look at women in their forties and think, “Oh my God, how am I supposed to get from A to K or L in terms of trajectory?” It’s one step at a time, so it’s finding one person who can be a friend, a colleague, and overtime you build that network. Be patient. It takes time.
What are your long-term goals?
A couple of things. I love what I’m doing at Facebook, I love what it stands for, its mission and what we’re trying to do. Things change very quickly at Facebook so I don’t even know what I will be doing if I’m still at Facebook in ten years, I don’t know what that role would be because the company is evolving so quickly. If it isn’t Facebook in ten years I do aspire to run a company. That might be starting my own or going into a company to lead and be a CEO. I’m also looking to join a board of directors, so that’s on my short-term list. Long-term, I want to make sure I am doing something I love, that I’m giving back to the community and very involved in a lot of charitable organizations. By then my kids will be in college and it will be a very different stage of my life.
This interview has been edited and condensed.