Facebook is facing intense pressure to turn its enormous userbase into enormous sums of money. And leading that charge is Carolyn Everson, the most powerful woman at Facebook you may never have heard of.
As Facebook’s vice president of global marketing solutions, Everson is responsible for growing Facebook’s ad revenues, which accounted for 85 percent of the $3.7 billion the social network raked in last year. She oversees more than 20 teams scattered around the globe, and is tasked with helping Facebook become BFFs with the top 1,500 marketers in the world, some 20 of which she personally meets on a regular basis.
She acts as a deft negotiator between two camps that don’t always think alike: She must sell Facebook to Madison Avenue suits and Fortune 500 CEOs, who in some cases are still skeptical of social media, and in turn ensure that Facebook -- and its 900 million users -- plays nice with the corporations claiming a growing share of real estate on the site.
“I want to be a partner they can’t work without. I want to be inextricably linked to their business,” Everson said of the marketers with whom she works. “My belief is that my job is not to go and sell ads to anybody. The more I can consult, educate and partner with clients to help understand how to best leverage Facebook, the money follows. That’s my mantra.”
Everson, who as a college student aspired to become either a lawyer or Katie Couric, arrived at Facebook after stints at Anderson Consulting (now Accenture), Disney, Zagat Survey, Primedia, MTV Networks and, briefly, Microsoft. Less than a year after being hired at Microsoft as head of its global advertising efforts, she received a call from Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer. She left Microsoft shortly thereafter.
“My heart jumped when the phone call came,” Everson said. “I feel like this kind of opportunity comes along once in a lifetime.”
Everson, like Sandberg, has become an advocate for women in the workplace and is putting together her own version of Sandberg's 2010 TED Talk on female leaders.
But while Sandberg maintains that "there’s no such thing as work-life balance,” Everson’s motto is “work–life integration.”
The mother of two 9-year-old girls, Everson said she frequently brings her family with her on work trips and schedules meetings around driving her daughters to school in the morning. Her rule is to attend every “first” -- first school play, first concert, or first hockey game, which she recently missed because of bad weather in Detroit.
“Last night was the first night I missed a ‘first’ my kids have done in nine years,” Everson said. “If it means I have to fly to London for 24 hours to be back for a school play, I’ll do it. I’ve never missed a school function.”
In an interview for The Huffington Post’s Women in Tech series, Everson shared how she juggles her family and career, why people share on Facebook and why she has nine pets.
What's the most surprising thing you've learned since being at Facebook?
Understanding that the social network is truly an online representation of our offline world and that human behavior really hasn’t changed has been a really big ‘aha’ moment. I think the second thing is that I probably under-appreciated the amount of education that needs to take place in the market and what a role play we can play in being a really good consultant and adviser to our partners.
You mentioned that Facebook has shifted marketers' mindset, so that instead of thinking about why someone would care about their message, they're now asking why someone would share their message. What makes people share something on Facebook?
What we've observed is that they share for basic human truths. One reason is to make their lives easier and to make the lives of others easier. The second is that people innately want to help each other. The things that light up on Facebook are the non-profits and causes that people are passionate about. Third, people use Facebook as their identity. If you think about Facebook, especially with Timeline, it's taking your offline self and putting it in an online enviornment. It's the first time we've had that on the Internet. It's the only place that has your true, authentic identity.
Are there obstacles you've encountered in your career that you think a man wouldn't have encountered?
I’ve never thought of myself as a woman. I don’t think of myself differently. I’ve always viewed myself as part of the team. And if on that team that I’m the only woman in an all-male environment, it’s still just a team.
Still, I’ve had moments throughout my career where I’ve felt like I might be a bit disadvantaged by being a woman -- and being one of the youngest and a woman are sort of the two strikes against you.
How can we increase the number of women in business and in tech?
The biggest reason women don’t stay in the workforce is because they feel like they have to choose between family and work. That’s a horrible choice to have to make because most anyone would choose family over work.
My mantra is you don’t have to make a choice. There’s a way to integrate both into each other. Let’s not have this facade of 'my work is here, my family is here, and there’s a separation,' because there really isn’t a separation. We’re inextricably linked to our work, so we should try to integrate our family into our work, and vice versa.
Sheryl Sandberg said in a recent interview, "There’s no such thing as work-life balance." Do you agree?
I think about it as work-life integration. I sit down and look at my calendar each quarter and there’s usually extensive travel involved. We’ll sit as a family then and I’ll say, 'Here are the places I need to go for work.' I’ll bring my family on at least one trip per quarter. This symbolically sends a very important message to my family that they’re a part of that and that if I leave for 10 days, I’m not going to leave for 10 days without them.
My advice to any of the young women at Facebook who are thinking about having kids or are pregnant is figure out what’s important to you. If being at a doctor’s appointment is important to you, then go. If seeing your kids in the morning is critical, then just come in late. Don’t be intimated about making decisions to make it work because I think you just have to do it. No one will tell you, ‘Here’s the path.’ You have to decide on your own what the path is and have confidence in your performance at work that you can make those choices.
What career advice do you have for women?
Having confidence and humility is the balance that you have to strike.
Don’t look at the world as men versus women, look at the world as though we’re all on one team. Everyone has just as much right as everyone else to have a voice, to think about career progression, to go home and be there for their family, including men.
One of the best things we could have happen is not that companies would think about programs to help women have a better work environment, but to think about women and men. There’s no reason why any father who wants to be present for any of those things I mentioned before shouldn’t feel 100 percent comfortable doing it. That’s how I lead my team: I have men and women on my team -- all of the men are dads and all the women are moms, except one -- and I say I want you both to decide what’s important to you, and this is not a women’s thing. We have to look at it as a society, and that will help the whole cause. We focus so much on women, women, women. Let’s make this a societal conversation.
You have nine pets, which is astounding. What are they and why so many?
We have four dogs -- two English bulldogs, a rescue who's a yellow lab-golden retriever mix and a boxer. We have a rabbit, a guinea pig and frogs. Why? It's probably guilty working mother syndrome. Anytime my kids ask for a pet, I'm like, 'Sure, why not? Let's get another.'
Her indispensable gadget: iPhone
Her favorite app: Facebook
Her favorite Facebook Page to follow: Burberry
Her "required reading" recommendation: "Oh, The Places You'll Go!" by Dr. Seuss
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