Tips on navigating your career
Republishing a version of the note that wrote to my Facebook colleagues before I left in March 2021 that might be helpful for others.
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I have to admit - I’m cheating a little bit for today’s newsletter. Being in NYC for the Integrity Institute retreat is taking up so much of my time that I can’t spend writing a custom newsletter. And there are so many things I want to dig into. Tucker Carlson going to Twitter. TikTok responding to Congressional questions. OpenAI’s CEO Sam Altman is going to testify in the Senate next week. Google had its I/O conference with all sorts of cool AI announcements. Bluesky asking people not to give invite codes to heads of state.
So, those things will have to wait for when I have more time. Instead, I thought I would repurpose something I wrote in March of 2021. At Facebook, there’s a tradition to do a badge post when leaving the company. It’s called that because the post is usually accompanied by a photo of that person’s work badge that we used to get into buildings, etc.
For my badge post, I wrote up my tips for how to navigate the company. Last week, I was reminded of it because someone mentioned how their boss had sent it to them when they joined the company and that they found it helpful in thinking about their career overall.
Since we are entering graduation season and a lot of people I know are thinking about the next steps in their careers, I wanted to share it more broadly. It is slightly edited to be more generic and not Facebook-centric.
Without further ado, here are my tips for navigating your career:
The only thing guaranteed is change: The number one thing I tell people is that the only thing I can guarantee is that things will change. It’s important to get comfortable working in an ever-changing environment where the H1 plan you spent so much time putting together needs to be thrown out the next week. Change can also be a great opportunity to find new projects as well as be a comfort if you are going through a rough patch.
Embrace the chaos: This sort of goes with number one, but also learn to embrace the chaos of your company and the world. Former House Speaker John Boehner was known for often citing the serenity prayer, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” I think about this prayer nearly every day. While your stress and anxiety levels will always be higher here, they might be a little less high when you think about what you can and cannot control.
Be comfortable working in white noise: Along with everything above also comes the fact that you will often have to make decisions and plans where there are a lot of different things happening and with imperfect information. It can be paralyzing and make you feel unsure of which way to move forward. Just take the next best step and be willing to adjust as needed.
The fire hose never lets up; you just get used to the volume: When people first join Facebook, they sometimes think that the never-ending stream of information and work might let up as they get more used to the company. Nope. It never lets up. You just get used to it. You need to find your own ways to make boundaries and time for the things you want and need.
Getting to know a company/organization takes time: In pre-COVID time, I always told new folks joining the company to give themselves six to nine months before they even start to feel like they sort of understand how the company works internally. I can only imagine it is harder for those of you who joined a place in COVID times. Be patient with yourself. It will come.
Careers aren’t a straight line: Most companies these days are not ones where career growth is an old-school corporate ladder. Your career is what you make it to be. No one else cares about it more than you do. I’ve seen some people jump around to a lot of different teams to get different experiences or others, like myself, who stay in one role pretty much the whole time, but the job changes drastically depending on what is needed. Think about what you want, what your goals are for the next 2, 5, and 10 years and take control of your growth. No one is going to come up to you with a plan for your career. If you want some good templates to use to frame that thinking these are ones I’ve used.
Find a problem and present a solution: Want to be successful? Find problems and present solutions that you are willing to work on executing. Anyone can find and point out problems, but the people who will get opportunities and do cool stuff are the ones willing to put in the hard work actually to execute them. The whole reason I was able to build an international team around politics, government, and elections is that I pitched an idea for that team to policy leadership in 2013, and they said yes.
Learn how to frame up decisions and tradeoffs: I learned a TON from working with the product teams at Facebook, but the skill I use the most and I will take with me is the framework of decision by traffic light. I love this so much. I use it all the time. I’m a visual learner, so I think that’s part of the reason I like it, but it also gives such an easy way to visualize the hard tradeoffs you are presenting.
Develop principles for your work: I got to work with Dan Levy a little bit back in 2017 when I was helping to run the economic policy programs work. We were trying to get his ok to pull some data that we wanted, and he kept pushing us to first present to him the principles of how we were going to pull the data and the purpose for pulling it. Since then, I’ve seen many other product teams work first on a set of principles before anything else, and I have found it so valuable to have those when you are presented with hard decisions. It’s worth taking the time to develop these for you and your work if you haven’t.
Give feedback in real-time: The first promise I made to everyone I hired at the company was that I would give them feedback in real-time, and I asked them to do the same back to me. Do not wait until performance review time. It can be easy to want to avoid the conversation, but you will build up trust and do better work if you have the conversation right away. Take a crucial conversations course or read the book to get some valuable skills on how to do this well.
Don’t assume your manager’s manager knows any complaints you have: One of my biggest pet peeves is someone complaining to me about their manager, and when I ask them if they’ve given the feedback to their manager or given the feedback in their upward review their answer is no. People don't know there is a problem if you don’t tell them. And don’t ask someone else to be the messenger. Be respectful and constructive in how you bring it up, but please don’t sit silently by and just hope it gets better.
Take the time to document and share your and your team’s work: Everyone is incredibly busy with work. There’s so much to do that the first thing that often gets pushed aside is writing recaps or posting in whatever tool your org uses about what you and your team are doing. I highly encourage you to make time for this. It not only helps your leadership to know what’s going on but also all of your internal partners. PLUS, super easy to pull from come performance review time.
Build in time for reflection and long-term thinking: The next thing I often see get pushed to the back burner? People setting aside time to both reflect and look ahead. With so much going on and so many fires, it’s so easy to get caught up in the now. However, setting aside time as a team to reflect on past work, celebrate wins, and discuss what worked and what didn’t can help to make you stronger going forward. Likewise, take the time to look a few years down the road. Are there obstacles you can see shaping up you might want to start preparing for now? Where do you want to be in a few years? All of that thinking can help to give you some grounding in the chaos. Of course, be ready to shift and pivot. To give you an example, I’ve been bugging a lot of you about the thinking I’ve been doing about 2024 and all of the elections that will be happening that year. (Remember, I wrote this in March 2021. I’ve been talking about 2024 for a long time. 😀)
Prepare for highly stressful and busy times: While life at many organizations is always busy, there are also going to be times when it’s REALLY busy. For me, that was always around high-profile elections. To get through those times, it’s important to build in time to destress, eat some veggies and plan something like a vacation that you’ll take when that time is over so you have something to look forward to.
Use the VIP list on your phone: This is a little life hack someone taught me a while back, and it’s been wonderful for making me feel ok not to look at my email constantly. If you use the iPhone, you can set certain contacts as a VIP and get push notifications when they email you. I set them up for folks like my boss and other VPs where if they were emailing me, I wanted to know ASAP. That way, if I woke up in the middle of the night and looked at my phone in a panic, I could see if any of them had emailed or not. If not, I could try to go back to sleep.
Additional tip: This tool wasn’t available when I wrote this, but another thing I do to help manage my time and distractions is putting most of my notifications to be delivered in a scheduled summary. This is a fantastic new tool on the iPhone. I also have turned off the red dot on many of my apps except for messaging ones, so it’s not screaming at me. Earlier this year, I realized I was spending a lot of time throughout the day just to clear out those red dots because they drove me nuts. Now I just don’t see the red dot at all, and I control when I look at email, etc.
Use the products: This really varies by person, but if you are someone that doesn’t use any of the products your company builds very much, try to change that. If you are someone who works in the space of technology policy, for instance, I think you need to use these apps to understand how they work and what they are doing. Be smart about it and understand how you can keep yourself safe, but by using them, you can better understand the experiences others go through in using them and can better understand how to do your job.
Don’t forget to say thank you: Finally, please don’t forget to say thank you to your colleagues and teammates. When you are working in a fast-paced environment, it can be easy to forget to thank people for their hard work and when they have helped you. I always try to remember how far a simple thank you can go in making someone feel appreciated.
What I’m Reading
The Washington Post: Reid Hoffman on the future of artificial intelligence
The Washington Post: ChatGPT makes appearance before Congress
Associated Press: New Twitter rules expose election offices to spoof accounts
The New Atlantis: Shallowfakes - The danger of exaggerating the AI disinfo threat
Government Technology: Government Begins to Ask: When Do We Leave Twitter?
The Washington Post: TikTok answered hundreds of lawmakers’ questions. Here are the highlights
Tom Cunningham: Ranking by Engagement
Journal of Technology and Science: The Fifth issue with papers on:
Displaying News Source Trustworthiness Ratings Reduces Sharing Intentions for False News Posts
Content Moderators’ Strategies for Coping with the Stress of Moderating Content Online
Listen to What They Say: Better Understand and Detect Online Misinformation with User Feedback
Bluesky: Composable Moderation
Mehlman Consulting: The Four Addictions: The Challenge of Breaking Hard Habits in the 2020s
Substack: Toward a better media system
🚨 NEW 🚨
May 16, 2023 - Open AI CEO Sam Altman Senate Hearing
Topics to keep an eye on:
Facebook 2020 election research
By May 12 - Meta response on spirit of the policy decisions
May 14, 2023 – Thailand election
May 14, 2023 – Turkey election
May 15-16: Copenhagen Democracy Summit
May 16, 2023 - Open AI CEO Sam Altman Senate Hearing
May 13 and 27, 2023 – Mauritania election
May 21, 2023 – Greece election
May 21, 2023 – Timor-Leste election
May 24-26, 2023 - Nobel Prize Summit: Truth, Trust and Hope
May: EU-India Trade and Technology Council meeting in Brussels
June 4, 2023 – Guinea Bissau election
June 5-9 - RightsCon
June 5 - 9 - WWDC - Apple developer event
June 5, 2023 - The European Commission, European parliament and EU member states are due to agree a final definition for political advertising
June 11, 2023 – Montenegro election
June 19, 2023 - Meta response due on COVID misinfo
June 24 - June 30 - Aspen Ideas Festival
June 24, 2023 – Sierra Leone election
June 25, 2023 – Guatemala election
TBD June: DFR Lab 360/OS
July 11-13, 2023 - TrustCon
July 2023 – Sudan election (likely to have further changes due clashes erupted mid-April, despite temporary humanitarian ceasefire,)
July 23, 2023 – Cambodia election
July or August 2023 – Zimbabwe election
August 10 - 13, 2023 - Defcon
August-2023 – Eswatini election
August 2023 - First GOP Presidential Primary Debate
Mid-September: All Tech Is Human - Responsible Tech Summit NYC
September 27-29, 2023: Athens Democracy Forum
September 28-29, 2023 - Trust & Safety Research Conference
TBD September: Atlantic Festival
TBD September: Unfinished Live
September 2023 – Bhutan election
September 2023 – Tuvalu election
September 9, 2023 – Maldives election
September 30, 2023 – Slovakia election
September 2023 – Rwanda election
October 2023 – Oman election
October 2023 Poland election
October 8, 2023 – Pakistan election
October 10, 2023 – Liberia election
October 14, 2023 – New Zealand election
October 22, 2023 – Switzerland election
October 29, 2023 – Argentina election
October 2023 – Gabon election
October 2023 – Ukraine election
November 20, 2023 – Marshall Islands election
November 29, 2023 – Argentina election
December 20, 2023 – Democratic Republic of the Congo election
December 2023 –Togo election
2023 or 2024 – Peru election
TBD – Dominica election
TBD – Luxembourg election
TBD – Myanmar election
TBD – Spain election
TBD – Gabon election
TBD – Madagascar election
TBD – Haiti election
TBD – Libya election
TBD – Singapore election
January 2024 – Bangladesh election
January 2024 – Finland election
January 13, 2024 – Taiwan election
February 4, 2024 – El Salvador election
February 4, 2024 – Mali election
February 14, 2024 – Indonesia election
February 25, 2024 – Senegal election
February 25, 2024 – Belarus election
March 17, 2024 – Russia election
March 31, 2024 – Ukraine election
April 10, 2024 – South Korea election
April 2024 – Solomon Islands election
April 2024 – Maldives election
May 5, 2024 – Panama election
May 19, 2024 – Dominican Republic election
June 2024 – Mongolia election
July 7, 2024 – Mexico election
July 15 - 18, 2024 - Republican National Convention
August 19 - 22, 2024 - Democratic Convention, Chicago
October 27, 2024 – Uruguay election
October 2024 – Mozambique election
October 2024 – Chad election
November 2024 – Guinea Bissau election
November 2024 – Moldova election
November 2024 – Romania election
November 5, 2024 – United States of America election
November 12, 2024 – Palau election
December 2024 – Croatia election
TBD – Algeria election
TBD – Austria election
TBD – Belgium election
TBD – Botswana election
TBD – Burkina Faso election
TBD – Chad election
TBD – Comoros election
TBD – Croatia election
TBD – Dominica election
TBD – Egypt election
TBD – Ethiopia election
TBD – Georgia election
TBD – Ghana election
TBD – Iceland election
TBD – India election
TBD – Iran election
TBD – Jordan election
TBD – Kiribati election
TBD – Kuwait election
TBD – Lithuania election
TBD – Madagascar election
TBD – Mauritania election
TBD – Mauritius election
TBD – Montenegro election
TBD – North Korea election
TBD – North Macedonia election
TBD – Romania election
TBD – Rwanda election
TBD – San Marino election
TBD – Slovakia election
TBD – South Africa election
TBD – South Sudan election
TBD – Syria election
TBD – Tunisia election
TBD – United States of America election
TBD – Uzbekistan election
TBD – Venezuela election
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