Marne Levine From D.C. to Silicon Valley

The Strategerist


Of our favorite things to do on this podcast pick the brain of people whose careers have really taken some unique turns and who tackled big jobs which brings us is to mark. Levin who is currently the vice president of Global Partnerships Business and corporate development at facebook previously serving as chief operating officer at Instagram and before that was in the Obama administration straight as chief of staff of the National Economic Council and Special Assistant to the president for economic policy. We can keep going back but we only have so much time Marnie. Thank you so much for doing this. Well thank you for having me. Those titles are mouthfuls. I started. I took some notes on paper. I've got just lines that that make sure I get those right but took an entire sheet. Almost it's great to be here in the Great State of Texas or we're glad you're here visiting from the Great Silicon Valley which will cover here a little bit but your career began in the great city the city of Washington DC at the Treasury Department. So how did you get started in policy in government actually think my career began in Cleveland Ohio. Which is where I was raised raised growing up I was always really interested in politics and policy and then my senior year of high school I got a job working for it was an internship working for the county commissioner. This woman named Mary Boyle who is a real fireball and that's it's really where I learned about. The role that government could play in people's lives and I was hooked immediately and my job there was to new research different proposals and to help work on casework and provide access to different kinds of get that people access to different kinds of social services that they needed which was great they also had me working on a solid Waste Management Plan. I got really into that as does so much so that I was nicknamed. Trash Queen Levin those a fortunate said of rhyming right exactly so that was the that was I think the kickoff to the career that sort of where I got the so-called bug for politics and policy and so oh then after college I moved to Washington. DC AND I ended up getting a job at the Treasury Department. This was before the Internet so so I didn't really fully understand or appreciate what the Treasury Department did but I knew that I wanted to have an impact on people's lives lives and I thought that you know government was the best road to be able to do that and that policy was kind of the best vehicle Kohl for doing that and so working at the Treasury Department where we could work on low cost basic banking accounts financial privacy things like that. I thought we could help help improve people's lives and was a great start in Holly. You spent a long career. Government is well I did I did yes thank you for pointing uh-huh and so did Hollywood you kind of have a similar experience to that in your desires yeah and you know I had a little bit of a similar experience. It was slightly later later for me where I really had not been exposed to politics. Policy is a kid that significantly other than what you just read in the news and and and learn in school and then when I was in college I interned in Congress and that kind of bug is what really turned me on to and got me into policy work as well yeah and you were you legislative affairs right I did I did policy work and then I ended up doing legislative affairs at the end because I had worked in Congress so once she working Congress they figure you know how to how to deal with members of Congress. At the Treasury Department. I started in the chief of staff office but then I would see people running up and down the hallway all day running back and forth back and forth back and forth and I would hear the click clack of heels on the on the marble floor and I thought what are they all doing and then I realized that it was negotiations with Congress and so I thought that's where I wanna be like that's where the action is working on working from the Treasury Department with people in Congress on different kinds of legislation and so that's eventually where I moved to yeah yeah it was fun because I had worked on Congress and worked on legislation that I then had to go into the administration and implement seeing both sides of in writing it and then implementing it was really interesting and not a lot of people I think have that experience of actually writing it and then having to go put it in action and figuring out what we did well and what you didn't do so well when you wrote a piece of legislation different skills knowledge and a different level of detail yeah yeah so then in two thousand eight after you're spending some time in the Treasury Department he joined the Obama Transition Team from the Bush administration Bamut Ministration and wrote about the the kind of exciting being difficult decision to take a position that really was going to suck away a lot of your time. How did you balance that in your life. Well I had worked in the Clinton administration in and I was in my twenties then and I knew how all consuming it was so I was in a very different place in my life. When Obama was elected I was married worried. I had a three year old child and then I had I had just had a baby and so I was really interested in serving and and I was very grateful to even be given being given the opportunity to serve and I wanted to play some small role in helping to address the great recession and the financial crisis that was going on so I had a conversation with my husband. He said we'll make it work work and I thought I was but what happened was pretty interesting for me. One morning I had to go into the White House late because I had to take my then three year old son to the doctors and we were driving home from the doctor's appointment and he and he said where are you taking me and and I said well. I'm going to drop you at school. You're okay and then I'm going to go to work and he said. Did you know that Matthew's mother drops him at school every morning and I said well. I don't know that Matthew's mother does that every morning but I try to take you when I can now there was at the White House. There's the seven thirty. AM senior senior staff meeting and then there's the eight fifteen am meeting which is the extended senior staff and that was the meeting. I was supposed to go to but that conflicted with taking my son to school unless I took them really early in the morning and so Monday morning rolls around after we'd had this conversation and he marches into our bathroom threw him and he says he says to me and my husband so who's taking me to school today looking straight at me no pressure and I said well. Daddy's GonNa take you to school school and he said do you remember our conference on Friday when I told you that. Matthew's mother takes him to school every morning and I I said I do remember. That husband looked at me and he said well what are you gonNA do. I said you know I think I'm going to need to take him to school in the morning. So it's interesting who your teachers are in life and in this case it was and what he was saying is. I need you in the morning and not in the evenings. which is what? I thought I he needed me dinner any we needed me for bedtime but he really wanted me first thing in the morning and so I march into work that day and I told one of my colleagues that he would would be attending the meeting he was thrilled and I started taking my son to school and when I think what I learned through all of that is I could make it work but but this was much more about quality over quantity of time together and that I really needed to listen to the feedback that my kids and my husband we're giving me about what they needed. Specifically and once I was dialed into that I was able to kind of make it all work I got into the White House. I would get there every morning at about nine fifteen in the morning which is late for ready late but the world's still turned into L. worked out Yup so Marnie after your timing government then went out to Silicon Valley and I'm curious how you found that transition. There are two very different worlds. They're different and and then there are also similarities so let's start with some of the differences. The obvious ones were the dress code I went from suits to hoodies and that was a real transient wearing jeans to work in that was that was definitely but I've now adjusted and I would say there was a difference in language to in in the government we would always say I'm going to write a memo advice. Good memo oh right away and it facebook. There would be something that would look like a memo but we would call it. A plan and there was in Washington. There was a lot of talk about fail failure legislation that had failed or didn't pass and in Silicon Valley. There was lots of discussion about pivoting okay right so there we're differences there were there are lots of differences in that regard and I would say the glaring difference was that in Washington there is a love of paper and big binders full of paper and in Silicon Valley. There's not a lot of paper around I personally brought my love of paper with me to use Silicon Valley and get teased mercilessly for it but I I would say that the similarities are as follows there are I feel like in government is a collection of best and brightest and it is a collection of people who are very mission focused and focused on doing good in the world and bringing about change and I think that in Silicon Valley there's a lot of that as well a collection of really smart people who are mission driven ribbon and trying to do good in the world affect people's lives and positive ways. I think the things that I brought with me from Washington war for you know being able to peer around corners and identify risks. That's a skill that one develops in Washington and also when you're trying to get something being done in a vast government is that you need to have process and you need to bring all stakeholders to the table and have conversations and be able to synthesize emphasized that to come up with the best policy recommendations in Silicon Valley things move pretty quickly and in scaling organizations what you WanNa do is apply just enough process so that you can get the best of thought from everybody but not so much process that you really slow everything down and I think I brought some of those skills from Washington continue to facebook when I started there in two thousand ten you obviously very senior woman in silicon in valley and you and your friend and colleague Sheryl Sandberg have really been a promoter of women in the C. Suite Talk to me about that issue and why you're you're passionate about it and what you encourage other women to do and how how to how to think about their roles well I think for me. It's all about connection community among women from the earliest days. I've always really enjoyed getting together with women and I just I've I draw strength from that and I've seen what happens with other women when they are connected. When I was in business school early on there there was a woman in my section we all didn't really know each other very well and she had just gotten engaged in so I suggested hey why don't we all get together and come over to my apartment and will toast Christine but at the same time you know we'll get together and talk about things and get to know each other and what was so interesting we made up at that the point I think less than twenty percent of the of the class of our group and when we when we came into the classroom the next morning there were a a lot more women who were speaking up a lot more women who were building off of each other's comments and they felt more confident as though I think that was one of the Times where I really saw or how that connection and feeling of community could be empowering for other people and then things like my book club where we actually would read the book and discuss it would also became kind of my leaning circle that Cheryl started the lean in circles and that's really about relying on one another connecting acting sharing and helping each other make important decisions in in one's

Coming up next