We are excited to present a new interview series, PAY IT FORWARD, in partnership with the Lily. The Lily, published by The Washington Post, elevates issues critical to women by fostering important conversations and empowering stories. We spoke with women who we collectively admire to hear what mentorship means to them, the advice that has been most meaningful, and the importance of uplifting the women around you.
Next in our series is Deb Liu, VP of Marketplace at Facebook. We spoke with Deb about what mentorship looks like to her and where she has found support in her career and personal life. Check back next week for our next interview in this series or read our previous interview with Yaminah Mayo.
Do you have a female mentor or leader you respect? Who is she?
Yes. In 2009, I was debating joining Facebook. I had been at PayPal and then eBay for seven years, working part-time with extremely flexible hours and had recently returned to work after my second child was born. During my interview with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, she spoke to me about how to think about my career as a female leader. These concepts were later published in her book, “Lean In.” She encapsulated my ambivalence about work and motherhood so aptly and asked me to not let that hesitation slow down my career.
What qualities make a good mentor or leader?
Empathy and care. People want to know they are cared for and respected. My best managers and mentors are ones I know care about me both personally and professionally. I aspire to model these qualities.
Mentors come in all different forms, and are not always people who we expect. What is your experience with this?
I transitioned to a team with a manager I truly thought I could not work with after having multiple conflicts with him over the years, and I considered quitting after being told he would be my manager. While I respected him, I really couldn’t see myself working for him. I almost quit the day they told me. But in the end, it was one of the very best learning experiences I’ve had. Working for someone who is nearly the opposite from me in every way, but still has my back made me realize that there is something to be learned from everyone as long as we both put in the effort.
What is something a woman mentor or leader did for you, that you now try and do for other women?
Amy Klement was the VP of Product at PayPal. She hired me as a Product Manager even though I had no idea what the job entailed and I knew little to nothing about tech. Each time there was a new opportunity she bet on me even though it was not the obvious choice. Her mentorship and leadership is something I carry with me each day and pay it forward for other women leaders.
How did that experience (of what your mentor did for you) change your career/life?
When you know someone has your back, it gives you the courage to take risks.
What’s one piece of advice that you struggle to put into practice (even though you know you should)?
Eliminating imposter syndrome. Every day I make decisions that have significant long-term impact on products and people, and part of me always wonders if I’m good enough or wise enough for this role. I struggle to overcome the feeling that someone could clearly do it better.
Where and when do you do your best work?
Late at night after my three children are in bed. I make a cup of jasmine green tea and sit down to work. The house is quiet, and I can think deeply without interruption. It’s when I do most of my strategy work and writing.
Have you had a recent “Aha!” moment or breakthrough?
Optimize for people and passion. The rest will follow.
What is one piece of advice that someone can put into action today?
Be open to feedback. Really listen and internalize it. Even if you disagree, something is the source of it, so find out what.
What is one thing you want women to keep in mind as they go through life?
There are those who will tear you down and tell you that you are not good enough, but there are others who believe in you. Listen to those who are rooting for you and that will carry you through any difficult circumstance.