Facebook Looks Outside Its Walls for Its Next VP Hire
At a critical time for Facebook’s global policy and communications department, their VP hire is coming from a unique place: outside the company.
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News of a high-profile Facebook executive departing the company isn’t exactly new. in recent months, Facebook has witnessed the departure of Instagram founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, WhatsApp founder Jan Koum, and now their VP of Global Policy and Communications, Elliot Schrage. What is new, however, is their approach for filling the role: unlike many other senior level vacancies, Facebook is prioritizing an external hire for Schrage’s position.
Schrage’s Critical and Challenging Role
Schrage’s role has been a beleaguered one in the past year; his deliberate “wait and see” response to the Cambridge Analytica scandal was largely blamed for Facebook’s slow reaction to the news. To his credit, however, he’s also credited with much of founder Mark Zuckerberg’s Congressional testimony, where the company walked away scrutinized but relatively unscathed. Moreover, he encouraged Facebook to be more forthright about their actions (or lack thereof) surrounding election integrity. He says of his time with the company, “Leading policy and comms for hypergrowth technology companies is a joy—but it’s also intense and leaves little room for much else.
His successor will have no shortage of scandals to manage, between continued concerns about privacy (which has drawn a $1.6B fine in Europe), accusations that the platform’s algorithm suppresses conservative thought, and “Facebook fatigue,” a jaded feeling that has users reducing their use or fleeing to other platforms altogether. As Recode reported, “leadership for this unit is critical right now.” For his part, Schrage is staying on to help choose his successor, and will continue to work with Zuckerberg and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg in an advisory capacity.
“Predominantly a Policy Role”
In searching outside the company, Facebook has a unique opportunity to address the concerns surrounding privacy and balanced viewpoints. Prospective candidates being considered reportedly include individuals based in the UK—creating a foothold that can help the social networking giant address Europe’s more stringent laws—as well as individuals with ties to conservative institutions. Schrage’s predecessor Brandee Barker, one of the few with intimate knowledge of Schrage’s stead, believes the successor should view it as “predominantly a policy role.” “They have challenges now at the governmental level internationally, in the US and the EU, and it will only continue to increase.”
Among prospective candidates seen as having the chops for the role are Clinton-era press secretary and Goldman Sachs communications head Jake Siewert, former George W. Bush chief of staff and ONE board member Josh Bolten, managing director of the International Monetary Fund and former French finance minister Christina Lagarde, and former UK Parliament member and current International Rescue Committee Head David Miliband. But it’s likely that the final decision won’t come down for some time; Facebook has no plans to make their hire before midterm elections, and will largely allow their chosen candidate to dictate their own start date. From that date forward, Facebook will be entering a new era of leadership, in more ways than one.
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