Facebook has only been around for a decade, but it’s already one of the most widely-used services in the world. The company that started as a communications tool for Harvard students now sees more than 1 billion users every day.
Tricia Black, one of Facebook’s first 10 employees, was only there for a small portion of the journey. But what she learned while working as Facebook’s first vice president of advertising sales stuck with her throughout her career. And, in working with CEO Mark Zuckerberg, there was one characteristic of his that really resonated with Black.
“It was really his interest in soaking up information from people around him,” says Black. “To me, my perspective was that he always had a vision. He always believed Facebook could change the way the world communicated. But he didn’t have all the answers.”
Zuckerberg was a student at Harvard when he created Facebook in 2004. At that point, Black already had a few sales and business development roles on her resume. “[Zuckerberg] was very open to [saying] ‘Hey Tricia, you’ve been doing online advertising for the last 10 years. Teach me everything I need to know about it,'” says Black. “I’ve taken so much away from that. I look for it in entrepreneurs and I try to mimic it in my behavior because we learn from everyone.”
That habit is just as crucial for Black now as it was during her Facebook days. Today, she’s a consultant working with early stage startups and entrepreneurs. She also currently sits on the board for Gemio, a startup that created a customizable smart friendship bracelet. Wearers can program the device’s wristband to light up in different patterns to change the bracelet’s appearance.
Black carries other lessons from her time at Facebook, too. She says that, even though working at startups can bring a sense of uncertainty, it’s important to stay focused on the company’s vision. In other words: Be optimistic.
“It’s easy to look at a company like Facebook and say, ‘Well, that happens once in a lifetime,'” says Black. “And maybe that’s true. And maybe every 10 years there isn’t a company that goes from zero to $300 billion in 10 years. However, that is not the definition of success.”