Q&A with Marne Levine

December 21, 2012

Mary Jordan: You had particularly interesting jobs and you’re still so young. How do you decide where to go? You were at Harvard, then you went to the White House, then you went to Facebook. So what is your vision about what’s next and how do you pick?

Marne Levine: I definitely have not had a linear path. I have had more of a path where I’ve meandered with a sense of purpose. Really what that means is it’s about being true to your convictions and your passions but also leaving yourself open to opportunities when they come along.

I’ll just give you two little stories.

When I went to college in 1988, most people were probably trying to figure out how they were going to decorate their rooms, who was going to be on their floor, what classes they were going to take. My big preoccupation at that point was figuring out how I could get my absentee ballot so that I could vote in Ohio for Michael Dukakis at that time. I had one poster on my wall that was Michael Dukakis.

And then in 1992 when I was about to graduate, and I started going through corporate recruiting, but the whole time I was going through corporate recruiting I had this gnawing feeling in my stomach and I didn’t quite know what it was. I thought it was normal anxiety when you’re interviewing. what I realized when I was sitting in the middle of a second round interview with a company was that [the] gnawing was that I wasn’t listening to my passion or my conviction. And what had been tickling in the back of my head was that what I really wanted to do was to go and work on the ‘92 presidential campaign.

So I explained to the interviewer that I was going to need to withdraw from the process and why, and I walked out. I went home and I was terrified. I called my parents who said, “You did what?”

Not a textbook start to a career, but what I realized at that point was that my focus was very clear and that I needed to do the thing that I was most passionate about, which was to work on a campaign and hopefully get to Washington and somehow get involved with government.

Mary Jordan: Where do you get satisfaction in your day?

Marne Levine: I get satisfaction out of many different parts of my day. I love waking up in my home and being with my children and my husband. And I get an enormous amount of satisfaction out of my work. I really love working. I said it: I love working. It really grounds me and I like helping people. When I originally went into government early in my career, it was because I was interested in finding ways to help people by finding policy solutions that would help people. And what’s amazing about Facebook is that we’re able to use our platform to help people too. One of the things that’s important about work is to make sure that you’re really stretching yourself, you’re really pushing yourself and going beyond your comfort zone.

Mary Jordan: How do you do that?

Marne Levine: I have a good friend and mentor who was at the White House National Economic Council with me. And when I was offered this job at Facebook, I went to her and I said, I was offered this job and I just don’t know whether I should take it. And she said, tell me about it. (What)..she seized on was when I said,”It just feels like a big job and I don’t know if I know how to do all of this.” She said, “You’re intimidated, that is good. Be daunted. You want to feel daunted by your job. That means it’s right for you.” And I listened to her and I took that job.

Mary Jordan: Marne, you were saying at Facebook, on the wall, they have a poster that says ‘What would you do if you weren’t afraid?’ And you were saying that that question, is a game-changer. Talk about that a little bit.

Marne Levine: What would you do if you weren’t afraid has become a personal mantra. I’m not sure I always follow it perfectly (but) think about how much more you could get out of just everything you do and how much more you could be exposed to, how much more you could accomplish, if you just follow your passion or your conviction.

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