One of the reasons I decided to join Meta (Facebook’s new company brand) can be summed up in one word: opportunity. I have also always been impressed by the calibre of Meta’s people, as well as the exciting projects I get to work on.
In 2019, I moved out of the world of management consulting to join Meta’s Legal Project Management Office. During my two years in that team, I had open conversations with my manager about where I wanted to take my career at Meta. For a while I’d had my eye on the role of Business Lead, known more commonly outside of Meta as a Chief of Staff. The role typically supports a Vice President in running their business, who is more often than not based in the US, so it’s a pretty rare role in London. Therefore I jumped at the opportunity to apply when a role came up earlier this year to support Nicola Mendelsohn, at the time, the Vice President for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Nicola has since been promoted to VP Global Business Group.
Although I had never directly crossed paths with Nicola before the role, her reputation preceded her. She is known as empathetic and inspiring, and as someone who leads by example. Nicola started her career in the world of advertising. As she was rising up in the male-dominated industry, one of the first brave moves she took was to ask for a 4-day week, soon after having her first child aged 24. She felt like she wasn’t thriving at work or as a mother. No one had asked for that in her agency before. It took courage, but it worked. She was granted the 4-day week.
Although I had never directly crossed paths with Nicola before the role, her reputation preceded her. She is known as empathetic and inspiring, and as someone who leads by example.
There were still challenges though. In the 90s, the advertising world was a macho culture that prized bravado over vulnerability. Nicola managed to thrive in this environment, but felt she wasn’t always her authentic self. Since then, Nicola has encouraged openness and empathy in her team. She believes these qualities lead to a strong culture and a closer working environment.
This willingness to be vulnerable is best exemplified by her openness in sharing her blood cancer diagnosis of follicular lymphoma in 2016. When she was first diagnosed, she was overwhelmed and shocked. As a busy executive who felt perfectly well, she never expected to learn she had incurable cancer. While trying to understand her own condition she connected with the ‘Living with Follicular Lymphoma’ Facebook Group. This gave her the insight, advice and support from a close-knit online community going through a similar journey.
Over time, Nicola became more involved in the stories and experiences of the individuals as well as her own treatment. This led her to develop relationships with leading clinicians and investigators in the field, who convinced her that by raising awareness and funds, so much more could be done to transform the lives of Follicular Lymphoma patients. As a result she set up the Follicular Lymphoma Foundation in 2019 to help find a cure.
These examples demonstrate how Nicola directly lives by her values. There were instances in my time as a management consultant where I was exposed to what I would call poor leadership role models. There were interactions with leaders who helped me shape what I did not want to become when I reached their seniority. However, now working as Nicola’s Business Lead I am proud to support someone who I consider to be a positive role model. Despite the demands of the role, I am embracing every minute of it. I hope to learn as much as I can from this opportunity, and for it to help shape the type of leader I want to become in the future.
Our alumni have varied and vast professional and personal networks, spanning all industries across the globe. In order to share this knowledge bank of experience and leadership, we asked our alumni to interview their ‘heroes’ and share their inspiring stories.