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November 14, 2011

The View From The Top

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carolyn everson

Photo Credit: Ryan Pfluger

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Carolyn Everson, VP, Global Marketing Solutions, Facebook

CAROLYN EVERSON was born only a handful of years after the heyday of sexism portrayed in the television series Mad Men. If Everson had worked in advertising back then, she would have fit right in — but only as one of the beautiful secretaries serving a male boss as office servant-mistress.

Those Mad Men would be stunned at the power, respect, and money now commanded by Everson, 39, who left an enviable job as Microsoft's head of global advertising sales to become Facebook's vice president of global marketing solutions last March. Although Microsoft and Facebook had a brief skirmish over Everson's defection (not to mention the reported $1 million signing bonus she had received for joining Microsoft nine months earlier), most executives would give their eyeteeth to have two of the world's most powerful companies fighting over them.

"Something like Facebook comes along once in a lifetime, and I felt like this was something I had to do," Everson explains. "It's uplifting, it's energizing, it's fast-paced, and there is incredible opportunity in front of us. Facebook is such a phenomenon that I feel very fortunate to be part of it."

Everson's career to date, which also includes a position as chief operating officer and executive vice president of U.S. ad sales at MTV Networks, seems as directed as a heat-seeking missile. And yet she happened on it by serendipity. "I thought I was going to be a lawyer or a broadcaster," Everson reports. "But my older brother said, 'You'd be great in business,' and he encouraged me to go through interviews with some companies when I graduated from college. I interviewed with Andersen Consulting, which is now Accenture, and it sounded very appealing. Some people know exactly what they want to do, but for those who don't, consulting is like a training ground for people who want to learn about business. You learn how to work on other companies' business problems." After being recruited by Disney, Everson earned her MBA at Harvard University. "People can get fired, companies can get downsized, all kinds of things can happen to your career — but nobody can take away your education."

Even more formative was Everson's family life; she married at 25 and had twins at 30, but her daughters' birth was dangerously premature. "My twins were given a 30 percent chance of survival," says Everson, who lives in Montclair, New Jersey, with her husband, who works in digital marketing at Merck. "I almost lost them at 20 weeks, but every single day I kept them in my belly gave them a better shot at survival. They were born at 27 weeks." The ordeal shaped Everson's priorities from then on. "A big part of why I work is to give them the best life I can, in terms of having economic flexibility and giving them educational opportunities, and serving as a role model and showing them the possibilities of having work and family."

Combining it all is tricky, of course. "I have some pretty strict rules," Everson says. "I try to take the girls to school two mornings a week, and I never miss a school activity. I make sure I'm out only two nights a week if I'm in town. When I'm away, it's not for more than three nights, and we Skype and e-mail and talk on the phone. If I have to be away longer, I will try to bring them. Last year I took them to China, Europe, and Australia."

Family trips also include annual visits to Disney World, the Caribbean, and Colorado for skiing. All of which adds up to a life that dazzles even Everson. "There are moments when I want to pinch myself and say, 'Am I really here? How in the world did this happen?'"

CAROLYN EVERSON'S TIPS FOR SUCCESS

1. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF OPPORTUNITIES: "I never planned to be in the marketing and media business, and Facebook didn't even exist back then. You just can't plan everything."

2. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF: "And have confidence in what you can do. Most successful people have setbacks, and if you recognize that, it won't be such a shock when it happens. When I had a setback, it made me stronger."

3. BE CAREFUL HOW YOU TREAT PEOPLE: "Your reputation is the most important thing you have, and it's a small world. If you burn a bridge, it can come back to haunt you."

4. MARRY SOMEONE WHO IS INCREDIBLY KIND AND HELPFUL: "Somebody who wants his tombstone to say he was the best father, as opposed to what he did in his career. My husband is an unbelievable partner, and I could not do what I do without him."

" Women use power well, and we need to recognize that and not be so afraid of talking about it."

" Something like Facebook comes along once in a lifetime, and I felt like this was something I had to do."


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