Facebook’s Francesca “Cesi” de Quesada Covey shared how her past experiences have influenced her work today in a September 2020 SocietyCast conversation with her colleague Carl Bernadotte, Facebook’s head of executive recruiting for global marketing solutions and consumer marketing.
“When I look back on my career, [I can tell that] I came in with a deficit of basic language that is used in corporate America because, growing up, I wasn’t exposed to some of those sorts of ideas that people that have parents that were in corporate America were exposed to,” she told Bernadotte.
While de Quesada Covey encountered a learning curve when she first entered the corporate world, it’s her ability to learn quickly that has made her so successful at Facebook. She has led numerous teams at Facebook responsible for both partnerships and the business development of new products. This responsibility has required a willingness to learn on the part of everyone involved. That includes de Quesada Covey, and it’s far from being a problem.
For one, de Quesada Covey isn’t afraid to ask questions or do some digging and research what she doesn’t understand. She noted, for example, how she had to learn quite a bit about engineering when she started at Facebook.
She recalls, in her very first role at Facebook, speaking with engineers about the development of new products. “We would go to meetings, and I would swear that we were speaking two different languages. And the truth is, we were. So I would keep a notebook where I would write down all these terms, and then I would go home and research them in order to understand basic terms and find my groove.”
But the importance of such efforts extends beyond merely understanding what is happening with various projects and initiatives. Allyship, de Quesada Covey explains, consists of cross-departmental cooperation and depends on a company having individuals in different departments who work together to come to a shared understanding.
In addition to being a major proponent of allyship, de Quesada Covey is an advocate of both mentorship and sponsorship. She defines a mentor as someone who can help another person navigate through tough questions and act as a sounding board, whereas a sponsor is “somebody that has a position at the table where you want to go, or a table where you’re already sitting, and that bangs on the table for you,” she said. “So, they make space for you in a way that is very active, and they are constantly thinking of how to make space for you.”
De Quesada Covey lauded Facebook for creating an internal tool that allows employees to connect with each other based on mutual interests. De Quesada Covey has used this tool to great benefit and encourages those seeking mentors to use it to help build authentic and organic relationships. Both parties, she emphasized, should be clear about what they are looking for in a mentor relationship.
“I am somebody that is very direct,” she said. “It’s the blessing and the curse of being Cuban—I’m just very direct with people about what it is that I’m looking for, and what I can offer them in my mentorship.”
De Quesada Covey has put her forthright nature to good use while working at Facebook. As she develops new products, she works with her colleagues to ensure broad perspectives are heard and considered.
“I try to always ensure that we have as diverse a perspective as possible when planning; we think about the widest possible user base when we create products,” she says. “I don’t bring the perspective that somebody sitting only in Silicon Valley or that has only worked in Silicon Valley would bring, and I seek to bring others who will bring their own perspective to the table. I want to make sure that I’m opening that up as much as possible.”
Editor’s Note: This feature was sponsored by Facebook.