#123: Molly Graham (Former Exec. at Facebook, Quip) on the 9 Things She Wished People Told Her About Scaling a Company

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This is a podcast episode titled, #123: Molly Graham (Former Exec. at Facebook, Quip) on the 9 Things She Wished People Told Her About Scaling a Company. The summary for this episode is: Molly Graham knows what it takes to scale a company (@molly_g on Twitter). From Google to Facebook to Quip she’s been involved in a whole lot of growth — and a whole lot of change that comes with it. She joins DC and DG on this episode of Seeking Wisdom to share the 9 things she wishes someone told her about scaling a company. And she’s joining as a speaker at #HYPERGROWTH2018! Molly will be speaking in Boston, and you can come join us by getting your tickets ASAP at hypergrowth.drift. If you use the promo code SEEKINGWISDOM when you checkout, you’ll save $500 and pay just $199 for your ticket to the one day event with 4500 others on Tuesday 9/4. PS. We just launched the Seeking Wisdom Official Facebook Group - one place, finally, for all of us to hang out, get updates on the podcast, and share what we’re learning (plus some exclusives). Click here to join or search for the Seeking Wisdom Official group on Facebook.

Speaker 1: Alright, we're back with another guest. We're hot on guests these days, but I've heard...

DC: Yeah. I've heard a lot of...

Speaker 1: I've heard a lot... Keith was like, " Molly said she'll come on Seeking Wisdom and come to Drift." Yeah.

DC: So I told Molly, this is Molly Graham. Hi, Molly.

Molly Graham: Hi.

Speaker 1: We'll do the formal intro.

DC: We'll do the formal intro. But I told Molly earlier today that Keith is the number one president of her fan club for years.

Molly Graham: He's the only member.

DC: Yeah, might be weird to actually meet the president fan club in person but you have.

Speaker 1: Sorry. In my bullet I have Keith's favorite speaker on the planet. That's very important.

Molly Graham: That's the lead of my bio.

DC: Yeah, that was not just me saying it.

Speaker 1: No.

DC: That is the facts.

Speaker 1: That's true. Okay, so I'll do the embarrassing thing usually, which is for people when I run through your bio, but. So your Facebook, you're a COO at Quip. And then now you're the VP of Ops at Chan Zuckerberg, or your was.

Molly Graham: I was. I actually left.

Speaker 1: You was? You left? Okay. We have some stuff we're going to go through.

DC: What is Chan Zuckerberg? What is Quip? What were these things?

Molly Graham: Yeah, sure. Well, most people have heard of Facebook.

DC: Yeah.

Molly Graham: Particularly lately.

DC: Yeah.

Molly Graham: And yeah, so I love Facebook and helped the former CTO of Facebook founded a company called Quip, which is like Google Docs, but way more awesome, which was bought by Salesforce in 2016. And then Chan Zuckerberg is philanthropic organization that Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, his wife founded in 2016, to basically bring technology to social problems.

DC: Did you go to Salesforce or no?

Molly Graham: I did not. I left one day before the acquisition.

DC: That's interesting.

Speaker 1: We needed some sales for stores. Can we talk about what you're doing at Facebook for a little bit? Because I was reading and it's interesting, because you worked on a mobile team. But you also started to do employment branding. Can you talk about each of those things?

Molly Graham: What happened? So as with a lot of scaling companies, I had about 19 different jobs there. But basically two phases. I actually joined in communication. So I joined in PR and was supposed to help set up the blog for Facebook. I was in charge of social media for Facebook for-

Speaker 1: What?

Molly Graham: Four seconds. And then...

Speaker 1: That's what you... So you were doing communication at Google, that was your background?

Molly Graham: Exactly, yeah. And then this guy named Chris Cox, who was running HR at the time, came and said, Can you help me... We wrote down these seven values six months ago, and I want to figure out how to help them scale as the company scales. And Facebook was, like 500 people at the time. And I was like, " I don't know that that's really a job. But it sounds like fun." So I went into HR and recruiting. And Chris was like... Mark said, this thing about making me a head of product. And I just need to make sure he was kidding. And then you can come work in HR. And then he was like, " No, he wasn't kidding." So Chris went and ran product. And I started, basically, at the same time as Laurie Golar, who's still the head of HR and recruiting today. And we spent two years with a lot of wonderful people setting up all of the big HR and recruiting system.

DC: Did you know HR recruiting when you went into recruiting?

Molly Graham: No. Not at all. But I think my DNA and I strongly believe people have a natural bias, regardless of what job they're in, is people like, it's always been how people interact, and how you help them be effective and work together. And so if anything, I think HR and recruiting was like the most natural for me. But then phase two was I went out to lunch with a guy named Tomas, who was running growth and mobile at the time and he said, " I want you to come work for me." And I was like, " No, I'm good. I'm going to stay in HR and recruiting." And he said, " Well, we're going to build a phone. Do you want to come do that?" And I was like, " That sounds like a terrible idea." I was like, why would Facebook build a phone?

DC: Wow.

Molly Graham: And also, then second of all, why on earth would you want me to do that?

Speaker 1: Did he say what you were going to do? What the vision was for you to do? To build up a team?

Molly Graham: He was like, "I don't know what we're doing. So can you come help me figure it out?"

DC: Yeah. I like that.

Molly Graham: And I was like, "I don't know anything about phones or mobile." And I also think this is a bad idea. So why would I do that? But then I got very deep into the, " Why would we do this?" And it became a project over three years about Facebook's long term mobile identity. So it wasn't, the Big Blue app, as we called it, was doing really well and was on most phones in the world. So there was a whole team dedicated to just getting that pre- installed on almost every phone in the world and expanding the application. But fundamentally, there was a really big strategic problem of we didn't own the platform. So Apple and Google were the two biggest platforms at the time, and Android was actually still pretty new when we were talking about this. But Facebook had to figure out how to have some leverage if all of their users or most of their users were going to be mobile. So one version was to try to build a platform to try to build up an operating system and a phone. And then that was a project that was super fascinating. We learned a ton. It spawned lots of other things like buying Instagram, buying WhatsApp, buying Oculus, and a really unsuccessful phone.

DC: And those things were spurred because of the phone up, you think?

Molly Graham: They were spurred because of the things that we learned. Somebody asked me once because the phone was probably the biggest'failure' I've worked on. And I said I don't really believe in failure. If you learn who you are in the process.

DC: What did you learn?

Molly Graham: I think we learned what we needed to do strategically in order to have power in the mobile ecosystem. And we just learned the overall dynamics of the mobile ecosystem. We learned a lot about things that Facebook should not do. And just really stretched the capabilities of the company. And in the process, I think Mark, and a lot of other people learn just a ton about the mobile industry. But yeah, it was fascinating.

DC: Before you did the mobile when you were in HR was part of the charter to make HR, not HR. Is that kind of is sort of the theme?

Molly Graham: Yes, sort of. I mean, it wasn't ever quite as explicit at that. Yeah. But I think that Laurie and I both didn't have backgrounds in HR, and so everything we did, we would start with the question of, " Why are we doing?"

DC: Yes.

Molly Graham: And so...

DC: That's not normal?

Molly Graham: Yeah. So it wasn't like just set up performance reviews, it was like, " What are these four? And why do you do them? What are we trying to accomplish?" And same with the first employee engagement survey we did, which I didn't even know what it was called, at the time was literally just us being like, " We should figure out how things are going and how people are feeling." And then I was like, " I think we did something at Google, that was a survey."

Speaker 1: These 500 people was when Facebook started to bring in HR as a function or...

Molly Graham: They had HR but I would say, not really. They had done one or two performance cycles, but it was not particularly structured. And I will say it is one of the only times in my life when I have put in place a performance review system and people have actually been grateful.

DC: No way. Please tell me about this...

Molly Graham: It was amazing. It turns out...

DC: I don't think it exists.

Molly Graham: It turns out that people prefer structure to anarchy when it comes to compensation.

DC: Wow.

Molly Graham: I know it's shocking. But yeah, people were delighted for a year, basically like two six months cycles. And then they were like, " We hate this."

DC: Okay. Now I get it. Okay. Because I was like, " Wow finally, you've discovered the performance review process that people like.

Molly Graham: No.

DC: I'm like, " I've never seen it."

Molly Graham: No. I just discovered that they like it slightly more when there is a process.

DC: Yeah.

Speaker 1: And if it's related to money then it is different.

Molly Graham: Well, they care a lot about feeling like this system is fair.

DC: Yeah.

Molly Graham: And when there's no system, it's definitely not fair.

DC: Yeah.

Molly Graham: And so I think that was what people were inaudible knowing.

Speaker 1: The thing you worked on was employment branding? Was that a common thing at that the time? Or were more company started invest in this and what is that?

Molly Graham: Yeah, good question. So I one of my really early conclusions actually, both Google and Facebook was that you needed to define your job in a way that would help it last through lots of iterations. So I actually, I use culture and employment branding when I explained to people what I did, but the way that I thought about it was actually two questions. I like questions as a way to define jobs. Because I think no matter how much the world moves around you, and scaling companies, the question still needs to be answered. So my two questions at Facebook in HR were, " How do we help the world outside, know what it's like to work at Facebook/" Which is essentially what employment branding is. And this was just to be clear, at the time, we were deeply unwilling to use the word hacker. So we were like, " We can't use that word. It has many negative connotations. We're like entrepreneurial, and we learn fast." I wrote a bunch of really boring shit that makes me go to sleep when I read it now. And then the second question was, " Who do we want to be when we grew up?" Which is a question that Mark actually gave me during one of our conversations? So that was the internal culture side, but employment writing Laurie Golar, her background at eBay was marketing. So she was very focused on how are we going to market Facebook as a place to work. And at the time, we were, and still are, but heavily competitive with Google, but nobody thought Facebook was going to... It's hard to remember now. Nobody thought Facebook was going to be anything. They were like, " Why aren't you just going to sell to Microsoft?" Because they had just done that big deal. And they had, all these rumors. They had just had a big advertising fiasco called Beacon. And so people just thought it was going to... So we were having trouble recruiting candidates and that was a big effort to just help people...

Speaker 1: Tell the story about why. Why come here? What are you going to get out of it? What do you want to be?

DC: I think it's funny. It's always funny to hear those stories of like... Because everyone forgets.

Molly Graham: Oh, yeah.

DC: Yeah. No one ever thought it was going to be anything.

Molly Graham: Oh, yeah, no. And I think, that's actually often when I talk to scaling companies, one of my biggest points, which is like, " It looks really well put together today." But my entire experience of Facebook and I think almost everyone that was there for the year, well just generally would say like, it never felt like it was obvious that it was going to be this thing.

DC: Isn't that amazing?

Molly Graham: Yeah, totally. Yeah.

Speaker 1: That's probably a good transition into Quip. Because what about Quip? So you started before launch?

Molly Graham: Yes.

Speaker 1: inaudible pre launch.

Molly Graham: Yes.

Speaker 1: Obviously, if you look at the founding team, right? Former CTO of Facebook, on paper, you would say, "This company is going to be wildly successful." And of course, they'll sell for$ 750 million to Salesforce in three years. I'm assuming that's not how it actually went, though. Were the moments there where you're going, " We don't we don't have anything?"

Molly Graham: Yeah. 100% the whole time.

DC: Yeah. The whole time.

Speaker 1: inaudible he was like, " We'll take you."

Molly Graham: No. I mean, yes. So I left Facebook. And I told folks at the time that I wanted to learn what it took to build something from nothing. And both my sister and my brother in law had founded companies and they were both like, " Why?" They were like, "It's so hard."

DC: It's so hard.

Molly Graham: "It's the worst." And I was like, " No, it's going to be great."

DC: Yeah.

Molly Graham: And then I went and found, obviously what... I got given really good advice, which was from Matt Kohler, who's one of the general partners at Benchmark. And he said, " The startup world divides itself into basically, pre traction companies and post traction companies." Post traction is everyone you've heard of, and, and they're all going to be successful. It's just a question of how successful. So at the time was like, Airbnb, Twitter, whatever. And he was like, " Pre traction companies are all the companies that are fighting to exist." And he was like, " If you are going to go to a pre traction company, the only thing that matters is the team." And most people give you two things. He was like, " Team, period."

DC: Period. That's it.

Molly Graham: And so I found what is probably one of the most talented teams at the time in Silicon Valley founding a company. And we launched and because of Brett's background, we got a lot of coverage. And all of our friends were like, "This is so amazing." And then right after launch, it was like...

DC: Yeah.

Speaker 1: Now what?

Molly Graham: Then there was a moment of silence. And...

DC: inaudible all the users.

Molly Graham: Yeah. And I had come from Facebook, where we definitely had a period of time where you would be on a plane and be like, " I work at Facebook." And people would be like, " What's that?" But for the last couple of years, it was like our inaudible. So again, people would immediately be like, " Here's the 17 things I don't like about the site." Or" I met my husband." Or whatever.

DC: Yeah.

Molly Graham: And then it was you to go to cocktail parties be like, " I work at Quip." And people would be like, " What's that?" And you'd be like, " Oh, we're like Google Docs, but way more awesome." And you'd watch people fall sleep. Yeah. And I went out to dinner with a friend of mine who had done startup after startup, someone like you David, both of you. And I was like, " Honestly, I've just been feeling depressed. I've been feeling bombed out. How are we ever going to make these things..."

DC: And they were like, "That's normal."

Molly Graham: Yeah, he was like, " Welcome to startups."

DC: Yeah.

Molly Graham: And I was like, " Oh, this is normal?"

DC: This is it.

Molly Graham: I was like, " This doesn't mean the world's ending."

Speaker 1: Tell her about not normal. Why you said that.

DC: Yeah. I love how your family told you about how crazy this is. Because you try to have that conversation with people, and they never get it. And that's why I always think like... I look at it like as if you start or join an early stage company once, okay, that's excusable. That's okay. If you do it twice, highly questionable. Right? And then if you do it, including myself over and over, then there's a problem. There's some kind of problem. There's something wrong with this person. Because as you were in that phase of going through that empty phase of just like, " What is happening?"

Molly Graham: Yeah.

DC: "What's going on?" Identity crisis everyday and just like... I say, like the stage that we're at now adrift, where we're starting that scale phase, " This is fun, this is easy." And then everyone who comes in now wants to talk about that early feedback. I'm like, " No, that's not fun."

Molly Graham: Yeah.

DC: "It's not fun." My visual is like it's like you walking through the desert. And every day there's no landmark. So you don't know if you walk deeper in the desert or you're on your way out.

Molly Graham: Totally. Yeah, totally. You guys know this, but I published this article with first round about Legos and basically as all the lessons I've learned about scaling and why it's hard.

DC: Keith's

Molly Graham: It's actually...

DC: Under his pillow.

Molly Graham: Yes.

Speaker 1: He was talking, "Molly inaudible take this."

Molly Graham: inaudible. After that article came out, I got a lot of very positive responses to it. Some of which really made sense to me. People from Pinterest or slacker, and I was like, " Yeah, I wrote this for you." And then I got a bunch of people at four person companies that had gone to eight people. And they were like, " Your article really resonated with me." And I got some emails from people at Safeway that had been... Their department expanded by like three people. And they were like, " Your article really read with me." And I was like, there's something really interesting about the universality of just telling people that their emotions or feeling is normal.

DC: Is okay.

Molly Graham: I go around now, and I do these scaling talks, Legos talks, as I call them at scaling companies. And I have a little picture that I think perfectly depicts what it feels like to be...

DC: What's that?

Molly Graham: It's a little Lego guy standing in front of a cliff. And it's just black.

Speaker 1: This is where right now, if you really want to take this video next level, you would put this in right here as she's describing this.

DC: Yeah.

Molly Graham: Yeah, and he's just looking over the cliff.

DC: Yeah, that's what it feels like.

Molly Graham: That to me when little baby inaudible.

Speaker 1: I think we...

DC: Every day.

Molly Graham: Every day.

Speaker 1: That article first got shared when Drift was probably like 10 people.

Molly Graham: Yeah.

Speaker 1: Or less than that.

DC: When we started it. And by the way Molly, everyone here can... The old crew can thank or not thank Molly for the compensation bands because they were based on Molly's compensation ban.

Molly Graham: Love it.

DC: So her email address is...

Speaker 1: crosstalk.

Molly Graham: inaudible problems with their conversations.

DC: That no longer exists, but in the early days to use it. I mean, we use that article a lot. I sent that article in the beginning to Keith and that it started the obsession with Molly Graham. Yeah.

Speaker 1: Well, no because I think there's interesting piece that which I think is we have never used amount of dollars raised as a proxy for how much you should be making.

Molly Graham: Yeah.

Speaker 1: Right. And so it's always been grounded in revenue.

DC: And Molly.

Speaker 1: And Molly. So thank you for that. Yeah. Okay. So we could talk... I want to dive into...

DC: I want to talk about this thing which is not the Legos talk, but it's probably comes from...

Speaker 1: Yes.

DC: The Legos.

Speaker 1: When did you write the article? Was that after Quip, or was it?

Molly Graham: No.

Speaker 1: During?

Molly Graham: It was in the middle? Yeah. And I wrote it, I gave a talk to managers, a bunch of managers at a engineering conference, and they were like, " We want you to talk about what managers should know about helping scale teams." And I was like, " I don't know anything about that." Or I was like, " I don't know what..." And then I realized that there was this thing that I always used to say to my team, which was about giving away your Lego. And it had become this very... I just watched so many people go through so many scaling experiences, where they'd be really excited to hire someone. And then the next day they would have this moment of just like, " Oh shit, what am I going to do?"

DC: Yeah.

Molly Graham: And then they'd be like, " Wait, is that person going to be better at what I was just doing than I am?" And then they would have a massive identity crisis. And then if you were a good manager, you learn to give them a big new job that was really exciting and shiny. And then they would forget about this thing that they were doing before. But it became this very consistent process for me as both an individual contributor and a manager to just recognize those emotions. And I actually did a talk just about what that literally feels like and how to help people through it. And I got this wait response. And so then we wrote the article.

Speaker 1: All right.

DC: That process, you always see people go through it, right?

Molly Graham: Yeah.

DC: And there's a difference in a slow growth company where that can become a real issue of like, " What am I going to do?" Right? Because they're not opportunities. And then there are companies like you've been a part of where it's like, " Who cares? There's endless opportunities. There's a million things to do, please just give that away. We've got the next thing to go."

Molly Graham: I agree. Sometimes when I go to the companies that aren't doubling every six to 12 months, I have these moments of I'm giving people advice about get good at giving your job away. And I'm like, " I think this is good advice for you."

DC: There's no other job here.

Speaker 1: All you have to do is just tell somebody your story, which is like, " Do you think that at any other company, a chamath, would have sat down with you and be like." " We're going to launch a phone and we want you to help on the team." That stuff happens. If you're part of a fast growing company, you're going to be able to go faster, there's more opportunities are going to come. Okay. So we've talked about a couple of these things, but I'm going to pick up... So we'll...

DC: What is that and where did it come from?

Molly Graham: Oh, yeah.

Speaker 1: We'll link to this in the show notes so don't crash right now trying to take notes right now.

Molly Graham: I like it. Yeah. So once the Legos article came out, I got asked to go to lots of scaling companies and small startups and just give a talk based on the article. And over the last three years, I've probably given 20 or maybe a little more of the talk. And this is the most condensed version, which is nine things I wish someone had told me. I actually think eventually it's going to be 13. But I really...

DC: Lucky 13.

Molly Graham: inaudible odd numbers.

DC: Yeah.

Molly Graham: But it's just nine things I wish someone had told me when I started out scaling that would have helped me realize that would have helped me realize how normal some of these experiences are and to your point, how to take advantage of it.

Speaker 1: Okay. So number one is building companies is really fucking hard. I think we covered that one.

Molly Graham: Yeah, exactly. inaudible.

DC: crosstalk emphasize that one.

Speaker 1: Number two is, your first reaction is usually wrong.

Molly Graham: Yeah. So this is my coaching advice to how people respond to the emotions that they have. So point one is, it is very emotional and that is normal. And so just normalize it for people. But then there's what do you do about the emotions? And my biggest golden rule is, that your first reaction to whatever is happening around you is almost always wrong. Meaning not that it's not the right emotion to have, but it's wrong to act on it. So if you wake up one day and you just hired someone onto your team or your manager hired someone onto your team, and you're feeling really territorial and threatened and that person's going to take all the fun legos and you're going to be left with nothing or whatever, today is the wrong day. That is the wrong day to do something.

Speaker 1: inaudible always told me every time we interview somebody, I'll try to text him. I'll try to text him my feedback. He's like, " No, I don't want it. Text me tomorrow morning."

Molly Graham: So, my version of sleep on it is give it two weeks. So I actually learned that or at least for me the rule has been any emotion that lasts two weeks legitimately is something you should do something about. Because you can feel territorial on a Monday and still feel territorial on Tuesday. But by Friday usually you are not feeling territorial anymore. And definitely by the following Friday crosstalk. Two weeks has been a really good period of time to just say to people if you are still feeling territorial or just upset and insecure in two weeks, then go talk to your manager about it and try to figure out how to problem solve through it.

DC: I like that. I'm going to go with that. I'm going to steal it.

Speaker 1: Two weeks is long for you.

DC: Too long for me, but given crosstalk.

Molly Graham: Exactly.

Speaker 1: So number three is your only job... I love this one. Your only job is to learn as fast as you can.

Molly Graham: Yeah. Well, and I know you guys, this is literally the point of your podcast I hope.

DC: Totally. So many of these things are not as eloquent as this, but we have internal versions, not all of them, of these things, which was only more fodder for Keith to come running and be like crosstalk.

Speaker 1: The thing that DC would talk about or still does as a company is on this, your only job is to learn. We try to have this mentality of defaulting to being wrong because of that. And so we don't know anything. So that's why we move fast. That's why we ship it right now versus waiting, because we don't know.

Molly Graham: Yes. And very Facebook philosophy. I always say that the better version of move fast and break things, which was Facebook's informal model for a long time, is fail fast. So the point that I make about your only job is to learn as much as you can, I actually often tell people at scaling companies to look at the graph that the company uses to explain progress in the business and it's different in every company. So for you guys it's customers. And that graph has a slope to it. And if you look at Facebook's, when I was there, it was extremely steep. I think I joined... inaudible, you're falling off it. So I joined when it was 80 million users and I left and it was 1. 5 billion. And this is over four and a half years. So, that slope is crazy. And I say that is both the graph of the change inside the business, but it's actually also the rate of change inside the company. So what that means is, you could literally be the highest performer at Facebook when I got there, and if you did not evolve, if you did not change daily, because basically inside that company it was daily, you would be underwater in six months.

Speaker 1: You've talked about this a lot and what people miss is it's not necessarily a knock. It's not a knock on you as a person. The company might just go faster.

Molly Graham: Yes.

DC: So the way that I've talked about it is really like when coaching someone on the way that they want to grow, say you want to grow. And I say, look, there's your rate of growth that looks like this. And then there's the thing that you forget, which is the rate of growth of the company. And so a couple of things can happen. One could be you grow faster than the company. And then you might end up in a point where it might not be the right place for you. You have to seek a new opportunity. You can magically try to grow at the same rate of the company, but that almost never happens. But you really have to be targeting growing faster than the company to have those big growth opportunities in terms of responsibility. You have to be ahead of the growth curve of the company. Which depending on the company, if it's Facebook, wow, that's a pretty hard job.

Molly Graham: Good luck.

DC: Good luck. That might not happen.

Molly Graham: Yeah, exactly. But it's exactly right. And that is how you get the opportunities that no one should reasonably give to you. I think if you are willing to take these enormous leaps and just be unafraid of what you don't know and willing to learn and possibly learn.

Speaker 1: Speaking of being willing to look at inaudible... I think that's part of it. Okay. We'll skip that. So number four is you can learn anything if you're willing to sound like a complete moron. So take big risks because you're going to look like a complete moron. Fifth one, be skeptical of words with more than one syllable.

DC: Mm- hmm( affirmative). That one's a good one for crosstalk.

Speaker 1: That's a great one.

DC: Yeah.

Molly Graham: Totally. So yeah, those two to me go together, which is one of the things you learn if you routinely do things that you know nothing about is, you start out thinking that everyone's an expert and everyone knows the answer and you don't. And then you end up learning that no one knows what they're talking about.

Speaker 1: Can I tell you story about that for a second? He pulled the ultimate inception move on me two summers ago.

DC: I don't know what it is.

Speaker 1: He sent me to this... So we talk a lot about role models. Which is spend more time with people you want to be like, learn from. So he sent me to this dinner and I thought it was role models dinner. But then midway through I texted him and I'm like, " None of these people know anything." And he's like, " Exactly." He's like, " New level unlocked." He's like, "It was anti role- models." It was reverse role models. And that was a really liberating thing for me. Because if you have imposter syndrome, which is normal, then you get around people who you think are at a different level and you're like, " Actually, we're not that far off." That was really a big learning experience.

DC: Because these people in this meeting were so far ahead in terms of their tenure of their career. And so he was like a little kid going in with a suit and just listening. And then he was like, " Wait a second, they don't know anything more than I do."

Molly Graham: Couldn't agree more. And I think be careful of words with more than one syllable has two different things for me. One, is being comfortable with the fact that actually a lot of people don't actually know what they're talking about and what they will do is use really big words or acronyms. And very few people in the world have the whatever confidence or something to just be like, " I don't know what you mean by that." I learned it from Chris Cox who was running HR and I had never run HR. And he was like, people would come in and try to give us advice at Facebook about here's how you run HR and here's words, acronyms, organizational development, whatever. And he would just look at them with these big eyes and just be like, " I have no idea what you're talking about." Which was so awesome because he was the head of HR.

DC: It's amazing. It's freeing.

Molly Graham: It is. And so anyone that's worked with me will tell you that I frequently stop meetings and say, what do you mean by that? Because the other thing I learned was, for example, the performance management thing we were talking about where it was everyone would just be like, " You walk in and you set up performance management system." But one of the really interesting things that happened to Lori and I, when we were like what is performance management is we figured out nobody had the same answer. And it happened, again, when I was trying to create a management philosophy at Facebook where I was like, " What's a manager?" And it was this deep philosophical. So I came up with this concept of what I call black hole words, which are basically words where everyone in the meeting can use them. And you have a whole meeting about them and you all agree, for example, " We need to hire a CMO." And it's, " Okay, we need to go hire a CMO, what are we going to do? Here's what we're going to do." And you walk out the door and nobody has asked, " What do you mean by a CMO." And you actually literally nobody agreed on anything. So black hole words to me are things in marketing is one of the crosstalk, that can suck all the kind of progress and understanding out of the room because nobody thought to be like, " What do we mean by that word that theoretically everyone knows what it mean?"

DC: Yeah. It's funny I've spent half my career pretending to know some big words. And then the other half now being liberated by knowing... I was at a dinner of a company I'm bored of and it was some insane hipster place, where I was looking at the menu and I was like, " I don't know one word on this menu." And this menu is in English. I don't know what these words are. I don't know. And so I stopped the waiter I'm like, " What does this word mean and that word and this?" And the CEO of this company was like, " You asked what the words mean? Wow. I've never seen someone ask." And I'm like, " Yeah, I don't know what any of these mean." That part of my life is over.

Speaker 1: crosstalk.

Molly Graham: And that's what happens. The two things that I've learned are number one, if you say, sorry, if this is a dumb question but, everyone will try to make you feel better. So they'll be like, " No. It's not a dumb question." And everybody else has the same question.

DC: That's amazing.

Speaker 1: Okay. Six, is self- awareness is invaluable. It can trump almost everything else. Molly, we talk about this one a lot.

Molly Graham: Yeah.

Speaker 1: Let me ask you a question about that. How do you interview... How do you scan for self- awareness?

Molly Graham: That's a good question.

DC: I need a secret.

Molly Graham: Somebody just asked me that last week. So I have a way of interviewing that works for me. And I don't like to pretend there is a recipe for interviewing.

Speaker 1: Good answer.

Molly Graham: I think you have to find the one that's right for you. What I do is I ask people to tell me their story and then I listen really hard to how they talk about themselves. And I ask a lot of questions. And I try to learn... Is that what you do?

DC: Yeah. Mine I describe it as a psychological test.

Molly Graham: Yes. Exactly. I learned it from...

Speaker 1: This guy is asking me nothing about this actual thing.

Molly Graham: Yes. I learned it from the best technical recruiter I've ever seen because he did it to me. Actually, not as an interview but just as trying to get to know me. And I was curled up against the wall by the time he was done. But he really knew who I was. He had figured out what motivated me. I think that's what I try to do in interviews. And in the process, if people describe themselves, you can figure out who's self- aware and who's not. People that... Yeah, exactly. Readily describe their...

Speaker 1: You have simple tests.

DC: Yeah. Well, I have a bunch of them. But one of them that I'm listening for is the I, we, how many times is that happening? Especially people who have managed people. How often are they saying I versus we? How often do they take credit for things? And I've heard just extreme examples of it where sometimes some people will never say we.

Molly Graham: Yeah. Totally. And I like people that are open and almost make fun of themselves and the things they've done wrong. And are open about the things that they're working on. You just get people like that and then you're like, " Great. You'll be great at scaling." So one of the things Sheryl Sandberg did a talk at Airbnb and they asked her, what is the number one attribute that you look for in people that are good at scaling? And she said people that ask for feedback. Which I think is principally the same point. It's people that are looking to learn and assume that they don't know and might be wrong. Yeah.

DC: There's a whole spectrum of, there are people who can admit failure, there are people who can ask for feedback. Then there are people who can ask for feedback and actually hear the feedback and actually take that.

Molly Graham: Grow on it.

DC: Yeah. The coachability part of it. And there's just a whole spectrum. It's amazing to learn overtime.

Molly Graham: And then there are the people that already gave themselves the feedback before you even get there.

DC: Yes. Exactly. And the hardest on themselves. And your feedback will never match their own feedback on themselves.

Molly Graham: Yeah, exactly.

Speaker 1: Seventh one is, the imposter syndrome is real. Don't let it eat you alive.

Molly Graham: Yes. Which you mentioned already.

Speaker 1: We talked about this but yeah.

Molly Graham: Yeah. I have this really wonderful pie chart that I love that basically is a complete pie. So there's nothing in the chart other than saying in the title of it, who has the imposter syndrome? And the pie is like every single person that you think is extremely competent and knows what they're doing.

DC: That's awesome.

Molly Graham: Yeah, it's awesome. Because it's true. I mean, I think it's basically my fundamental principle is that every single person, particularly inside of scaling companies, thinks that they know when... They have no idea why anyone gave them the job that they're in. And they think that there's at least 100 people that are more qualified for them. And they think everyone knows. And so I always tell people, if that's how you're feeling, number one, assume everyone else is feeling the same way. So when people are acting weird assume that they just need a hug. And then number two is, get over it. Go back to work and realize that you're probably the right person for the job as long as you have the attitude.

Speaker 1: I mean, especially if you're talking about at... This is all in the context of a scaling company, right? You probably got there because things just happened so fast and there wasn't a reason. Or there was a reason but it wasn't because you checked this box and you checked this.... You're growing as fast as the company's growing.

Molly Graham: Yeah. And I think with scaling companies a lot of times context and a learning attitude, a growth mindset can overpower any experience that you've had. And what is right for Drift is actually different than what's right for inaudible or HubSpot or any of these other guys. So knowing the company and knowing that context is potentially more valuable.

DC: Yeah. And experience so often becomes... I have a new thing now for myself to continue to learn, which is every time I catch myself thinking about or saying, well, in my experience or this is the way it happened, all right, I'm getting ready for pain. Because it means that I'm closing myself off to actually learning something right now.

Molly Graham: Yeah.

DC: So I'm going to learn the hard way that I'm going down this road.

Molly Graham: Yes. And I think the best choices I've made anyway have always been ones where there was an enormous amount of pain in the process and a huge amount of insecurity and a lot of just what the fuck am I doing? I'm sorry.

DC: You can say it.

Molly Graham: And then there's a moment of brightness. You come out the other side and you're like, "I actually know some things now. And I learned some stuff." Yeah.

Speaker 1: We talk about it a lot. We say comfort is the enemy of growth. If you're too comfortable then you're probably not growing.

Molly Graham: I call it the base jumping theory of careers.

DC: crosstalk.

Speaker 1: Let's go and hope it works. All right. Eighth one is collect people who can teach you and ones who keep you sane.

Molly Graham: Yeah. I really strongly believe, now based on a decent amount of experience that every scaling company is inherently a relationship- based company. No matter what the org structure looks like or how good the leaders are, it just changes too fast so what ends up mattering is how well you know the people you work with. And I think I have, this is my brief rundown of quote unquote, networking advice, but I both believe all that matters is getting to know the people you work with at a deep level. So I used to just at Facebook, if I met someone interesting in a meeting, I would be like, " Hey, do you want to have lunch?" So I always say lunch and coffee are extremely powerful work tools, make time for them. And somebody just posted this on LinkedIn, which is everything is actually a barter system. So do things for people and be a good person and it will pay you back out. My whole philosophy of all of this stuff is just it's good to have people owe you.

DC: Yeah. I like that.

Molly Graham: And then the other thing that I tell people whenever they're thinking about leaving companies is, the only thing you will take with you is the relationships and the people that you met there. And so take care of those. And when I'm doing this in Silicon Valley I always say the Valley is tiny and life is long, so don't be a dick.

DC: Yeah. I like that.

Speaker 1: It's good.

Molly Graham: Because I was at Google in 2007 and the communications department we grew a ton, and every single person from that department has left and basically now is running a communications department in one of the fast growing companies.

DC: That's crazy.

Molly Graham: And so, again, I haven't stayed in touch with lots of them, but everybody will always do things for each other.

DC: Yeah. You'll always see them again. I always say I would... My only version of yours would be the world is tiny. It doesn't matter if someone moves to London, New York, this, that, whatever, halfway around the world. If you stay in this thing long enough, you will see them again somehow. And we run into people all the time and it's like... And I try to pass that onto people who are younger in their career because they're valuing the other things outside the relationships. And it's actually the relationship, not the company or the thing, that will take you places.

Molly Graham: Totally. And the other thing I always say is you never know who someone will become. So I feel like a lot of times when you see people in startups they optimize for the power hierarchy as it exists today. And my rules are, number one, the admins are always the most important people at the company. Number two, the person that's the intern is probably going to end up running the place. And then three, that amplifies over time. So the intern... I think it was literally an intern at Google that founded inaudible. Anyway, you watch these folks travel around and end up founding and building and running things that you would never have imagined when you first met them. So again, the world is tiny and life is long. So don't go around being a jerk to everybody.

DC: Last one.

Speaker 1: Number nine. Let's see. What is it?

DC: Do you know it off the top of your head?

Speaker 1: No.

Molly Graham: This is the opportunity of a lifetime. Yeah, I do. I've given this talk enough inaudible. Yeah. One of the things, and this is very much to your point, which is just whenever I'm talking to people inside of scaling companies I say, it's really important to understand that you have the opportunity to get jobs that no one would reasonably give you based on your resume. There is no one in the world other than inaudible really that would have said, " Molly, will you come help build a phone?" Or Brett who said, " Hey, will you come help me build a SaaS company?" And I was like, " I don't even know what SaaS stands for." Or inaudible was really like, come help us find this philanthropy." And I was like, " I've never done philanthropy before. That sounds like fun."

DC: What does that mean?

Molly Graham: Yeah, exactly. What do we mean by philanthropy? People that don't know you always try to offer you the job you just had. People that do know you offer you these opportunities of a lifetime. And you only get them, in my opinion really, inside of scaling companies. It's the best career decision anyone can make in their 20s really ever. Which is you have to realize that you get to be part of this story. You get to be part of, I was at Drift when we were 10 people and we were sitting on cardboard boxes. And then nobody ever thought we were going to do anything and we pivoted three times or whatever. And then all of a sudden we figured something out and then we started to scale. And then all of a sudden we doubled every end month. And you get to tell that story. At some point you get to be in front of the room, telling wise stories about all the pain and agony that you went through and making it sound like fun.

DC: Remember that Amy.

Speaker 1: I'm going to do a version of this talk, 36 things I wish... This is awesome. Molly, thank you so much.

DC: crosstalk.

Molly Graham: My pleasure.

DC: So if you enjoyed Molly... And maybe Molly has some friends at Apple because we have a problem.

Speaker 1: We do have a problem.

DC: We tell all of our listeners to leave a six star ratings, six stars only.

Molly Graham: Got it.

DC: The problem is Apple only allows five stars. So what everyone does is foot five star ratings, shout it out to Molly in the comments and then they leave six stars in the comments.

Molly Graham: Love it.

DC: Right. That's our hack to crosstalk.

Speaker 1: So shout out Molly. G. She is on Twitter at Molly underscore G. Okay. Shout her out.

DC: Shout her out.

Speaker 1: Six stars.

DC: Six stars only. And is there a book coming? Is there? No?

Molly Graham: No. I don't think so. crosstalk.

DC: I called it in case inaudible.

Molly Graham: Right.

Speaker 1: Molly and DC, thank you for inaudible.

Molly Graham: Thank you guys.


Molly Graham knows what it takes to scale a company (@molly_g on Twitter). From Google to Facebook to Quip she’s been involved in a whole lot of growth — and a whole lot of change that comes with it. She joins DC and DG on this episode of Seeking Wisdom to share the 9 things she wishes someone told her about scaling a company. And she’s joining as a speaker at #HYPERGROWTH2018! Molly will be speaking in Boston, and you can come join us by getting your tickets ASAP at hypergrowth.drift. If you use the promo code SEEKINGWISDOM when you checkout, you’ll save $500 and pay just $199 for your ticket to the one day event with 4500 others on Tuesday 9/4. PS. We just launched the Seeking Wisdom Official Facebook Group - one place, finally, for all of us to hang out, get updates on the podcast, and share what we’re learning (plus some exclusives). Click here to join or search for the Seeking Wisdom Official group on Facebook.