You worked for Marc Benioff at Salesforce and Jack Dorsey at Square. What did you learn from each of them?
Marc is a talent magnet. He will just hire people, and people will be like, “Well, what are they going to do?” He’s like, “I don’t know, they’ll figure it out.” Half the people never quite figure it out, and there would be organ rejection. And I like to think of myself as one who kind of figured it out. Marc was just like, “Come learn with me.”
And Marc is very good at creating purpose. The product itself is not inherently purpose driven. You don’t wake up in the morning, like, “Yay! I’m going to make Salesforce automation tools today.” But he managed to make it a movement. It’s almost like “Star Wars” or whatever, where you have the evil empire, and you’re fighting for the good.
When I met Jack, we just clicked as people. We met for breakfast on Mother’s Day, and I was a little peeved that this was the one day it could be set up. But I was like, “OK, I’m going to go.” It turns out Jack hadn’t remembered it was Mother’s Day. Four hours later, we were still talking about our childhoods. Some people think of him as being a little introverted and standoffish, but he’s very much about that emotional connection. You’ll build stronger companies and have stronger people around you when you search for that emotional connection.
The other thing Jack told me over and over again is, don’t be afraid to fail in public. It’s very wise advice, particularly for women and particularly given my background. There was always this sense of having to be perfect, be the best, be the A student and the good girl in school. Failing, it’s one of the things I find hardest. But when you get things wrong and can be frank about it in front of other people, it gives you strength.
How has your experience growing up in Northern Ireland informed your work at Nextdoor?
In our little village we were not segregated along religious lines, which is what was driving our country apart. We had a mixed primary school, and you kind of grew to realize that there was no difference. Sometimes the neighbors would knock on the door and be like, “There’s a bomb at the police barracks.” So we would all crowd over into the Catholic church hall to shelter, because it was the structure with no windows. And we’d all just be in there as people with humanity, looking after each other.
But people can forget how alike we all are. In Northern Ireland, we were willing to kill each other because of a random difference. And you’re willing to go bomb people because of that. It was ridiculous.