Angélique Kamara (H.09)
The Social Networker
San Francisco. “Zuck”, as they all call him here, has around 10,000 employees. Many of these employees are programmers, but some are business graduates like Angélique, who arrived to Facebook after many years working in the Silicon Valley. The fit is mutual, as Angélique doesn’t have the impression she is working when she is at Facebook. Zuck is a visionary, on this point at least.
Read full transcript…
HU: Hi Angelique, thank you for welcoming us on the Facebook campus! This place is amazing. We are going to start with our little Proust questionnaire. So, if you were… a color?
Angélique: Blue, for the sky and the ocean. No limits.
HU: An animal?
A: Some kind of bird.
HU: A meal?
HU: A song?
A: Anything from Mika. I like is super high energy.
HU: A movie?
A: The Bucket List. Have you seen it? It’s really cool. Two people are dying and one of them wants to do many things before that and the other one is very rich so they try to do everything that is on that list. With Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson.
HU: An object?
A: A plane, to go places.
HU: A sport or a game?
HU: A book?
A: Some kind of travel/exploration book. One of those cheesy: “A thousand places to go to before you die” or something like that.
HU: If you were a bad habit you would like to get rid off?
HU: A (super)hero?
A: Somebody like Jacques Cousteau, who likes to explore and learn new things.
“The personal assistant of Messenger, “M”, is leveraging the best of A.I. and it’s really pushing the boundaries of what we can do with A.I.”
HU: Can you sum up your professional background in just 30 seconds?
A: Can I start from the end? So I work for Facebook, I am in Product partnerships. Before Facebook I was at Paypal for 4 years in Business Development. I was working with a lot of different start-ups, building really cool consumer experiences around payments, like Pinterest, Uber, Lyft. I joined Paypal via an acquisition of a mobile company called Zong, that was doing mobile payments. Before that I was at Allopass, a French company and at Exalead, another French company that was acquired by Dassault Systèmes.
HU: When and why did you make the move to work for Facebook?
A: It happened by accident. I was at Paypal, I was pretty happy there but I was curious about some of the products around mobile and advertising that Facebook was building. I started talking to people. About a year ago, I was talking to a lady that was working on mobile commerce for Facebook, because I was doing the exact same thing at Paypal for Pinterest and Twitter. I had an interesting background and she was hiring so I was a perfect fit. I got interviewed, I got an offer and I decided to join!
HU: What does your job consist in?
A: I am in the Product Partnership team, so our goal is to make the products better in general. I specifically work on 2 product areas.
One is our location infrastructure: everything regarding the maps, the pages of businesses where you can check where a restaurant you like is, or when you are getting information about a place you want to go to.
The other area is Messenger and I am particularly working on M, the personal assistant we are creating on Messenger. It’s like a virtual person you can reach out to and ask for anything, like a table reservation, a trip planning, sending flowers… It helps you with anything and it’s artificial intelligence based and there are also humans behind it. The new products Facebook is building are pretty cool.
“I wanted to be as close to the Product team as possible, because it’s fun to see how fast these guys are innovating.”
HU: What makes you happy to go to work every morning?
A: Mostly the people I work with. Facebook has been really awesome at hiring the best people. I also like working for a company that has strong values and a strong mission to make the world more connected and to create opportunities for people. Finally, working for a company that is so big and so innovative at the same is really unique in my opinion.
HU: What do you mean by that?
A: What’s really interesting about Facebook is that it feels like a start-up. It innovates very quickly and you are working on so many different products that it doesn’t feel like a big company, even if we have 10,000 employees. With Paypal, Facebook is the largest company I have worked for, but it doesn’t feel like it. You are constantly innovating, launching products, testing, doing new things everyday and you are doing that very quickly.
HU: Do you feel like you are exploring?
A: We have a vast array of products that are at the forefront at what we are able to do. The personal assistant of Messenger, “M”, is leveraging the best of A.I. and it’s really pushing the boundaries of what we can do with A.I.
HU: What are your usual tasks at work?
A: My days are full of 30 minutes meetings and calls. About half is meetings and calls with partners on projects we are working together on, the other half is internal meetings. My team is working closely with the Product team and other cross-functional teams to make things happen. If you are lucky you get one hour or two during which you can get things done!
“You work a lot but it doesn’t feel like it. It doesn’t feel as draining as when I was working in Paris for instance.”
HU: Can you tell us more about Facebook’s strategy?
A: The business model is based on advertising. Nothing is paid for by the user, everything we do is free and we work with small and large businesses everywhere in the world to have relevant and effective advertising, meaning that we want the customer to keep a good experience.
We build products for people first: we iterate a lot in order to find the things that people engage with, because those things bring value to people. Each country has its specificities. When this works, opportunities to monetize come later.
Facebook’s mission is to make the world more open and connected. We want to bring everybody to Internet because good things happen when people are on the internet: they can do business, educate themselves, get access to information and to other people. We are making efforts to connect more people around the world.
HU: What are Facebook’s most dynamic markets today?
A: There are countries where we are still penetrating and growing the number of users, like in the developing countries. There are big countries where Facebook is not present yet, like China. But there are also high-growth countries in terms of customer experience, because we can deliver more there.
HU: Have you coped with a difficult choice in your professional life?
A: Professionally, I thing the biggest challenge I have coped with so far is actually the first one, when I got out of HEC. I had an offer to go to Sony’s graduate program but I decided to come here. It was a safe track and a really awesome program because I was going to travel to different countries, to be trained and to be very visible. But I found that the Silicon Valley was an amazing place to come to and I decided to come here without any visa or job. I liked the start-ups I was talking to and the place itself, because of its energy. So I passed on Sony, came here and after a while I found a first job. I wasn’t easy but I grew up from there and here I am, a few years later, working at Facebook!
I guess the learning is: trust your guts and take risk, especially when you are starting your career. You are young enough and you can make mistakes.
HU: Facebook is mostly recruiting engineers. How does it feel to come from a business school in this environment?
A: Facebook is definitely a Product and engineering organization and that’s one of the reasons why I am on “Product Partnerships”. I wanted to be as close to the Product team as possible, because it’s fun to see how fast these guys are innovating. But Facebook is also very successful from a business perspective so it makes sense to be working in some kind of a business development team.
HU: What do you bring to the table? How do you help those engineers selling their products?
A: What we do in my team is to help the Product team understanding what’s great out there and how partners can help make our products better. This means improving functionalities by getting some ideas from partners, but also understanding the market, getting deals done. We work closely with developers, with start-ups, with other big organizations and we bring that knowledge back into our products.
HU: Now, let’s talk about San Francisco and the Bay area. Where do you hang out on Sunday afternoons?
A: There are many things to do. Usually I would be either at the coast to do paragliding or sky diving. Since I had a baby I have been doing a little less of that, so I go hiking, I go to outdoor concerts or just enjoying the sea. The Bay area is a beautiful place. There is the ocean or you can hike in the mountains so I like to do things outdoor.
HU: if you had only 24 hours left in the Bay area, what would you do?
A: I would definitely go to the beach and have a picnic there, but if I had no budget limit, I would fly around the Bay or take a helicopter.
HU: What do you like about Californians?
A: San Francisco is unique because it’s very cosmopolitan and people here are pretty happy in general. It’s probably because of the weather, but also because of the high energy of the people living here, who are very friendly. You feel like you are in holidays all the time and you don’t feel like you are working that hard… even if you are!
HU: Do you think that people here have invented a new way of working and living? The Facebook campus doesn’t look like an office…
A: You have more flexibility here. The days are pretty long so you can come back home and work later during the day. As I said, you work a lot but it doesn’t feel like it. It doesn’t feel as draining as when I was working in Paris for instance.
I think Facebook is a particularly great place to work at because we care about people. Our working environment is really pleasant, everything is on campus and you don’t have to think about practical things because you can do everything here, which saves a lot of time. You can really spend the whole day on campus without feeling like you are working. It’s pretty smart and it’s really nice!
HU: In your opinion, what is the Silicon Valley’s main challenge?
A: The city is limited in terms of expansion, because there is the ocean on one side and other cities on the other. As a result, housing and traffic have become issues. It takes me almost 1h30 to come here every morning.
“Nobody knows about HEC here in California but it matters to French and European people, and there are many of them here and everywhere around the world.”
HU: Is the French community well represented in this ecosystem? Is HEC well represented?
A: There is definitely a really strong French community, mostly engineers. The evolution of the HEC community has been interesting: there are a lot of HEC alumni who arrived 10 years ago in the Bay area, and many arrived more recently, so there is like a gap in between. It’s great to see fresh graduates coming in.
HU: What about French companies? Would you advise French entrepreneurs to come here?
A: It’s a hard one. I have entrepreneur friends in Paris and I have been told it’s hard to raise money there but there is also more protection. Here, you get a lot of money really quickly, it’s easier to meet people and to exit. People here can trust you, even if you are young and they are tolerant to failure. That being said, the French ecosystem is getting better.
HU: Let’s talk about HEC now. You graduated in 2009. What was your favorite place on the campus?
A: I actually spent only a year and a half on the campus because I was travelling the rest of the time. I did a semester in Italy and a full year here in the US. But talking about the campus, I think the best places were the Kfet and the dorms, because that’s where the relationships are built.
HU: What is your best memory from HEC?
A: I really liked the graduation ceremony. It was a lot of fun to see everybody one last time, to say goodbye and to go in different directions. All parties were pretty awesome and it’s mostly about the people I met there and the friendships I made in HEC.
HU: Were you part of any associations? What were you doing on the campus?
A: I had to pay for my studies, so I did many Junior Enterprise missions and I worked at the library, but I was also part of the theatre company, which was fun.
HU: Would you advise someone to go to HEC today? Why?
A: If you are looking for a business school, HEC is a “top of the pack” and I would go there mostly for the people, either the alumni of the network or the students you are going to be studying with. The quality of teaching is obviously excellent but the most useful part is the networking part. Nobody knows about HEC here in California but it matters to French and European people, and there are many of them here and everywhere around the world.
HU: For which reasons would you like to be contacted by an HEC alumnus?
A: You can reach out to me if you want to come to the US, if you are already here and if you want to learn more about the region or if you want help regarding your career management.
What I am afraid I cannot do is finding internships or jobs at Facebook.
HU: Which advice would you give to a young graduate from HEC?
A: If I were a young graduate today, I would look for a fast-growing industry, or just an innovative one and for a stable or solid company, which means a good team and a good funding but the most important part is to go with people that you trust, especially if you go and work for start-ups. The reason why it is so important is that even if the company you are working at fails, which happens, you can follow the people you work with. This is what I have been doing; I have been following people that I trust in different companies.
HU: Trying to find a mentor?
A: Not really. I don’t have anybody that I call a mentor but I have worked with people I trust. Following those people usually gets you to good places.
HU: Last question. HEC’s motto is “The more you know, the more you dare.” What is would be your own motto?
A: I have 2. One I stole from the North face, which is “Never stop exploring.” This is my personal motto because I love to learn new things, either by travelling or working. Facebook influences the other one: “Be kind.” Be kind to other people, to the environment. Not nice. Kind.
HU: What’s the difference?
A: Nice is more like: “Okay, you are a nice person”. You say things that don’t hurt people. Kind is when you assume good intent and when you truly want to help.
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