"I was trying to put myself in a position to meet as many people as I could that I could learn from to help with [my transition from active duty]. And while you're making those connections, you're also - in parallel - refining your own story, so that you're finding ways to tell your story in a way that resonates."- Francis Ebong
Francis Ebong is the Director, Global Operations & Partnerships at Facebook. He started out at the Naval Academy, after which he served as a Supply Corps Officer in the Navy for six years, while also earning his MBA at the George Washington School of Business. After his transition to a civilian career, Francis worked at Deloitte as a Management Consultant, at Apple as part of their Global Business Operations team, and the startup Postmates as their Director of Business.
Why to Listen:
Francis went directly from the Navy to consulting at Deloitte, and has worked at Apple, in startups, and now at Facebook. He talks about each of these career paths, why veterans may love operations, and advice to help in interviews and finding your ideal career.
- StoryBox - People trust each other more than advertising. StoryBox provides the tools and supports businesses need to take the best things customers say about them, and use them to drive more sales and referrals. StoryBox offers a 10% discount to companies employing veterans of the US Armed Forces.
- Audible is offering one FREE audio book to Beyond the Uniform listeners. You can claim this offer here, and see a list of books recommended by my guests at BeyondTheUniform.io/books
- Recommended reading to prepare for the transition from the military: Bloomberg, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Businessweek, and watching
- CNBCOne of the best resources out there is LinkedIn.
- Breakline - a structured program to help veterans transition into a civilian career through case studies, office visits, and different interview techniques.
- COMMIT - organization help veterans transition to the private sector through a variety of methods.
Transcript & Time Stamps:
Do you have any advice for transitioning military members regarding the job search process in general and specifically in terms of interviewing? (3:35)
There's a ton of publicly available information and it’s important to do your research before you go into an interview. There’s so much out there in terms of blogs and publications (Bloomberg, New York Times, Wall Street Journal). Using your network is crucial, too. The Naval Academy was a great resource for me, as was the broader military community. It really helps to meet other veterans and hear their stories. Now that I’m in the private sector, I try to make myself open to sharing my experience with transitioning military members.
It can be a scary transition. When I was at the Naval Academy doing leadership training and other professional development, my peers at civilian schools were interning at top banks and consulting firms. Moving out of the military and into the civilian sector is a completely different world. Sometimes talking to another veteran that has transitioned before you can be the best resource when gathering information about how to interview and where to get information.
When you were leaving the military, how did you find other veterans to talk to about the transition process? (6:22)
One of the best resources out there is LinkedIn. It's a great resource and research tool. I often use it to understand other people’s paths to their current position. I see veterans working in banking, operations, consulting, etc. LinkedIn is a great way to understand the path veterans took from the military to their current industry. Just understanding those pathways can help you understand how to make different ways to get there.
There's also a tool called ISABER for Service Academy graduates. It’s kind of a LinkedIn for Service Academy graduates. You can share your skills and experiences with people looking to connect in various markets.
Do you have any advice for transitioning military members on how to effectively translate their background in a way that resonates with civilian employers? (8:19)
It’s a great question and with many veterans I’ve seen, it’s the biggest challenge they face during the civilian job search process. For military members, our competitive advantage is the life and work experience we have. During your time in the military, you are placed in stressful and demanding situations that could never compare to the private sector in terms of intensity.
When some transitioning military members tell their story to a civilian employer, they shy away from talking about their experience in the military. However, I always advise people to use their military experience to their advantage and articulate your experience in a way that resonates with employers. It’s important to articulate your experience without a lot of acronyms and military terms.
During my transition, I spent a lot of time reading Bloomberg Businessweek and watching CNBC to understand the terminology and language of these industries. When you have the opportunity to speak with someone, you want to make sure your message and background are landing in the right way.
How did you end up at Deloitte? (10:51)
During my last two years in the military, I was at business school at George Washington University and I was also trying to meet as many people as possible to learn from them. I went to every networking event I could find, and tapped into every network I could think of. Hearing other veteran’s experiences regarding their transition helped me refine my own story.
At one of these events I met Ed Van Buren, a Naval Academy graduate who is a partner at Deloitte. This led me to Deloitte, where I worked for 2.5 years for public and private sector clients. We helped these clients find solutions regarding digital transformation in various industries. I always endorse consulting for veterans. For me, management consulting exposed me multiple industries as well as common problems faced by companies. I was able to learn quickly from extremely talented colleagues and peers.
If you join a large company such as Deloitte, you have the opportunity to pick up a lot of structured training that helps you learn very quickly.
Working for a management consulting firm is actually very similar to a military environment - you're working with a small group of people in a tight time frame to accomplish a mission. You're exposed to so many different challenges and get exposed to many different kinds of problems. You develop multiple skill sets to solve these problems.
What led you from Deloitte to Apple? (15:20)
With consulting you get a lot of exposure to different companies. You also have the added benefit that if you don’t want to stay in consulting long-term your building relationships and knowledge of other industries throughout your time in consulting.
During my time at the Naval Academy, I majored in General Science, which was a combination of engineering, physics and computer science. I had always been interested in the intersection of technology and business. I wanted to get that on-the-ground operational experience at a tech company. So I looked at various companies and Apple was at the top of the list of companies that had succeeded in both technology and operations.
I ultimately had an opportunity to join Apple’s business development and global operations team. It was a team focused on developing and launching displays for all iOS displays. We mainly worked with suppliers and engineers in both Asia and the United States. Apple is a large company but it's run like a startup in terms of working with different teams and getting the job done.
What are your thoughts on Global Business Operations and why do think veterans would find it appealing? (17:20)
The terms “operations” and “business operations” means something very different at each company - it's different at Apple, Facebook, Postmates, etc. At Apple, it was about negotiations, supply, and bringing products to market. Veterans might find it appealing in that you have the opportunity to work with teams both inside and outside your functional role similar to the operational style of the military. The lead up to a product launch is stressful and high paced but also rewarding in a way that is similar to life in the military. We had to set our goals, communicate them, and execute against those goals. It may be a different industry or technology, but the guiding principles are all the same.
After Apple, you moved on to Postmates. What led you this transition? Could you also explain a little bit more about this startup? (20:02)
I was at Apple for a little over three years. It was a very intense time of launching the iPhone 4, 5 and 6. I was in Asia for a lot of that time, about once a month during those three years. Through this experience, I learned a lot very quickly. And because I’ve always been interested in technology, I was also interested in joining a company at a different phase of growth than Apple. I studied companies at the center of supply chain and logistics. Postmates was near the top of that list.
Postmates is an on-demand delivery and logistics platform. You can order from any business or restaurant and your order will be delivered within an hour. It's the Uber for delivery. It was a great experience in helping the company grow and enter new markets.
I joined the company as employee #75 and initially worked in operations. Operations at Postmates consisted of launching new markets, growth marketing, and our strategic partnerships. You have to be an "athlete" – you need to be willing to come in and do a bunch of different things. I was leading a team but I was also doing data analysis and everything else you can think of. Being at Postmates was such a good experience, an intense experience. And that intensity really drove a lot of rapid learning.
The definition of a startup is that there is nothing that is another person's problem. Startups are run lean - there are not a lot of people but there are a lot of problems. It can be very stressful and you have to build a lot of things from scratch with very few resources. But you always find a way to win. This makes veterans well suited for startups.
What led you to Facebook following your time at Postmates? (24:44)
Postmates is still doing really well and is still growing. The Facebook opportunity was a great personal opportunity for me. Some folks from Facebook reached out to me. They were looking for someone to lead operations for some of their new products across functions such as New Media Products, Marketplace, Workplace, Messenger, and Artificial Intelligence for Messenger. Across these five verticals were multiple new products that each required a new operational approach. It was a great opportunity for me to come in and lead a global team across multiple products.
How would you explain your current position at Facebook? (26:40)
The team I initially started with was about 150 people and was focused across each of those five verticals. We were helping each one grow and each of them was at a different stage of growth and development. For example, a product like live video was a bit more mature. We focused on translating the consumer experience back to our product and engineering teams so they could build better products.
For other products such as Artificial Intelligence that we launched for the Messenger platform, we had a team of 90 people who worked with the product and engineering teams as well as a consumer behavior team. We looked at data to see what people were doing and how they were using the platform.
In my role now, I work more with our partners - people building on our platforms to connect with businesses. Every day is different – the size of the team, type of the team, global teams. Two months ago I traveled for one week to Singapore and then went directly to London to work with a different team there.
What resources have been helpful to you in your civilian career that you would recommend to listeners? (29:24)
I work with a few different organizations that help military members transition into a civilian career.
Breakline - a structured program to help veterans transition into a civilian career through case studies, office visits, and different interview techniques.
COMMIT - organization help veterans transition to the private sector through a variety of methods.
Blogs & podcasts such as this one where you can hear about people's experience - no one's path will be the same as yours; but the best thing you can do is pick up bits and pieces from other people.
What was one of the most difficult aspects of your transition? (31:35)
The entire process is a challenge. Every conversation you have is an interview. There are a lot of doors that will be shut in your face; people won’t respond; you'll say something you regret in an interview. It’s the process that will eventually get you where you need to be, but it can be very discouraging. Understand that in the end you will make it. Even if 50 people say “no”, you only need one “yes”.
A veterans’ competitive advantage is their grit - the challenge is more on the technical side. Learning to go through the gauntlet of understanding how to interview. How to do research on an industry. How to speak the lingo.
When you’re in the military, the grass can look greener on the other side. But you realize once you’re on the other side, it’s not always easy. You are hunting for your next meal every day; there is no real net that is out there to catch you. You really are out there on your own. It’s your network and your relationships that will help you on this path.
Relationships, relationships, relationships - it's how you'll find opportunities and learn about opportunities. Every discussion you have is an interview - do your research before the meeting.
It is tough but with high risk comes high reward. You'll learn something new that you can take on the next opportunity. And hopefully as build our your network across many industries, you strengthen your knowledge of different opportunities and industries.
I really appreciate you sharing your story. Do you have final words of wisdom? (37:45)
We are more powerful than we think. You have this insecurity starting out; you don't know that your skills will relate to the civilian sector and are intimidated by the competition. Once you realize the strength of your experiences and the relationships you've built - that's when you really become powerful. There will be failure and disappointment - you will get many “no’s” - but you only need one person to say “yes”. Keep moving forward. It's going to be tough but it does end up in the right place.