Facebook VP Sarah Personette headlines women’s leadership event at RIT

Saunders College of Business hosts Power Your Potential March 4

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Sarah Personette

Sarah Personette, VP of global business marketing at Facebook, says it is empowering to work for a company that is so sensitive to diversity and is extremely proud that female leadership and gender parity are of primary importance to the company.

Personette will be discussing “Changing Dynamics of Leadership and Communication” as Saunders College of Business at Rochester Institute of Technology hosts the seventh annual Power Your Potential women’s leadership event on March 4. The keynote address is scheduled for 11:15 a.m. during the half-day conference that runs from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and includes a networking lunch.

“What’s interesting about Sarah is that she previously led Facebook’s Global Agency Team, assumed a new position as president at U.S. Universal McCann, and then re-joined the Facebook team last October,” said Saunders Dean Jacqueline Mozrall. “We are delighted to hear about her career journey and learn more about how digitization is changing the entire ecosystem for consumer engagement and the critical role she plays in this new wave of growth at Facebook.”

Personette said with nearly 1.6 billion people on the Facebook platform, companies are rethinking how to create personal relationships between brands and consumers, especially with the rapid shift to mobile and the rise of video on mobile platforms.

“Multi-screen viewing is becoming the norm and offers immense opportunities to deliver powerful brand stories by capturing sight, sound and motion,” she said. “We call it personalized marketing at scale: it’s delivering the right message to the right person at the right time and with the right content.”

Personette says her return to Facebook has been a highlight in her career. “There are not a lot of boomerangs, and to be asked back, especially at the life stage of the company, was a real honor,” she said. “During the past 12 years, the team at Facebook has made it a top priority to build a platform that serves the world, tells beautiful stories, and operates in the best interest of their customers and clients.”

She says the Facebook vision of social connectedness also carries into the employee workspace. There are no executive dining rooms, no offices, and no evidence of hierarchical structure. “We work in a totally open space and I have a desk that sits right next to everyone else. From the top down, this is the same layout for our offices around the world.”

During her talk at RIT, Personette will also elaborate on five personal guideposts that have become her mantra for building a successful career:

  • Be the master of your own education—find resources to make it happen,
  • Choose roles based on what you will learn—not the title,
  • Be kind to everyone,
  • Start by starting—turn your ideas into action,
  • Share your voice.

“I think the last in particular is very important to women,” Personette said. “Data has shown that women can be quieter in meetings that are male dominant.

“You were hired into that company for a reason and your opinions and your perspectives matter. We need to be part of the conversation, and if we want to see change in this world, it needs to start with us. At the end of the day, we are in it to win it together.”

Personette was recently inducted into the American Advertising Federation’s Advertising Hall of Achievement, which recognizes the industry’s top leaders aged 40 and under for their profound impact on the industry. She is a two-time CMA & MIXX finalist, an Emmy finalist, and in 2014, was named one of Ad Age magazine’s top “40 under 40 Marketing Stars.”

Previous Power Your Potential keynote speakers have included Kathleen Buse, CEO of Advancing Women in STEM; JJ Geronimo, author and CEO of Purposeful Woman and Tech Savvy Women; and Jennifer L. Pozner, author, anti-racist feminist and media critic.

The cost is $40 for the public, $30 for RIT faculty/staff/alumni, $10 for students. For more information, go to www.rit.edu/womensconference, or contact Dana Pierce, Saunders College assistant director of events and promotions, at 585-475-2199 or dpierce@saunders.rit.edu.