McDonough School of Business
News Story

Facebook VP and CMO Gary Briggs Shares Insights

On Jan. 18, Gary Briggs, vice president and chief marketing officer at Facebook, spoke at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business in a fireside chat with Betsy Sigman, distinguished teaching professor of operations and information management. In the school’s Lohrfink Auditorium, Briggs discussed a variety of topics, from how Facebook is adapting to today’s increasingly digital world to job prospects for millennials. The Office of Alumni and External Relations, the Undergraduate Office of Professional Development, and the Georgetown International Relations Club Academic Programming Board hosted the event.

Briggs spoke about Facebook’s fundamental role as a platform for connecting people with their friends, saying that many people join Facebook for that purpose. Facebook also aims to connect people with the outside world, he said, citing the launch of Newsfeed in 2006.

“[Facebook] taps into something that is pretty fundamental to humans, which is [that] no one wants to feel alone,” he said.

Each month approximately 1.8 billion people use Facebook, which is greater than half the world’s online population of 3.5 billion. According to Briggs, 1.1 million people use the Facebook mobile app daily.  

“When you’re reaching that many people… it just leads to a very dynamic platform that is a reflection of what is going on around the world,” he said.

In their conversation, Briggs and Sigman discussed the challenges behind Facebook’s plans for expansion. Many Americans are on 3G or 4G networks, Briggs said, while most of the world is on either a 2G network or no network at all.

“Most of the world is not connected right now, and those that are don’t come near to having the level of services that we have,” he said. “So the world is not connected.”

According to Briggs, there are growing opportunities in information and service sectors that undergraduate students will be able to take advantage of in the future. He also spoke about how quickly the industry changes.

“The industry evolves at such a rapid rate in software [and] in hardware that I think we have to recognize that none of this is going to stand still,” he said.

Briggs gave advice about how to break into social media and marketing. He said that although jobs such as his require both mathematical and artistic skills, students should focus on mastering the math before the art.

“There is an aesthetic and an instinct around art, which I think is hard to teach. I think in many ways that starting with the data and understanding marketing and how products actually work is a good thing to learn in your early days,” he said. “Through osmosis and being in environments [such as] an ad agency or Facebook, you will start to be exposed to the more creative elements and you will be able to evolve your instincts.”

Briggs also spoke about the importance of taking opportunities when they arise and working with friendly people.

“What you just need is [to] find some small door opening, and then find people who will do right by you…” Briggs said. “If you find people who are actually going to do right by you, then that’s the place to start your career.”

Before joining Facebook as the company’s vice president and first chief marketing officer, Briggs served in various roles at Google, EBay, and Pepsi and was the CEO of Plastic Jungle.


— Lindsay Reilly