Margaret Stewart

Margaret Stewart

Margaret Stewart

June 3, 2024

June 3, 2024

June 3, 2024

Ethics in tech and design is critical, but how do we actually make it happen at scale?

Ethics in tech and design is critical, but how do we actually make it happen at scale?

Join Margaret, a Leader in Responsible Innovation & Design, Advisor, and Investor and the former VP of Product Design and Responsible Innovation at Meta where she founded the Responsible Innovation team. With over 25 years of experience, Margaret has shaped many of the iconic and consequential platforms we use daily - including Google, Youtube, and Facebook.

Join Margaret, a Leader in Responsible Innovation & Design, Advisor, and Investor and the former VP of Product Design and Responsible Innovation at Meta where she founded the Responsible Innovation team. With over 25 years of experience, Margaret has shaped many of the iconic and consequential platforms we use daily - including Google, Youtube, and Facebook.

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Episode Transcript

Margaret Stewart 0:00

Listen, you have a responsibility to improve people's lives. It is never about the technology technology is a means to an end.

Liz Gerber (host) 0:17

Welcome back to the Technical Difficulties Podcast where we celebrate the careers of amazing female designers and technologists. We are so excited to welcome Margaret Gould Stewart, a leader and responsible innovation and design advisor and investor, and the former VP of product design and responsible innovation at Meta, where she founded the responsible innovation team. With over 25 years of experience, Margaret has shaped many of the iconic and consequential platforms we use daily, including Google, YouTube, and Facebook. Ethics and tech and design is critical. But how do we actually make it happen at scale? We can't wait to hear from you. Margaret, thank you so much for joining us today.

Margaret Stewart 0:58

Oh, it's such a pleasure to be here. Thanks so much for inviting me.

Margaret Stewart 1:02

Here is our kooky, one of our kooky warm up questions. What's your favorite thing to do? In the morning? favorite way to start the morning?

Margaret Stewart 1:11

I want to say yoga because it's what I should be doing. And every time I do it, I feel better. Yeah, but the reality is, I love to sit and my cat comes and jumps on my lap and curls up and then I just get that like dopamine hit of like, my first baby. So honestly, I think cuddling with my cat pepper pots. She's a great cat pepper pots.

Liz Gerber (host) 1:37

Solid, solid. Thank you. I love the truth there. Thank you.

Lauren Lin (host) 1:42

Yeah, pets make everything better. Okay, next warm up. Question is what is your favorite creativity tool?

Margaret Stewart 1:51

Okay, creativity tool, I would say okay, it's it's a bit of a beast that I'm trying to tackle. But I, after using the same pretty lame sewing machine for about 25 years, I got myself like a new tricked out, like really nice Bernina sewing machine. But it is literally like the space shuttle relative to my sewing machine. So I'm very excited about the potential of this creative tool. But if not quite figured out how to harness the power within that creative tool. If that makes sense.

Liz Gerber (host) 2:30

Margaret, I met you at a very fancy dinner and you were knitting. And I'll never forget that moment. I was like, Okay, this one was gonna down like everybody else was, you know, noses high in the air very sophisticated. And not that knitting is not sophisticated. But I just was I was blown away.

Margaret Stewart 2:50

Thank you. That I love that initial memory of that.

Liz Gerber (host) 2:55

Oh, yeah. Never lose that one. So. Okay, on to the career questions. What, if anything, would you describe as your, your I'm a designer moment, or I should be in tech moment. Was there a moment? Or was this only in retrospect?

Margaret Stewart 3:11

You know, I am one of those people. Because I've been in this game a long time. And there weren't programs in interaction design or user experience. When I was going to school, I forget the statistic that the US Department of Education had a long time ago, like the crazy high percentage of kids in kindergarten today, that the jobs they will eventually do don't exist today. Like it's so there's not like this notion that you know, what you're going to be when you grow up or do for work. It's just kind of a mythology. And I was one of those kids who never really knew what they want to do, because I was interested in so many things. In addition, this idea of working in technology was an awkward InDesign, quite frankly, was not something I grew up with. So I did not come from a family of designers or engineers, as some people do, where they're kind of they have that working vocabulary. I stumbled into design through mostly through theater actually. So I was very engaged in lots of things, very happy to be at a liberal arts school at Boston College, where I was able to, like take courses and lots of different things. But I had always done theater, and loved the community and the collaboration of making live theatre, which if you've ever done it before, is one of the most intense like group trust falls. It's like, you never know what's going to happen. Every night is different. Like there's so many people involved in making a production happen. And I love that sense of like shared risk, shared reward, shared success. So love that and, you know, a lot of threads between that and working in a highly collaborative context of working on software, but I didn't know that that was a thing at the time. So I then continued, you know, as a person who was steeped in the humanities to get really interested in design and in the theater context around, you know, designing the posters for the place that I was associated with or getting into scenic design. And all of a sudden finding out that design was a job that people had, which I didn't know, I thought it was actually going to do an MFA in photography or filmmaking, because those are things that I still love very much. And I'm very passionate about, really all around like visual storytelling. And this is what's funny and why you should always be open to serendipity, because you never know, the twists and turns and opportunities that life will put in front of you. I sent away for the brochure to apply because I grew up in the Jurassic period, where you know, you had a paper application that you filled out for school and I sent I sent away for the brochure from the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU, amazing film school, I was like, I'm going to apply to film school at Tisch. And I was just literally looking through the brochure. And I was like, What's this thing? It's called the interactive telecommunications program. I was like, that sounds awful. Because I did not know what interactive meant, I did not telecommunications sounded like the furthest thing possible of something that I would be interested in, because I thought of myself as like a creative artist. But then I looked at the description. And it was founded by this amazing woman named red Burns, who was a huge mentor to me, and I'll tell you a little more about her in a second. But the description was that the program, which had been founded in the 70s, which is bonkers, was was positioning itself at the intersection of art, design and technology. And I was like, That's interesting, because I was a person who is interested in theater, film, photography, storytelling, but I didn't really want to choose. And I read that description. And I was like, I'm not going to apply to film school. I'm going to apply I'm gonna apply to the school. And what a gift. It was this group of students, some were, had been teachers, some worked in government, some were some were designers, but not that many, you know, engineers, one of my one of my fellow students was, I'm not joking you the sword swallower at the Coney Island sideshow, this amazing collection of people that was kind of like a circus, literally, with a sword swallower mixed in, but this laboratory of collaboration. And at the same time, red Burns was running this program and very much, holding the bar high around, listen, you have a responsibility to improve people's lives. It is never about the technology, technology is a means to an end. What are you going to do with it, that lifts people up that improves their lives that addresses societal issues. And she also leaned really heavily into diversity in the student body. So crazy percentage of the students were from outside the United States, it was by far the most internet and which is not the only angle on diversity, obviously. But for me, it was a revelation. I've never been in an educational context that was that international. And the the alchemy that's created when you bring those different lived experiences together, the types of projects we did were different, the ways that we work together, but it was so fascinating. And that was my introduction to it. And in addition to the fact that when I was at ITP, in grad school was when the first graphical web browser was released mosaic. So I didn't go into the program thinking, oh, there's a job where you can design technology, I didn't really actually understand what that even meant. But even I understood that giving people a graphical interface and allowing them to communicate and share their ideas, was this amazing opportunity to democratize communication, and that was that I 100% got. So here I was like a person who saw myself as an artist, then being motivated to say, I'm gonna learn how to code HTML. Now I can build websites. Now I can do this. Now I can do that. And it was at a time where a single person could do the whole thing, which of course you can't anymore, it's quite quite a bit too complicated. So I really feel like I came of age in this magical time where everyone involved was new to it. And the technology was still simple enough that like a person like me that did not have a strong technical background, could actually build experiences. So that was my introduction to design totally by accident through theater through a brochure that happened to have a an art and design and tech program that I'd never heard of before. And then red burns for whatever reason, seeing something in me and saying like come to this program, I think you have something to add.

Lauren Lin (host) 9:59

Wow, that's an amazing. Also, I totally relate as someone who cannot choose between many different interests, but hearing that they will come together some way. And maybe you add a little serendipity and spontaneity in those moments, and that can totally happen.

Margaret Stewart 10:16

No, I was just gonna say I think cultivating a practice of staying open to those possibilities is so important, I think focusing is critical. But when you, you know, put too much of a narrow view on possibilities, you kind of lose the opportunity to see again, where, you know, things are coming together and in, in unexpected ways. And just so many good things in my life has happened have happened as a result of trying to be open to serendipity.

Lauren Lin (host) 10:44

I love that. And now I'm curious how did you pivot…?

Margaret Stewart 10:49

You know, I think as a designer. And the training that I got of focusing on people and the problems and the challenges that they're facing, kind of infuses into the DNA of your work perspective, a sense of responsibility. It doesn't mean that, by the way, other people in different disciplines are not equally focused and caring about those things. But it's actually a part of the craft of design, you are supposed to represent the people using and interacting with the products in the product development process. And so there is a, I think, a special sense of professional responsibility for the designer to be that conduit. And as a result, if you're an empathetic person, you care about, you know, what happens when what you build goes out into the world, and when you work on really consequential projects, and products. And you see that sometimes that impact is not always the intended impact, you start to really focus on what can we do to mitigate that in the product development process. And so, you know, I think early in my career, I was always thinking about this, but not in the way that I do today. And I am when I've reflected back on why that is. I think it's because in my early career, I was like a techno optimist in the way that most people and coming of age, in that period of time when you know, the Internet was exploding, and we're going to like empower everyone. Really seeing all the positive aspects of that, but not spending enough time reflecting on how things could go wrong, how things might be misused, how things differ so dramatically around the world, in different geopolitical and social contexts. And so it's not that the optimism piece is wrong. It's just not the whole story. And so, I think that over the last, you know, 567 years, it's been a particular focus of mine, and then eventually ended up being like my more or less full time focus to say, how can we evolve the practice of building these products, to more proactively think about the ways in which things could go wrong, that people and in particular already at risk communities could be harmed by what we built? And so I think, yeah, it's this movement, from techno optimism, to techno realism. Because I also think that techno pessimism is just as much of a false god as techno optimism. The extremes are like not, they're not an accurate view of the impact that technology has. Almost everything that you invent, has benefits and potential downsides and harms. And the responsible way to design is to sit in that space, and to manage the people who are on the extremes. So I think that was kind of my journey. I mean, I think it's also because I, I've always been a person that has gravitated towards complexity and seeing multiple perspectives on things. This is in part because I'm the youngest of nine kids. So I grew up in a context, where a means of survival was like understanding where everyone was at and trying to find common ground. I also think that it's a result of me having dyslexia and like, constantly figuring out how to work within an environment that is not optimized for the way that my brain works. And that reality, making me attuned to often unintentional negative effects on people. So I don't know there's like a few things about me as a person, my upbringing and then also my profession. Another experience that have kind of led me to this work.

Liz Gerber (host) 15:02

That was brilliant. I'm dying to know what else what practical life skills you also learned as the youngest of nine, beyond understanding systems. I mean, some are good and some are bad, like, like I'm pretty good at conflict resolution, but I also have a probably overdeveloped ability to compartmentalize.

Margaret Stewart 15:25

Which doesn't always serve me well, in terms of my personal well being, but is a very important survival tactic.

Liz Gerber (host) 15:33

Survival tactic. I love it. Yeah. As you were speaking, I couldn't help but think I've heard you say before that designing at scale requires humility and Audacity. And I love I think that's a beautiful way of framing.

Liz Gerber (host) 15:46

I wonder if you want to, if you still stand by that line? And if so, or if not, if there's modifications you'd make to it?

Margaret Stewart 15:54

Yeah. I mean, I think it's hugely important for technologists to have that the confidence to do things that people haven't done before. I mean, you can't lose all of your optimism, because otherwise, you would never create anything new, then you're in a regressive state, which is terrible for society. But if you over rotate on the optimism, and you don't carry, especially by the way, it's like a very privileged person, if I don't carry a lot of humility into the room, because of my lack of exposure to the way a lot of people in the world live their lives and do their work, I am going to create harm towards people right out of my own ignorance. And so there's the humility around, you know, knowing what I know, and, and being honest about the universe of things that I don't know, that I think is crucial about that. And I think, I think what humility meant to me 20 years ago, might be slightly different than what it means today, but I think it's always been true.

Lauren Lin (host) 16:59

Yeah. On the topic of changing definitions of humility, and also, techno optimism, techno realism, I'm curious how your perspective on the power of design and technology has changed over time. And if there were any surprising realizations on the capacity of design, to promise all of these good things in the world or bring about change?

Margaret Stewart 17:26

I guess I would say that for design and technology, specifically, that again, it's kind of restating the same thing, maybe in a different way is that the beneficial aspects of it have always been true. But it's not the whole story. And the extent to which something that produces good can also produce bad people increasingly, are leaning into binary thinking, whether there's something is good or bad. And it's kind of almost never the case. Right. And, and so I think that understanding that duality, and sitting with it, and designing with it in mind is I think the big shift. And I think related to that, and this is less about what we produce, but who we are as practitioners, the thing that has continually surprised me, and literally, within the last several months I've entered a new chapter of this is the realization of how broad your education needs to be to be able to design responsibly at scale. I, in thinking about because I've recently gotten involved a little bit more in teaching, which I'm very excited about, like, what does it mean to properly educate early career designers, and I have a hard time not defining that as the entire scope of a liberal arts education, that I don't think you can design responsibly without, like a working understanding of economics, I don't think you can design responsibly without understanding systems of oppression. I don't think you can design responsibly, increasingly, without understanding environmental science and climate change. Like it just gets, it gets so broad. And then of course, hopefully, you're all fans of the good place because you can't design responsibly without like a solid foundation and moral philosophy. Because the fact is, almost all of these controversies that we sit in as a as a tech industry have to do with dilemmas that have no obvious answers to them. And people don't like to admit that they don't want to talk about it because again, they would prefer to see something as like this company is good or bad. This technology is good or bad. And you seeing it play out you see it play out right now in AI like, oh my god AI is the total future and it's revolutionary to awesome. And AI is going to fuel the robots rising up and murdering all humans. Like it's, it's kind of amazing. So I would say that the thing that I that has surprised me the most. And it's relevant to me, because recently, I've been leaning a lot more into studying climate change, studying economics, studying indigenous communities and indigenous wisdom. Man, there is so much that I still have to learn things that I wish I knew 20 years ago, but like, hopefully, I'll be on this earth for at least a few more decades. And so to be just like a lifelong learner.

Liz Gerber (host) 20:42

Oh my gosh you could just mic drop right there. Done. That was like, I'm ready to I'm ready to run your presidential campaign. Just let me know when you're ready. Not that I haven't experienced, but I want you to be president, we would have a lot of fun..

Margaret Stewart 20:56

We would have a lot. Oh my gosh, Liz, it would be amazing.

Liz Gerber (host) 21:00

Oh my gosh, maybe we should do that.

Margaret Stewart 21:03

Maybe we should just fake it and like make it into like a reality TV show.

Liz Gerber (host) 21:07

That's what I'm saying. Right. Like, it's not really about running for president. It's about putting a new message out there. Um, okay. So in addition to teaching and running, potentially considering running for president, what other projects? Are you given all these big thoughts? You're having lifelong learning? How are they manifesting? Like, what are you excited about that you're working on today? And what are you nerding out about beyond your sewing machine? That's cool if that's your answer, don't want to judge that.

Margaret Stewart 21:34

It's interesting. You know, the last year and a half have been pretty rough. Like, I lost my father at the end of 2021. I mean, he was 90 and lived an amazing life, but it's a big milestone to lose your parent. And then obviously work as you can imagine, pretty stressful, etc. And so I really had to take some time off just to kind of care for my mental health. And I think because I was so burned out, I started to wonder, like, maybe I'm just done with design. And by the way, that could, that's a totally legitimate life choice for me to make, right. So I'm not saying people, like do these career pivots. And like, I think that's awesome. And I really had to give myself time to kind of detox in a way. And to allow it to almost think of it as like a field that's left to kind of fallow for a while, so that it can, like rebuild its nutrients. And, and I didn't know like where it was going to head. And then, and I'm a very instinct driven person, like, in addition to the dirty secret that I'm not actually that into technology, it's like a total means to an end. The other is that I'm not a particularly data driven person, like I'm very instinct driven. And my instincts are pretty good. Like they've, they've helped me to make really good decisions over the years. And I had this, I've had this really interesting experience over the past like six to 12 months of intuitively leaning into things that I'm interested in, without like a clear agenda as to why. And of course, I have this background in design, and tech and in ethics, based on the work that I've done it meta. But the two areas that I mentioned before that I was really leading into is climate change. Because intuitively, I'm like, we're all going to be working on climate, like, I'm already behind by 2030 years. So now's the time, signed up for this amazing course with an organization called Where it's yeah, it's this program that basically helps people who are interested in getting into climate change in a variety of ways, just get a very broad working knowledge of climate change, like the financial aspect, the communication aspect, all that kind of stuff. And then at the same time, I've been very interested, as I mentioned, and talking about something, you have to engage with a lot of humility, but just studying indigenous wisdom, indigenous communities. There's like a lot of shame that as a white person, I feel like studying indigenous history, but I have to, like, make sure that that Shame does not keep me from supporting those communities, and learning from and trying to figure out ways to empower and what was so interesting to me was this realization of how all of these topics are converging, design, technology, ethics, climate change, indigenous communities, and I was like, they're all there. It's like all these rivers coming together, right? And so taking this class, and doing these studies, has just, like, reinvigorated me in such an exciting way. I feel kind of like a similar energy to when I was coming out of graduate school and like when the browser was released, and I'm like, Holy Moses, I don't totally know what I should be doing here. But I feel intuitively so confident. And that's such an exciting feeling to have, whether it's like after you come into college, or in the middle of your career, or, you know, whatever all these life changes, when you feel your gut telling you like, I don't even know how to explain to people why this is the right direction, I just know it. That's kind of where I'm at. And, and it even feeds into like, my hobbies, like I because I was saying I was a crafter, right. So unrelated to initially to climate change, I started getting interested in visible mending. So this is a practice where instead of throwing away your clothes, you fix them, got interested into it, interested in it initially through a company called toast, which is a company out of the UK, that actually runs classes, teaching people how to repair their clothing, instead of throwing them away and buying new stuff. And I was like, that's intuitively interesting to me. And also, the craft of doing visible mending is really beautiful. Because instead of denying that something is ripped, you actually show it, and you respect the lifetime of that garment, or that object and you celebrate it. And there's in particular, a very long standing practice of this in Japan, through repairing ceramics and fabric. And the the, the object has its own stories to tell, right. And I just thought philosophically, that was kind of beautiful. And then, of course, I realized, like, the fashion industry is one of the most wasteful industries in the world. And we're all fueled by consumerism, and fast fashion to constantly buy new clothes and throw them out. And it's terrible for the environment. So again, just one of these examples of all of this stuff, just converging, like, let's reduce our consumerism, let's repair our clothing. Lets like create beauty, let's celebrate, like the fact that things have a life and you can extend them. And I thought, because this was going to come up, I'll show you something that I have been working on. This is a pair of my husband's jeans that I stole from him. And all of the repair work that I've like done on them. And it's very like wabi sabi. It's not like particularly like, perfect, but that's kind of the point, too. So anyway, I am super excited about figuring out an angle to get involved in climate change, I feel like in my teaching, I'm going to try to figure out how to integrate, you know, understanding climate change, Indigenous Studies, to the extent that I can empower indigenous teachers to do that. And, you know, just in general bring a much more varied perspective to what it means to design responsibly, these, like, somewhat unexpected directions, but they're, but then when you think about them, they all make sense that they fit together.

Lauren Lin (host) 28:10

I love that. And I also love that you've been taking time to detox, I feel like that's, it's very important, something that I think as students, we also need to take time to reflect we're always like, especially we're on the quarter system, we're like, what's the next class? What's the next class? Totally. But yeah, to take time and reflect.

Margaret Stewart 28:30

And by the way, like, I should say that it, it's a position of privilege to be able to do that. And a lot of people don't have that option. So I'm very aware of that. But as I have reflected on, the only thing worse than not being aware of your privilege is having it and that and not using it for societal benefit or like, like, still doing work that you're past or is not fulfilling to you not a thing it's like, be aware of it. And then like do something interesting and good with it.

Lauren Lin (host) 29:03

I've also been thinking about AI and climate, and how those are very intertwined, but not being talked about, much like one conversation with chat. GPT uses like a 500 milliliter water bottle. And that's like, a lot of water if you're thinking about all the students who are using chat TPT, for their homework, or on the daily. And so what you said was just a great reminder of thinking about how in the future, all of these things that seemed disparate are going to connect. So that was a great segue to the next question. What do you see for the future of design and technology, but also, I'm just gonna leave it to you to define what that future is, given that you're finding all these intersections?

Margaret Stewart 29:50

At a very high level, and I guess this is what I aspire to do in teaching in advising companies In writing to the extent that I do that, is to cultivate this capacity to recognize dilemmas and dualities. And to help people navigate those things. Like, it's very easy to feel like you're constantly in an existential crisis, when you get into, you know, a space like this, because, you know, like the butterfly effect, where it's like, Oh, my God, if I move, someone's gonna get hurt. And there's actually a reality to that that is, is very dissonant with the the optimism and hopefulness that fuels most designers and engineers. And I think one of the best things that I can do, and that design as a practice can do is be one of the disciplines that honestly engages in that reality, but in a hopeful and constructive way. It's like, thank goodness, we know, and are and understand about social inequity. I mean, I think I still have a ton to learn about that. But I'm aware that it's something I need to learn about. And therefore I can integrate it into my practice, as opposed to building something, releasing it. And then after the fact, finding out that I've harmed the very people that I sought to help. And so to me, that's a very, a hopeful thing, it complicates things, because a lot of the tech industry is very focused on efficiency and optimization. And by definition, a lot of this stuff intentionally slows things down. And, you know, I mean, I think it reflects in the practices that I've developed personally, as I've been working on these, like huge platforms, and these fast moving companies, that My hobbies are unbelievably inefficient, like when I tell you, there's nothing efficient about knitting a sweater for somebody, you know, there's nothing efficient about repairing these jeans. But it's super satisfying. And it's almost like an antidote. Because you see, I'm not doing this because it's efficient, I'm doing it because it's joyful and symbolic. And then when I give something to somebody that I've knit or repaired, it reflects a set of values. And so to me, that's really kind of where I want things to head is to not deny the fact that efficiency and optimism are crucially important, and actually, in certain cases, absolutely the right way to operate. But it's not the only way to operate. And actually, building friction back into the system is a huge part of our jobs, and having the wisdom to know when is friction societally beneficial? And when is it not?

Liz Gerber (host) 32:48

You led us into perfect last question here. Thank you for leading us in Margaret. Speaking of friction, let's be honest, you sound like a perfect person. On paper, you're a perfect person, or are you willing to share any stories in which maybe your life wasn't always perfect? And you learn from it? I think so often, we get the impression that people success, successful people like you just everything went their way. Did anything not go your way that you're willing to share?

Margaret Stewart 33:17

Absolutely. I mean, I have failed nine ways to Sunday. It's, it's, you know, I, when I think back on the work that I did in tech ethics, I, it's hard to separate whether I made mistakes and failed, or whether it's like the culture of tech companies are just really, really hard to evolve. Right? And both and two things can be true, right. But I think back on a lot of contexts, where maybe I didn't approach that argument in the right way. I try not to do this often. But you know, actually, Lauren, relative to what you were saying about the weird connections between AI and climate, which I 1,000% agree with you on that it almost never works to convince somebody to change their behavior by shaming them, even if what they're doing is shameful. Right. And you see this in climate change. No one is ever going to convince somebody to give up their Hummer by like shaming them for it. You have to figure out an angle where you have taken the time to understand that person's value system. I mean, we see this problem in reproductive rights in gun control. You projecting your value system on somebody else and expecting them to adopt it and change their behavior is a losing strategy. You need to learn what those people care about and figure out how their value system would lead them in the long run to the same outcome that you're looking for. And I think that there have been times where getting upset about things or thinking too much about my own lived experience, which is totally valid, but it's not a universal experience. And driving my arguments in too narrow of a way did not lead to the outcomes that I wanted, and ironically, sometimes didn't lead to the outcomes that I think everyone wanted. And so I think my mistakes in the past that I think I've learned from have been how important it is to take the time to understand the lived experience. And sometimes it's my own colleagues, and sometimes it's communities that we're engaging with. And interesting, this is where my theater background has come in really handy is like as an actor, your job is to figure out an entire universe of somebody else's life. And to make that so believable that people believe you are that person. And the skills of empathy building, in the theatrical practice, are like incredibly valuable to designers. So that's a meandering answer to your question.

Liz Gerber (host) 36:24

Brilliant. Brilliant meandering. We're just about out of time. Margaret, I have to ask you, is there anything any stories you wanted to share? or questions you wanted to? Or things you wanted to share that we haven't asked you?

Margaret Stewart 36:38

You know, there's something that's been on my mind, because of all the layoffs that are going on? Okay. You know, I like my most of my career has been spent, you know, with occasional downturns post 911, like, and the economy crumbles. But for most of my career, in an environment of abundance, right, grow, grow, grow, the biggest problem we had was we can't hire fast enough and can't find enough people, etc, etc, etc. But even I have worked in contexts where that wasn't the case. And I had the benefit of coming into Silicon Valley, being like, yeah, like, sometimes you are in constrained budgets, or like, you know, like my work with nonprofits has also exposed me to that, right. It's like, you don't have unlimited resources, you're not always going to have up into the right growth. So there's, there's a generation of folks who came of age, after me, in these companies who for the first time in their lives are feeling job insecurity. And that is an incredibly kind of traumatic destabilizing thing for people to go through, especially if they believed it would never happen. And I think the thing that I've been thinking about is how important it is. To always recognize that a company is a company, it is not a family. They care about you. And I think if you're lucky, you're in a culture where people do Jen genuinely care about each other. But ultimately, they are a part of a corporation. And they actually have duties. And we can talk about the downsides of shareholder capitalism. But the fact is, they have a duty to the business that will override what they would like to do for people who work at the company. And that may sound like a downer, but honestly, what it does is it gives you permission to not give 100% of yourself to any organization ever. And to always protect part of yourself that is about your own well being. And, and to make sure that when you are working in a place that is taking so much of you that it is really negatively affecting your mental health, that it is not worth it. Because and I don't mean this in a bad way. Next week, there could be layoffs, and the right business decision may be to lay you off. And to just always remember that that there is a transactional nature to these relationships that I think this culture of like building these incredibly supportive benefit rich environments, sometimes clouds people's vision of their relationship to organizations. So I know that sounds like a bit of a downer, but I honestly I think it's like just being really clear eyed about it. And saying, I'm going to give you so much goodness, but I'm not going to give you everything. And when this starts to be really bad for me for whatever reason, I'm going to recognize that it's okay to see this as a transactional relationship. And again, sometimes people don't have the privilege of walking away but if you do To, to recognize if that's okay.

Liz Gerber (host) 40:03

It's such a gift to hear you and to hear you talk and how lucky I am to have met you years ago and for you to share this really priceless knowledge like I can't tell you how many people are going to just be thrilled. thrilled, thrilled, thrilled to hear you talk about your your life in your career, so authentically. So thank you for this gift you're giving to the world!

Margaret Stewart 40:28

I really appreciate it. Thank you so much. I appreciate it. And it's it's just great to spend time with both of you!

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