Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Facebook Builds Its Own Foreign Service

Mike Swift of The Mercury News has an item that may perk your interest, you battle tested foreign service officers out there -- Facebook to assemble global team of 'diplomats'

Quick excerpts:

With 70 percent of its more than 600 million members outside the United States, Facebook is creating its own foreign service, hiring a network of ambassadors from India to Ireland to represent the Palo Alto-based social network with foreign governments and cultures.

Facebook's new global policy team will monitor the local political landscape and act as multilingual, TV-friendly communicators in countries and for cultures that, in many cases, have very different values and laws about privacy and personal communications than the U.S.
As part of this effort, Facebook is hiring policy directors for the Middle East, Britain, Italy, Spain, Scandinavia, Germany, Central and Eastern Europe and other countries and regions. Among their duties, the policy directors will be Facebook's primary contact with foreign government officials and politicians. That will be especially critical in places like Europe, where regulators are scrutinizing the privacy and data-handling practices of Google (GOOG) and other U.S. Internet companies.
"Somebody forwarded me those (Facebook job) listings with a note: 'Look familiar?' " said Andrew McLaughlin, Google's director of global public policy from 2004 to 2009. "We did exactly that same thing."
"Was it useful? Totally," McLaughlin said of Google's foreign policy staffers. "You literally build a foreign service for the company, people whose mission it is to represent the company outwardly, but also to translate the policy environment back into the company."
Facebook is setting the recruiting bar high. Its posting for a Middle East policy director asks for someone with a degree in a related field, at least 10 years experience in both government and industry and "superb" written and spoken English but also fluency in Turkish, Arabic or another Middle Eastern language. Facebook wants a person comfortable with politicians at the most senior levels of government, who has experience as a media spokesperson, preferably on both radio and TV; and of course, has "a passionate belief" in Facebook.

The next thing you know there will be a Facebook Foreign Service Officer Test (FFSOT) across the United States online and an Oral Assessment in Palo Alto that includes a group exercise, a structured interview, and a case management writing exercise. Then a rank-ordered Register for eligible hires. Presumably with a quicker onboarding than the U.S. Foreign Service.

This is not a golden parachute and certainly not a sure thing, but if you are a career foreign service officer with the right set of skills and experience, there might just be a new career for you -- that is, if you're looking to jump from the mothership.

Of course, if Facebook is smart, and not saying it's not, it can go after some talented officers that have been tic'ed out by the FS system or youthful 65s kicked out as too old by the FS system.  Hey, these folks have the right experience, and best of all, FB won't have to train them from scratch in diplomacy, negotiations, languages and cultures and with the right individuals, they come with ready made local contacts in their rolodex.  What's not to like?

Or FB can go on a talent war with the U.S. Foreign Service, an institution that is slooow to change because there are always more applicants than vacancy slots, see?  Taken for granted by our elected representatives, perhaps the news of Facebook building its very own foreign service will also be a wake up call from here to there. Google, Facebook, who's next, BP, Exxon, Boeing? Heeello mega-diplomacy!

Now I know why I should have aimed for that 4+/4+ in Turkish the last time I was in school for six months! Maalasef arkadaşlarim, benim türkçe çok, çok paslı.

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