Career & Success

Former TaskRabbit CEO Stacy Brown-Philpot on Trusting Your Gut

In this View From The Top podcast episode, Stacy Brown-Philpot discusses diversity, the gig economy, and leading with integrity.

June 10, 2021

| by Kelsey Doyle

As a founding member of SoftBank’s Opportunity Fund and the former CEO of TaskRabbit, Stacy Brown-Philpot, MBA ’02, is leading the charge on diversity and inclusion.

In this View From The Top conversation at Stanford Graduate School of Business, Brown-Philpot speaks with Jess Lawson, MBA ’21, discussing her childhood in Detroit and how she went from being “CFO of the paper route” to launching a $100 million fund focused on investing in Black, Latinx, and Native American founders. “Sometimes as humans, we ignore what’s in our gut because we’re getting advice and we’re thinking with our head,” she says. “And a lot of times we’ve got to put the head aside and sort of lead with the heart.”

Stanford GSB’s View From The Top is the Dean’s premier speaker series. It launched in 1978 and is supported in part by the F. Kirk Brennan Speaker Series Fund. During student-led interviews and before a live audience, leaders from around the world share insights on effective leadership, their personal core values, and lessons learned throughout their career.

Full Transcript: Stacy Brown-Philpot

Stacy Brown-Philpot: When everything’s fine, we’re all fine. But when everything’s not fine, do you come with a sense of integrity? Do you bring the best person that you are to the table? And that’s really what guides me. And what I hope guides the people who decide to work with me and for me.

Jessica Lawson: Welcome to View from the Top, the podcast. That was Stacy Brown-Philpot, founding member of SoftBank’s opportunity fund and former CEO of TaskRabbit. Stacy returned to her Alma Mater, Stanford graduate school of business, as part of View from the Top, a speaker series where students like me sit down to interview business leaders from around the world. I’m Jessica Lawson, an MBA student of the class of 2021. This year I had the pleasure of interviewing Stacy from her home in California. She shared invaluable insights on building community, driving impact and embracing change. You’re listening to View from the Top, the podcast.

Jessica Lawson: Stacy, thanks for being here. It’s great to have you back at the GSB virtually.

Stacy Brown-Philpot: Hi! It’s nice to see you and I am so glad to be back.

Jessica Lawson: It’s so good to see you. I mean, it sounds like you’ve really mastered Zoom. I know you have a full household with dogs and a kid but you’re getting through it and you’re surviving.

Stacy Brown-Philpot: Well, they’re all invited. So if they show up, I have no shame.

Jessica Lawson: I would love a cameo. I love dogs. Bring him on stage. I know we talked the other day, there are a lot of topics you wanted to cover from building community to embracing change and driving impact. So I’m gonna dive right in so we have plenty of time if that’s okay with you?

Stacy Brown-Philpot: Great, let’s do it.

Jessica Lawson: Awesome, so I want to start by taking us back to your childhood in Detroit and the early influences in your life. I know, you know, one of the first jobs you had was delivering newspapers with your brother at the age of ten. Sometimes in four degree weather, which is crazy. I’d love to hear how experiences like that and your upbringing in Detroit influence how you think about leading a business, especially when you’re talking about community.

Stacy Brown-Philpot: Yeah, I see my brother often because he moved out to the Bay Area and he’s like fun uncle now with my kids because he doesn’t have kids of his own, but I remember when he wanted to have a paper route and he said, my mom said yes, we could do it. And then you know I could help him. So I was kind of the CFO of the paper route. He was like the CEO of the paper route. And it was hard, in the winter it was cold and we still had a responsibility to get out there and deliver those papers and so it taught us responsibility even when things are challenging. And we also had accountability because sometimes people didn’t want to pay. So the neighbors wouldn’t answer their door or they see us coming and look out the window and close and they knew they owed us like $10. If anyone’s ever had a paper route you have to pay for the papers before you get your profit, and so we would figure out little sneaky ways to catch people getting out of their car so we could get our money, right? So we had to hustle, like a lot of that paper route taught us hustle, responsibility and hustle. But it was a community. It was really..we lived in a neighborhood that wasn’t the best neighborhood but it was definitely a good neighborhood and people looked out for each other and they knew that my brother and I were working hard and doing our best. And so most people did their part and they paid us, but there was always those one or two people who didn’t want to. So I love growing up in Detroit, it was my home. People often ask how could you imagine sort of growing up anywhere else, but that’s where I’m from. That’s who I am. That’s where I’m from. And the community that I grew up in, taught me a lot about independence and grit. Some of the things we try to teach our kids today in a real and very practical way.

Jessica Lawson: That sounds incredible. I don’t know what I was doing at ten, but it certainly wasn’t settling up with my neighbors to collect debt, so you sound like a fierce and fearless ten year old. That’s incredible. And yeah, you spoke about grit and sometimes grit is taught but sometimes it’s required by terms of the environment that you grow up in and I think grit that you inherited stuck with you and got you to the GSB eventually where you came straight off of Goldman’s M&A tech team, and you’re doing deals that really got you excited about Silicon Valley. So you came to the GSB hoping to pivot, get your foot in the door of the tech industry. And I think a lot of us today are hoping to do just that. I know I personally am trying to get into the tech industry, but it feels like the pressure is really on to get it right. So I’d love to hear from you what advice you have for Business School students who are looking to pivot, but are really nervous that they’re not going to get it right the first time around.

Stacy Brown-Philpot: Yeah, so you’re probably not gonna get it right the first time around. So if you just let yourself accept that truth, then you can move on. You can kinda relieve some of the pressure. When I can’t, I didn’t actually know what Silicon Valley was. I was like, I thought it was a place like a city. Then you get here you’re like, what’s the city of Silicon Valley like? No, actually, it’s like this whole area. And so it was that foreign to me. What I knew was that tech was exciting. It was 1999. And then those of us who were on this call who were in my class saw it all die the day we showed up. And we got yelled at for not going to class, for thinking about not going to class and we’re like what else are we doing?

But I think the classes before that weren’t coming to class. So we got this whole lecture about coming to class, but no we’re coming. Nowhere else to go, nothing else to do. So we didn’t get it right because the economy wasn’t great in 2002. In fact, it was pretty bad. And I didn’t know what I was going to do next. What I did know was that the GSB was a great place for me to think differently about my life and my career. And really, I really embraced the experience of my classmates who really encouraged me when I was about to graduate, and I didn’t have a job.

And I was thinking about well what do I want to do? I should just take this job and go back to Goldman. And there was so many of my classmates who were like, no, you really want to be in tech. You got to stick with it. I believe in you, you should believe in you. And so I would say lean on your classmates, take the risk. That’s why you’re at the GSB and it is the environment where you can make a change if you really put your mind to it and hold on to the reason why you went to Stanford, which was to imagine a different world and to make a different impact in the world.

Hold on to that, because that’s what’s going to get you through that mistake that you will inevitably make and you’re not going to get it right. And then when you do get it right, you’re going to remember all those stories from your classmates and your professors who helped you.

Jessica Lawson: That is super reassuring. I mean, I’m a second year MBA and I have no idea what I’m gonna be doing in five months. So I’m gonna hold on to that advice when it inevitably gets a little bumpy. So thank you for that. But eventually you did make your way to Google. Not immediately after, but soon after you got to Google and you were a pretty early employee. I think there were about 1,000 employees when you got there, and you were there for just shy of ten years and in that period, you got a lot done to say the least.

I mean, you established an incredible DEI legacy by starting the Black Google network. You drove growth overseas through a stint in India. You built out a massive online sales and ops org, I mean you’re really, really busy. And at the end of those contributions, you said you looked around your corner office, and you have the assistant and the dog and the dog bed.

But you started to feel like your next mountain was elsewhere, so you decided to leave. How did you come to that kind of hard decision and know to trust your gut? Especially from where I’m sitting, it seems like you didn’t have that many reasons to leave and you had a lot of good things going for you at Google.

Stacy Brown-Philpot: It was so hard to leave Google. I always share that I first broke up with Google before I decided that I was gonna go do something else. It’s like this stable, at this point did it become the stable boyfriend who was just super comfortable and always gonna like cook me dinner at night like it was. It was great like there was nothing wrong and everybody wanted to work at the company. But as I started to think about what my own purpose was, and why I was here, like why am I on this earth? What am I doing here? I felt like I had fulfilled my purpose in this great company.

We had gone from one thousand to fifty thousand people - I did have that corner office. I had a growing up in Detroit, I had everything any child who went to school with me would have ever dreamed of in terms of a job. But I knew that there was more in there, meaning in me, my gut was telling me there’s more, and unfortunately Stacy, it’s not here with this stable thing that you have.

And my mom was very surprised when I told her I was gonna leave Google. She was the same person who said to me, when I went to Google, she said, honey at that Google thing doesn’t work out. You can always go back to Goldman Sachs. And so, when I got the job at Task Rabbit, she’s like, well, if that Task Rabbit thing doesn’t work out, you can always go back to Google.

So, I feel she’s got premonitions of what good things really are and in a very in a very special way, but something was calling me to do something different and we feel it and we know and sometimes as humans, we ignore what’s in our gut because we’re getting advice and we’re thinking with our head and a lot of times we got to put the head aside and sort of lead with the heart. And I think that’s really what drove me to decide to break up with this wonderful company and think about what might be next.

Jessica Lawson: That’s incredible. I think that’s a great lesson and reminder too, just because you’re comfortable doesn’t mean it’s the right fit. I know, I probably would have stopped at the dog and the dog bed. So, I think it’s good to kind of push yourself to leave through those moments to get to your next big thrill. And your next mountain was Task Rabbit. In fact, so you started as CEO and ultimately made your way to CEO of the company. I want to spend a little time on that because it’s an incredible feat to be a CEO of a tech company. It’s doubly incredible to be a black female CEO of a tech company. I mean, those descriptors don’t come together as often as they should and selfishly for my own career because I would love to aspire to something like that. I’d really like to know from you - what do you think are the two or three qualities that kind of put you on that upward trajectory to the C suite?

Stacy Brown-Philpot: I…first of all, I loved running Task Rabbit it was like, I found one mission, which is the mission of Google. And then I found the mission of Task Rabbit around making everyday life easier for everyday people. And it really was personal to me. And so, I think one of the things that really helped me to get there, was to really pick something that I was passionate about that I cared about that I felt like connected to who I was as a person. It made everything else so much easier and it made a lot of things a lot clearer too. The second thing was just surrounding myself with people who were better than me at pretty much everything. First thing I did when I got there, one of my old managers from Google emailed me my second day, he said, who have you hired? I just got here, like, what are you talking about? He’s like, who have you hired? And so I went out and I hired my VP of operations who went on to become my COO when I became the CEO, and he was just so much better than me at running an operation, so surrounding myself with great people, was it and then the third one is just willingness to learn.

I don’t always know the answer. In fact, I almost always never know the right answer to something. But I am willing to ask the question and I’m not afraid to be wrong and to make a mistake. And so, all those things helped me create an environment where I could leverage my board; I can ask the right questions, I could think thoughtfully about partnerships and really become the best leader that I can for the company. I didn’t start a task rabbit with the aim of being the CEO. I joined the COO to become a partner with an amazing founder who was building an amazing business and that was the partnership that we had. Becoming CEO was not the end goal. Fulfilling the mission of the company was ultimately the end goal.

Jessica Lawson: As you spoke just now it feels yourself, so well the missions that motivate your strengths and your weaknesses. What you know, what you don’t know. And I’m sure you remember from the GSB. We talk a lot about knowing ourselves and bringing our full authentic selves to work and it seems like you’ve done that throughout your career and it’s got you to a lot of great places. So, I’m curious to hear in this kind of a two part question one, how did you go about discovering your authentic self? Was it this aha moment? Was it a journey was it deliberate or subconscious. And then the second part of that is, once you did discover yourself and do the work to feel comfortable with who you are, both professionally and personally. How did you go about bringing that into the workplace, especially the parts that might feel a little risky to share?

Stacy Brown-Philpot: It’s a journey. I don’t know that I’m fully done discovering my authentic self I’m on a constant path to self discovery. After I left Task Rabbit a week after I did a silent retreat by myself for six days, and I’d never been alone by myself in that way before and especially since I’ve have two children in my home and even those six days, which happens last year was a moment and a time for self discovery.

I’ve…I what I can say is that. My journey towards self discovery has really been about the people around me. Who’ve encouraged me to be my authentic self. So, Sheryl Sandberg is a mentor of mine and a really good friend. And she modeled that behavior so well at Google. So, when I started the Black Google Network, It was really about, wait a minute, there’s a whole part of me that’s missing from being inside this company. And I wanna feel like I belong in this place. And so she encouraged me to think about what are some of the ways that you can do that.

And that’s how the Black Google Network was started. And even when it’s harder, it becomes easier as you get more senior people always say that well once you become a VP or once you become the CEO, it’s easy to be your authentic self. And actually don’t think that’s true, because in 2016, I stood up in front of Task Rabbit in July and talked about what it’s like to be black.

And I was so scared to have that car. I was the CEO of a company. I just become the CEO I could get up and say anything I wanted, but I was so scared about what people would think. What would they think about? Well, she’s going to talk about her experience because we’re seeing all these police officers kill black men. But it was important to me to get up in front of our company meeting and not have a regular meeting, but to let them know who I am, how I’m feeling and the pain that I was going through at the time. And so, I think digging deep and being willing to be vulnerable and finding those moments where you’re like, My god, this is the vulnerable moment.

Those are the moments where it’s actually really good to be yourself because what happened after that was these. This follow up conversation from so many people in the company about what it meant to be from wherever they were from, and their personal stories. And then I ended up building closer relationships with my team in a way that I could never have before. And so being vulnerable has really helped me build deep connections. So when we went through the hard stuff at TaskRabbit, which we in every day every company will. Like I had a team with me and they knew me and they understood me and they were much more committed to the vision and the strategy and the purpose of what we were trying to do.

Jessica Lawson: It’s a good reminder to know that the journey never really stops you’re the CEO of TaskRabbit. You had ten years at Google, you’re clearly what’s considered to be a Silicon Valley insider but you still have those moments where you have to navigate feeling outside of yourself. So I think that’s a really good reminder for everyone in the audience. And it sounds like you are so passionate about advocating for yourself and the people in your corner. And I can imagine that that contributed to a lot of your success at TaskRabbit because it’s such a Human Centered company. I wanna talk about that because I can imagine there are a lot of challenges there with these companies. Because sometimes the human centered decision isn’t always the best business decision even if it’s the right one. So I know when you got to TaskRabbit you have to make some tough calls around that, I’m specifically thinking about the TaskRabbit bidding structure. So you got to TaskRabbit and you decided to change the bidding structure in which taskers had to bid to win jobs because it often led to this race to the bottom. But you actually were met with quite a bit of backlash from that decision and I would love for you to share with the audience that experience and what it meant to stick to your guns in that moment.

Stacy Brown-Philpot: That was there’s been some hard decisions that I’ve had to make in my career and in my life and that was one of the hardest ones. Because when we made what was happening is that you had a 50% chance of getting your job done on TaskRabbit in our in the first model when I joined the company. Which was terrible from a customer experience perspective we couldn’t really spend money on marketing. We were never going to be profitable in that way so from a business perspective, it was bad. And so we decided to make this change where you could hire the person directly, and you have more certainty around what you got done on the platform. However, to do that we had to shrink the number of categories, which meant that there were people who were going to not be able to find work on task grab it anymore.

Like people who were depending on us to pay their rent next month, we’re gonna to wake up the next day and realize that source of income was no longer available to them. So it was hard but I knew that in order to sustain the business and to grow the business the way that we wanted to, we had to make this decision. And as a team, we had some metrics so I know you want to buy KPIs, we do. With these are the metrics like we know where this is working if the revenues look like this, the customer Net Promoter Score looks like this, the growth looks like this, the category changed. We had all the data, and we had a plan so if in 60 days, we’re not there, we gotta go back, we gotta revert back, and so we had a plan, so we stuck to our plan. The backlash was where the mistake happened, which is we forgot. We lost sight of the community and we just talked about community.

We had a community of thousands of taskers who were depending on us and we didn’t bring them along on the journey. We just sort of announced it and said it’s gonna happen. We kinda talked to a council of taskers but we didn’t actually bring them in to the process of the change. And so what I learned from that is that one, the community doesn’t stop at the people who work at your company. It’s the people’s lives that you’re impacting every day by the sheer nature of being in business. And it’s important as a leader and as a company to talk about and communicate, what it is that you’re doing that could impact them. And so we learned that mistake, we never made it again. We made other mistakes, but we definitely never made that one again.

Jessica Lawson: That’s great and I think as you’re talking through how the level of which you’re beholden to the users of your platform, what comes to mind is obviously proposition 22. Where companies like Uber, and Airbnb, and TaskRabbit are now at the forefront of these discussions around the level of responsibility they have to their drivers, their homeowners, and taskers. I’d love to hear from your personal perspective what you think the right balance is when it comes to supporting those users who are at the core of those platforms.

Stacy Brown-Philpot: I have always felt from the day that I joined TaskRabbit that the most important thing to do is to listen to the customer. In this case, the customer is not just the client who gets the work done on the platform, but is the tasker who’s getting the work done.

And the number one thing that they cared about, I don’t care what any politician or lawmaker or union leader or whatever has to say, is flexibility. The number one thing I have met taskers who with tears in their eyes. Literally telling me thank you for giving me flexibility because I’m a single mom and I have to pick up my child from school and this is the only way that I can afford to pay my bills.

What I think we missed with proposition 22, and I’m glad I don’t work at TaskRabbit anymore so I can talk about. What we missed was the focus on what was really important? And we got stuck on what we’re trying to get this company to do this and we’re trying to solve this union issue and we’re trying to solve this political issue. And we lost sight of really fundamentally the problem we’re trying to solve, which is to create real economic opportunities. I think everybody in their respective corners wants to create real economic opportunities for proposition 22 was a way to do that that just didn’t work for a lot of people. So it failed and now I believe we have to go back to the drawing board. I still am an advocate for portable benefits. I do believe that independent contractors whether you’re tasking on TaskRabbit or driving a car. Or you’re a doctor, who are also independent contractors deserve to have affordable ways to take care of their health.

To save for retirement and take care of themselves if for some reason they can’t work anymore. And I think the structures that we have today aren’t designed that way, proposition 22 missed the mark and creating something that was actually going to work. We still have yet to build something that is important for this community. If there’s one thing that 2020 has taught us is that independent contractors and the nature of that type of work is not going anywhere. In fact, it has fueled the economy, it has stabilized people’s homes, it has given people an option to work. When their traditional job furloughed them, so we can’t assume it’s going to go away and we’re going to fit this entire workforce of millions into some other structure.It is a time to think about a different structure and I think we missed the mark but it doesn’t mean that we don’t have a chance to go back and come up with something better.

Jessica Lawson: Yeah, I think that really resonates with me. As complicated and complex as the gig economy and the companies that operate within it is. I personally have seen firsthand the opportunity that those companies have created for people and communities and I think that’s. Certainly here for the long term and we have to figure out everything around it but I think overall adds so much value to a lot of lives. And I think that’s kind of a nice transition into a very important topic I wanna touch on as we start to come to a close here, which is the idea of legacy and impact.

So, you gave your resignation to TaskRabbit. I believe around September 2019, with the intent to leave soon thereafter, but that timeline changed with the pandemic, George Floyd, the resulting social justice movements. I’m curious to hear how did you lead TaskRabbit? What I would imagine is like one of the most challenging times for the company. What did you do internally and culturally, to address or acknowledge everything that was going on specifically, or especially after having given your resignation? I’m sure that was a weird moment to be in.

Stacy Brown-Philpot: I was so committed to the company that I was gonna steer through a successful transition. So, it was an easy meeting. I sat on the board of two public companies, we’ve done succession. I said, I know how to do this, I’ve heard it before, I got my scripts. I went to the board I said it’s time, I wanna transition. Here’s my timeline, September 2019.

Here you go and everyone’s like, they’re shocked, but they’re like, okay, thank you. Well, we’ll negotiate a timeline, worked it out. January came, we’re still on the timeline. February came, wait a minute we’re not on the timeline March, right, we’re whoa blown, timeline blown. Me traveling in the summer with my kids out the window leaving in April like I planned, gone. So, those things are all going the timeline was gone but I cared a lot about leaving the company in a great place. We had built the company, we launched four new countries in 18 months, we had built this amazing leadership team. And I wanted nothing more than to see a successful sort of handover happen.

And so as the business started, we saw Seattle which was the first city that had the impact in the US with the pandemic and our business dropped. And I was like, boy, this thing is gonna spread across the country and spread across the world and our business is gonna be significantly impacted.

The most important thing that I believe we did as a team was, we focused on our values. We focused on why are we here and what are we trying to do and we were fortunate enough to be owned by IKEA and a company that thinks about things for the long term. So we put in a plan that said, all right, if the numbers go this far south, this is what we have to do, if they go this far south, this is what we have to do. And so, we had that plan. Fortunately, our business recovered, and we didn’t lose as much revenue.

So, we didn’t have to do any layoffs. But we had to pivot to focus on categories that were different. We had to think about whether or not to keep the marketplace open. And this was something that was a really important decision at the end of March. We had a board meeting and one of the board members asked, well, why aren’t you shutting down the marketplace? Because people go into people’s homes, you could be spreading the virus to others and people could die. And my response, I had to think a lot about what to say. I said, well, we’ve got 1000s of taskers who’s reached out to us and said, please don’t shut down the marketplace.

This is the only source of income that I have and if I can’t pay my rent, I can’t take care of my family, and I can’t buy food. So, you’ve got a board member who’s like protecting the risk of the company and then you’ve got taskers who’s like, please, I need money. And our number one value as a company is caring deeply. And it really was about caring for the whole community. The whole, not just the employees, not just the people who work there, but the entire community, the people who use the service and benefit from the service and provided as well. So we made a decision and said, look, we’re not gonna shut down but we are gonna do is, we’re gonna focus on these categories. We’re gonna provide all of our tasks cuz with the PPE for free, we’re gonna do this and we’re gonna do this because there’s a whole bunch of people who need to work.

So being grounded in those values, helped us whether this storm of this pandemic and by the time I left, I was fortunate that we recovered back to our free COVID growth levels and revenue levels. And so, I was able to transition out and not leave the new CEO with a lot to handle other than the remainder of this pandemic, which I’m sure she will do a great job with.

Jessica Lawson: I’m sure, I mean it’s absolutely remarkable that you steered a company like TaskRabbit that is so dependent on human interaction contact through that period and came out the other side remarkably well. And I’m curious as you were leaving, how were you thinking about your own legacy personally, and the impact you wanted to have once departing from TaskRabbit? Were you concerned at all that leaving a CEO title might impact, or stall, or impede that in any way?

Stacy Brown-Philpot: Not at all. I believe the identity of a CEO is something that gets put on you. It’s sort of like, you’re the CEO and people look at you differently, they treat you differently. Anyone who’s on this call as the CEO, you don’t get all the inside information anymore on the company, everyone’s prepared when they come to the meeting. So, there is this identity that is put on you, but I never let it become who I was. People would ask me, don’t you want your kids to come to this cuz you’re talking, you’re gonna interview Michelle Obama and some other staff, and they just kinda didn’t really care.

I have a six year old and nine year old and are like, no mommy I want her to read me a story and help me find my toy because I can’t find it right now. They were very good at grounding me in what was important. So when I think about legacy, it’s not about the CEO, I can have an impact independent of being a CEO.

And so as you know, I launched the Opportunity Fund with soft bank. So $100 million fund focused on investing in Black Latinx and Native American founders and that was after I decided to leave my job. There’s so many different ways that each of us as individuals can impact the communities around us.

So, I wasn’t worried about not having that title, and my kids helped me make sure that that wasn’t as important as finding the toy which I still did yesterday.

Jessica Lawson: Renaissance woman.I think that’s totally fantastic. And you’re in this period of pause and you’re thinking through your priorities as you said, spending time with your children going on a silent retreat.

How else are you using this time to kind of figure out what your next mountain looks like? Are you eager to do that or kind of just letting yourself explore?

Stacy Brown-Philpot: I am eager and I’m exploring.

Jessica Lawson: Okay.

Stacy Brown-Philpot: I’m enjoying the process. I will say there’s a lot of things driving by, some slow, some fast, and I’m enjoying the process.

I really love building companies and I’m enjoying the process of the Opportunity Fund. I mean, we started and created a fun inside of a very large company, but we’re doing it in a different way. So, I’m enjoying the process of being on that investment committee, helping to show great founders who have great ideas that there are venture firms out there that will return your phone call, treat you with respect.

If we’re not gonna invest, we will tell you why for real. And if we are gonna invest, we’re gonna support you 100% all the way through. So, that’s a new learning for me. So, I’m just enjoying the process of exploring and learning and having a lot of fun.

Jessica Lawson: Amazing, I’m so excited to follow the Opportunity Fund. I think it’s a once-in-a-lifetime and such an incredible thing, you’re doing so- I’m gonna turn it over now to my classmates. They’re gonna ask you a few questions and then we’ll come back here to RAF. And so first we have Kate.

Kate: Hi Stacy, thank you so much for being here, I’m Kate MB1 and my question is forward looking. So how do you envision labor market, and especially freelance labor markets in ten years from now?

Stacy Brown-Philpot: Wow, I think it’s fundamentally different from where it is today. We are doing this Zoom from home. I just got off the call with somebody who is decided to go 100% virtual. How we work and the way that we work has fundamentally changed. And all the things that we that we’re gonna take five years to do, happened basically in seven months. And I look at that from a bunch of different perspectives, but one is as a board member of HP, they were selling very large printers to be in your office building.

That’s basically what they did. And now they’re like, wait a minute, the office buildings aren’t there. They’re not gonna be as many people, we’ve got to refactor our entire product strategy and our sales strategy to accommodate smaller environments and working from home. So I believe that the way that people will work has changed forever. So in ten years, it’s hard for me to predict how much more it’ll be different. What I do know is that, the personalization that we’ve achieved by creating work environments that are much more integrated. I just told you my kids would come, my dog already went by once, right?

It’s gotta get more personal, and we can’t separate the work from the home. We can’t separate my identity as a mom and a wife from my identity a VP or an executive or a CEO. I am all those things and how we work and how we create the best work environments for people to thrive in has to encompass all those things.I really see independent contractors, like I said earlier, that whole infrastructure is not going anywhere. So I’m hoping that, as we think about developing new laws at the federal and the state level, those laws will embrace an economy that is ultimately here to stay.

Kate: Thank you Stacy.

Jessica Lawson: And next we have Irving.

Irving: Hi Stacy, thanks so much for speaking to us today. My name is Irving, I’m an admitted student to the GSB. My question for you is, as you think back to your time at Stanford, what were some of the most valuable lessons you took from the GSB that had influenced your personal leadership style?

Stacy Brown-Philpot: Wow, I have so many. So I’ll do that Touchy Feely one cuz you’re all wondering I’m sure. I came to Stanford from a very financial background. I went to Wharton undergrad, I worked in public accounting, and then I worked in investment banking. So I really wanted to round out a lot of my analytical and finance skills. And so I took marketing and organizational behavior, and all those classes helped me see that leadership is way more than the spreadsheets even though I was a master at Excel. I was really good, I’m not good anymore, but I was really, really good. Some of the things that really helped me is, one, just taking Touchy Feely. That class helped me see how other people see me and really understand the difference between how you show up and how other people see you. I can’t think of, there’s so many times as a manager where people say, well, I tried to do this, I told them this. And I said, well, it doesn’t really matter what you said, what matters is what they heard and how they interpret it what you said. And I learned that fundamental principle as part of taking Touchy Feely, so that’s one of the biggest things.

Irving: Thank you.

Jessica Lawson: Thanks Stacy, I know I’m really eager to take Touchy Feely. I’m on the wait list, so we’ll see if I get it next spring. So we have one last question for you, that we’re asking all of our leaders this year, which is, what principles do you rely on when facing your toughest moments as a leader?

Stacy Brown-Philcot: For me, the absolute number one is integrity. One of my favorite quotes, which is not gender appropriate anymore, but I’m gonna say it the way that he said it. It’s by Dr. Martin Luther King, which is the ultimate measure of a man is not how he stands in times of comfort and convenience, but how he stands in times of challenge and controversy. So we can substitute the he with she or they, however, but I want you all to hear how it was originally written. And I think about that because that really calls into question character. And when everything’s fine, we’re all fine, but when everything’s not fine, do you come with a sense of integrity? Do you bring the best person that you are to the table? And that’s really what me and I hope that’s what guides people who work with me and for me.

Jessica Lawson: That’s really inspiring, I love that quote, I’ve never heard that before. And I think we’re all walking away from this conversation, feeling motivated to bring our best selves and our integrity to work after seeing all that you’ve accomplished. And after seeing how you’ve modeled such a wonderful career for so many people. So thank you so much for being here today, it’s been wonderful speaking with you.

Stacy Brown-Philcot: Thank you. This was fun, Jessica, thank you so much.

Jessica Lawson: Thanks, Stacy. You’ve been listening to View From The Top the podcast, production of Stanford Graduate School Business. This interview was conducted by me, Jessica Lawson, of the MBA class of 2021. Lily Sloan, composer of the music, and Kelsey Doyle produced this episode. You can find more episodes of this podcast on our website www.gsb.stanford.edu. Follow us on social media at Stanford GSB.

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