Stephanie Latham, 37
Director of U.S. automotive, Facebook
Big break: “Working for strong, determined managers who have pushed me beyond what I ever imagined possible.”
So, which biographical snapshot best captures Stephanie Latham?
Is it the former kindergarten student teacher who earned an MBA from New York University and steered the Google, CNN and General Electric accounts for a New York ad agency — all before she turned 30?
Or is it the woman who, as director of U.S. automotive at Facebook, was hit with a breast cancer diagnosis at age 32 and, five days later, learned she was pregnant?
Either way, a phone interview reveals how much she values the threads connecting her present and her past, her personal life and her professional life, the Facebook portion of her career and what came before it.
She has drawn lessons from her student teaching to help manage seven direct reports and a staff of more than 50 at Facebook. “The skill sets are very similar,” she said.
Latham, 37, said she’s buoyed by a corporate culture that encourages people to push, to grow, to be conscious of their legacy and to connect with other people. She has used that support as a springboard into public roles as an advocate for causes tied to breast cancer and women in the workplace.
On Monday, April 1, she is scheduled to end a six-month maternity leave (her 4-year-old daughter now has a brother) and be promoted to head of industry for Facebook’s technology vertical.
She will have left behind her job of helping automakers and dealers use Facebook to build brands and sell vehicles. Efforts in that role include a campaign that led Lee Buick-GMC in Crestview, Fla., to reap a return of 23 times its ad spend. She helped create Facebook’s Dynamic Ads for Auto listings (now called Automotive Inventory Ads), which allow dealers to individually promote each vehicle in their inventory. And she built the Facebook Women in Automotive community, with a goal of celebrating the impact of women on the industry and fostering their growth.
She’s had trials along the way. The “terrifying but exciting” moment she jumped into an automotive role with no auto experience. And then there was the near-simultaneous discovery of breast cancer and pregnancy in 2014.
“That experience was a very pivotal moment for me in terms of life and focus and legacy and all of the things I want to be known for,” she said.
Though she was declared cancer-free four years ago, the episode affects the way she manages to this day.
“Everyone’s going through stuff” in their personal lives, she said. “To be able to create a space where people are able to go through whatever it is they’re going through, and also contribute, is a really important part of the culture of the team. That’s always been a core value of mine.”
— Dave Versical