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Facebook's Reid Patton '14 encourages students to be bold

When Reid Patton graduated from Harpeth Hall in 2014, she did not know what she wanted to do. While at Duke, Ms. Patton saw that her high-achieving, intelligent peers were following careers in the financial sector, so — as a young woman with big ambitions — she followed that path too. 

After two unhappy experiences during summer internships at investment firms, she realized that finance was not her path. Instead, Ms. Patton knew she would have to find something new, energizing, and purposeful on her own.

This week, at an all-school assembly in front of an audience of students who are searching for their own paths, Ms. Patton shared her journey from being a Harpeth Hall student to a product manager at Facebook leading the social network’s Neighborhood product. 

“When I was deciding what to do, I wasn’t paying attention to what I enjoyed or what got me excited, I was just doing what I thought I was supposed to do as a high-achiever,” said Ms. Patton, who has also worked in Facebook’s business messaging, app monetization, Instagram stories, and close friends projects. “What I have learned is that an exciting career comes at the intersection of what interests you, what you are good at, and what gets you excited.”

The journey to find your way is not always easy. For Ms. Patton, along with so many others, there were moments of doubt, missteps, and uncomfortable or challenging experiences.

“What I have learned is that one of the best things you can do is put yourself in positions that make you uncomfortable,” she said. “…The best opportunities lie right outside your boundaries of comfort. If you are not uncomfortable, you are not learning.”

Ms. Patton encouraged students to actively seek out experiences that may seem hard and come with a large chance of failure, because, she said, as soon as students learn that failing does not make them a failure, a world of opportunities opens up. She encouraged students to identify the things that make them afraid and to be bold and go do them.

“The way you perceive the world is the world you get… You have a choice. To view a problem as unsolvable or to view each problem as an opportunity to dream up a compelling possibility,” she said. “This is what I now get to do every day. All of the product you use was created because someone had the courage and audacity to think about what could be and then could lead a team to make that a reality.”

Ms. Patton left the students with a challenge. She pushed them to be big, be bold, and be proud of what they can do and what they can accomplish.

“Oftentimes, there is an unspoken rule about humility and being humble — don’t brag, play down your accomplishments,” she said. “What I have seen with myself and other women, [that mindset] results in women underselling themselves and subconsciously focusing on where they are not so good versus where they are great. …Once you have identified where you can excel, bring it and bring it fully. Lean in. ...This small shift in focusing on where you are great will make all of the difference in your growth.”