If Mark Zuckerberg is Facebook’s brain, Chris Cox is its heart, employees say

Facebook’s Chief Product Officer Christopher Cox.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Photos

Last June, Facebook used to be being rocked from the internal and outside. 

Protests had been erupting across the U.S. after Minneapolis police had been caught on digicam killing George Floyd, an unarmed Shaded man. At Facebook, workers had been anxious more from their leaders. 

In explicit, they had been upset with how the company handled a submit by President Donald Trump about protests that acknowledged, “when the looting starts, the taking pictures starts.” Facebook had made up our minds to leave the submit up, even supposing many workers had been arguing that the president had violated the company’s insurance policies on inciting violence. 

Facebook executive Chris Cox had correct returned to the company on June 11 after an abrupt departure in March 2019. Indubitably one of Facebook’s earliest workers, the chief product officer used to be broadly regarded as and not using a doubt one of its simply and emotional leaders, with a natural charisma that stands in appealing distinction to CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s awkward manner.

His return couldn’t dangle map at a greater time. In and not using a doubt one of his first actions that day, Cox popped into Place of job, Facebook’s internal social network, and into murky@, the company’s employee helpful resource neighborhood for murky staffers. He posted a designate to the neighborhood, letting them know that he felt for them and used to be there for them. 

He used to be very grand in tune with how the neighborhood used to be feeling, and his return reassured workers in regards to the company’s leadership, one particular person who used to be at Facebook at the time urged CNBC. 

Though Cox would possibly perhaps no longer be a family name, Facebook and Silicon Valley insiders uncover about him at the the same stage as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg. Cox used to be excessive in rising Facebook from a Palo Alto start-as much as and not using a doubt one of basically the most necessary companies on this planet, with a market cap over $700 billion. Facebook generated nearly $84.2 billion in earnings and a earnings of greater than $29.1 billion in 2020. 

Cox is identified for having a huge occasion giggle, compassion, and humility. Before the days of the pandemic, Facebook workers in general observed him taking strolling meetings spherical campus or using the company shuttles to work alongside day to day workers. If Zuckerberg is the company’s brain, and Sandberg keeps the enterprise buzzing, Cox embodies the company’s coronary heart and motive, in step with a mountainous different of chums and workers, some of whom asked to live anonymous to discuss freely about him.

“Even as you uncover about at Chris Cox now, he’s the keeper of the custom, and the largest aspect of an organization and the reason companies be triumphant or fail is thanks to the custom that they built,” acknowledged Ron Conway, an early Facebook book who has remained terminate with Cox.

Breaking up is laborious to pause

In accordance to the Wall Avenue Journal and Yahoo Finance, Cox left after Zuckerberg made up our minds to carry the company’s disparate messaging services and products nearer together, and to emphasise privacy and non-public live-to-live encryption into them. Shrimp one security activist organizations and law enforcement agencies dangle acknowledged that encrypting these messages will create it more difficult for Facebook to observe and forestall small one exploitation thru its services and products.

After greater than 13 years at Facebook, Cox extinct the time away to recharge and focal level on assorted interests, along side his young young folks and pressing social factors.

Since 2017, Cox had been fervent with OneGoal, an organization headquartered in his fatherland of Chicago which works to create decided that that that every scholar has an different to pursue secondary training, with a spotlight on college students of color from under-resourced colleges. After the pandemic struck, Cox used to be in particular helpful as the neighborhood moved toward offering virtual improve for college students, acknowledged OneGoal CEO Melissa Connelly. 

“I would possibly perhaps correct name him and fragment what I was struggling with,” Connelly acknowledged. “He used to be correct as helpful to me as a confidante and non-public book on what it’s take dangle of to book on this 2nd as he used to be correct a more outmoded board member.”

Cox additionally equipped his skills in product pattern to a pair of start-u.s.a.battling local weather change. He served as an book to Planet, a San Francisco company with a fleet of satellites that take dangle of photos of the earth as soon as each day, offering users with imagery that demonstrates how the earth changing.

“He acknowledges what many folks pause — the atmosphere is in disaster,” acknowledged Planet CEO Will Marshall. Cox’s work on local weather change “is correct a natural extrapolation of him being a caring and passionate individual.” 

Cox additionally worked with Watershed, a San Francisco start-up that built machine that also can be extinct by agencies that strive to web their operations to zero carbon emissions. Cox’s ardour for battling local weather change, his skills in constructing machine, and his level of view having scramble and not using a doubt one of the most salubrious companies on this planet used to be extraordinarily precious to Watershed, acknowledged co-founder Christian Anderson. 

To boot as, he spent method more time playing song. Cox performs the keyboard and has been part of a reggae band called Rafa since his early days at Facebook, in step with bandmate Justin Phipps. He’s so attracted to reggae that Cox and his important other, filmmaker Visra Vichit-Vadakan, had been the salubrious donors to Redtone Data, a non-earnings song label started by Phipps that is dedicated to cultural preservation thru roots and outmoded song, along side reggae.

“When he will get attracted to one thing, he’ll stir deep into it and became extraordinarily educated about it,” Phipps acknowledged. “Each and every in afrobeat and reggae, his playing is de facto, in actuality legit.”

Facebook Chief Product Officer Chris Cox spends his time a long way off from work playing keyboards with Rafa, a San Francisco Bay Rental reggae band.

Courtesy Justin Phipps

“I don’t know the method he chanced on the time to rehearse and play reveals amidst all of the stuff that used to be happening at early Facebook, nevertheless he made the time,” acknowledged Soleio Cuervo, a old Facebook dressmaker who joined the company the the same day as Cox. “And I would possibly perhaps agree with that somewhat a ramification of his creativity used to be drawn from no longer correct being a code monkey.”

Nonetheless all thru this time a long way off from Facebook, Cox’s thoughts kept coming inspire to the company, in step with chums who stayed fervent with him for the interval of this period. He by no manner in actuality reduce himself off from Zuckerberg or the company, and Zuckerberg used to be in particular attracted to Cox’s work with Planet and Watershed. Cox additionally persevered to inspire as an book, every so continuously working with Facebook’s product teams.

After the pandemic hit and compelled the company’s workers to create a residing from residence, Cox got more angry about coming inspire. Of us terminate to him insist that Cox is pushed by being a force for correct, and he slowly realized that he would dangle more influence at Facebook. To boot as, with Facebook going thru sizable challenges spherical disclose material moderation, misinformation and the upcoming presidential election, Cox realized that he wasn’t completed in conjunction with his work at the social network correct yet. 

“There are very few folks that are as much as the task of being a first-rate product officer at Facebook at a time when all institutions, all organizations are under so grand scrutiny and dangle so grand responsibility to pause correct,” Connelly acknowledged. “I honestly non-public he would possibly perhaps remorseful about if he felt esteem he didn’t step up in that 2nd.”

A old Facebook executive speculated that Cox simply wanted a wreck from the company, and mistook that feeling of burnout for a more major incompatibility with Zuckerberg. After he realized he would possibly perhaps pause more correct internal than outside, he came inspire residence, the manager acknowledged.

‘The keeper of the custom’ 

Though Zuckerberg and Cox don’t continuously agree, the two dangle been terminate chums since Cox’s early days at the company. 

After Zuckerberg rang the Nasdaq bell on the day of the company’s IPO in 2012, the CEO snuck off from the personnel to grab lunch with one assorted particular person: Cox. The two had grown extremely terminate of their time working together, and in addition they balanced every assorted out.

Whereas Zuckerberg would possibly perhaps in general encounter as ineffective or robotic, Cox used to be stuffed with charisma. “They complement every assorted,” Conway acknowledged. “They’re an unfamiliar couple, nevertheless an unfamiliar couple in a correct method.”

Facebook’s chief product officer, Chrix Cox, left, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.


Cox joined Facebook in 2005, falling by the wayside of his graduate program at Stanford to became and not using a doubt one of the most company’s first 40 workers and 15 machine engineers. Early on, he played a a must-dangle fair in constructing Facebook’s Data Feed, which used to be excessive to the company’s enhance — pretty than forcing users to submit on every assorted’s partitions, the Data Feed let users peep all their chums’ updates in a single space. He used to be and not using a doubt one of a handful of engineers on the project and got of venture to work carefully with Zuckerberg, impressing the founder in conjunction with his technical skills and his ability to assert how the product would influence users. 

“The set Chris continuously shone is that he would possibly perhaps in actuality assert. He used to be in a position to craft a memoir that used to be extraordinarily invigorating to workers and gave motive spherical what we had been doing,” Cuervo acknowledged.

In 2007, Zuckerberg tapped Cox to originate a human sources department for the short-rising start-up. Though Zuckerberg had hired some outmoded HR mavens at the start, he used to be no longer happy with results, in step with early Facebook workers. He made up our minds to non-public differently and set up somebody who understood Facebook’s custom. 

At an organization so heavily centered on skills, Cox’s coding skills gave him the credibility important to create the respect of all his colleagues, and his humility and empathy made him a cherished settle all thru the company, from basically the most hardcore engineers to advert gross sales representatives, a old colleague acknowledged. 

At some stage in his time leading HR, Cox build together a presentation for impress spanking recent workers that folks represent as extremely mighty. Touching on philosophy, sociology, and conversation, Cox outlined that Facebook used to be constructing greater than a web proceed suppose, a platform, or a skills — it used to be rising a recent type of communications medium that existed within the connections amongst folks. Every little thing else would uncover about distribution thru that medium.

Nonetheless Cox’s transport is de facto what made the presentation resonate — assorted executives would strive their hand at handing over the same orientation keynotes as Cox, nevertheless no person would possibly perhaps top him. One old employee illustrious that even the recruits who tried their finest to face up to ingesting the Facebook Kool-Back would stroll away angry.

In 2008, Facebook chanced on itself with a vacancy at the head of its product team. It used to be a pivotal and anxious fair, as Zuckerberg himself is a product fanatic. The pair went thru a assortment of candidates, nevertheless Zuckerberg used to be searching out somebody who would lead Facebook’s product team esteem he would. In the extinguish, Zuckerberg handed Cox the reins.

“Product at Facebook is the holy grail. You place no longer must give the holy grail to correct any individual, and by then, Chris used to be a in actuality trusted book to Mark and the company,” Conway acknowledged.

As head of product, Cox used to be entrusted with declaring fantastic and ease, and he built out the company’s create and product supervisor teams. “In those early years, Chris hired all of the rock stars who’re there this day,” acknowledged Conway.

Cox’s presentation skills came in to hand in his product fair, too. One old Facebook executive recalled Facebook’s 2011 F8 convention, the set Zuckerberg stood up earlier than machine developers and introduced the company’s recent Timeline product, which is the premise for the as much as the moment Facebook profile page. 

Nonetheless folks didn’t in actuality web it till an hour later, when Cox talked about how his grandfather would create scrapbooks at the tip of yearly, and about how he had correct gotten married and longed for a method to relive the huge day.

“What is unimaginable is that no longer most fine are your memories there, nevertheless they’re organized and organized in a single space, and there is somewhat a ramification of stuff there that you just didn’t even impress or dangle in thoughts used to be there,” Cox acknowledged at the tournament. 

Cox went previous the skills and emphasised nostalgia, making everyone realize on an emotional stage why they would desire the made of their lives, the old executive acknowledged. 

What he’s doing now

Facebook has grown from a straightforward blue and white websites with a Data Feed and pokes for college college students staunch into a virtual empire of social apps. The company now encompasses the main Facebook app, Instagram for sharing photos and movies, Messenger and WhatsApp for communications, Oculus virtual actuality headsets, Portal video-calling units, and Place of job, the company’s challenge conversation machine. All in all, the company counts 3.3 billion monthly users across its family of apps. 

As Facebook’s chief product officer, Cox’s fair is to uncover how these items match together and take care of conflicts as teams compete for consideration and sources. In loads of ways, he’s the conductor of the Facebook orchestra, determining which part would possibly perhaps quiet play what part and how loudly. 

Since his return, Cox has build somewhat a ramification of consideration on Instagram Reels, a competitor to the Chinese language upstart social app TikTok; Outlets, which is Facebook’s push to carry e-commerce to its blue app and Instagram; and Rooms, the company’s product that permits as much as 50 users to be part of a video name. 

Nonetheless he’s additionally prioritized initiatives that take dangle of into consideration Facebook’s fair in society. This entails the company’s efforts to offer users with correct records about subject matters esteem local weather change, which the company began to pause in September with a Climate Data Center, and the company’s recent effort to refocus its Groups a long way off from political disclose material, which comes after Groups on the a long way-correct conspiracy theory stir QAnon grew immensely new on the social network earlier than the company banned them in October.

For Cox’s chums outside of the tech alternate, seeing him return to Facebook in June gave them faith in regards to the route of the social media company. 

“I fragment somewhat a ramification of the troubles that the moderate particular person would additionally dangle, nevertheless Chris’s presence in that leadership severely adjustments those concerns for me,” Phipps acknowledged. “Every little thing that I’ve skilled with him has proven me that he’s deeply passionate and committed to the type of world that I desire to uncover about.”

For Facebook veterans, seeing Cox return used to be one thing the same to that of Michael Jordan returning to the Bulls, Cuervo acknowledged. 

“He’s a prime part of the DNA of Facebook,” Cuervo acknowledged. “He’s had such an influence on how the company understands itself and how it carries itself. Or no longer it’s a stronger, more humane, more formidable, more human company with him within the leadership neighborhood.”

Nominations are launch for the 2021 CNBC Disruptor 50, a list of non-public start-u.s.a.using leap forward skills to became the subsequent generation of tall public companies. Post by Friday, Feb. 12, at 3 pm EST.

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