Written by Bethany Rolan
This week during the BA 151 lyceum course, facilitated by BHP Faculty Director, Robert Prentice, BHP sophomores were visited by Blake Chandlee, Vice President of Global Partnerships at Facebook. In his role at Facebook, Chandlee has helped to integrate the website and mobile application into countries around the world including Switzerland, England, France, Egypt and Japan.
Chandlee studied management at Gettysberg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania where he played college football. As a college sophomore attending a small liberal arts school, Chandlee shared that he was thinking more about what he was going to do on Saturday night than his future career. He completed an internship at an insurance company while in college and accepted a full-time position in the insurance industry after graduation. Chandlee soon decided that insurance was not a good fit for him, and began an incredibly dynamic and diverse career, which included jobs at his own tree business, a website startup, Catalina Marketing and Yahoo!
Around 1997, having already worked for large corporations and started his own business, Chandlee became interested in data. A client exposed Chandlee to what was, at the time, a cutting edge idea: using data to understand and profit from purchase behavior. This exposure sparked a new passion in Chandlee and significantly changed his career trajectory. He then started working heavily with technology and leveraging his marketing experience to create value in the digital space. Chandlee shared that he strongly believes that most work will involve some type of computer programming or “coding” in the near future and encouraged the students to take advantage of coursework or opportunities that would expose them to programming.
Even though he has now been with Facebook for seven years, Chandlee describes himself as an entrepreneur. He experienced his most difficult challenges as the owner of a web-based business during the dot-com bust. Through this experience, he learned the importance of financial responsibility and emphasized this principle to the students. Chandlee also shared that building relationships and knowing the right people is essential in entrepreneurship and that relationships helped him get in front of large clients like Coca-Cola and CNET during his time in small firms. Working with large clientele eventually led to his being recruited by Yahoo!, moving to London, and becoming the company’s Vice President and Commercial Director in the UK.
One of the students’ favorite topics during the presentation was Chandlee’s candid recounting of his first experience with Facebook. While he was working in London for Yahoo!, Chandlee shared that he “got a call from a kid starting a company he had never heard of,” and that call prompted him to fly to New York and meet with the “kid,” Mark Zuckerberg. Chandlee thought he was being a bit rebellious by choosing not to wear a tie to the interview, so he was shocked when “Zuck” (as he repeatedly referred to Zuckerberg during the discussion) came into the meeting wearing ripped jeans and a t-shirt and didn’t even shake his hand. Although his presentation was unconventional, “Zuck” impressed Chandlee with his questions about European markets and skillful articulation of the mission and vision he had for Facebook. Chandlee felt that “Mark filtered the world differently,” and was convinced to take a large pay cut and move back to the US to be a part of a company led by a man who, in Chandlee’s option, was “the next Steve Jobs.”
The passion that Chandlee has for his job and his company was palpable as he described the company as one of few truly “mission-based” companies. It was a unique and insightful experience for students to hear from an executive at a modern, fast-paced company with whom most students interface on a daily basis. As the final speaker in the 10-speaker series the sophomore students have the privilege of hearing throughout the semester, Chandlee kept the students entertained with his laid-back style and honest answers. The Business Honors Program is grateful to Blake Chandlee for sharing his time and advice with our business students.