This former VP of HR at Facebook says she left because of a biased boss. Now, she makes sure startup Envoy has the best possible work culture and hiring practices.



When her son’s soccer coach, a Facebook employee, first told Annette Reavis that she should think about joining the company, she was hesitant. It was 2010. Facebook, now known as Meta, was still a startup with only 1,400 people, and Reavis didn’t even have a social-media account. Then, one of her friends told her how she used Facebook to connect with her stepbrother, who she hadn’t seen since she was a child.

That story cemented Reavis’ decision to apply for a job because she wanted to help people around the world come together — she felt that her personal values closely aligned with the company’s. She also wanted a new place to learn and grow as a leader. “I learned a lot about flexibility at Facebook. It was an especially important lesson as a Black woman because you have to show up and hold your place when someone is always trying to break you down,” Reavis told Insider.

Even though many companies are now prioritizing diversity and inclusionwhite men and women still hold most heads-of-human-resources positions at US-based companies. As the new chief people officer at the startup Envoy, Reavis is part of the only 4% of women of color who occupy C-suite positions.

At the time Reavis applied to Facebook, she was an HR business partner at HP and already entrenched in the tech industry. The interview process was hard, she says, but she worked to stand out because she resonated with Facebook’s mission. She saw the company as a way to help bring people around the world together. The social-media company hired her as an HR business partner, helping to hone the skills of tech leaders and build cohesive teams.

After ten years at Facebook, Reavis moved on to make her mark at other companies. She spoke to Insider about her transition out of the company, problem-solving in her current role at Envoy, and lessons she learned about hybrid and remote work that other hiring managers should keep in mind.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

What are the biggest differences between Facebook’s and Envoy’s HR-management process?

The difference is how I spend my time. At Facebook, it was about coaching leaders and building teams. At Envoy, it’s about the very early stages of building that scale. The scale and pace at which Facebook grew is faster than Envoy is going to be. Right now, I’m trying to think about how to build at Envoy, whereas at Facebook, it was just hiring, hiring, hiring. We’re hiring at Envoy, but we’re doing it in a very deliberate way. Here, we need to figure everything out first.

It’s also such a different world now, given the pandemic. At Facebook, I was concerned with whether we’re hiring the right people at the right time in the right place. Here, I’m worried about how to get people back into the physical spaces to work and how we can continue to build and scale in a smart way.

What specific aspects of Envoy’s hiring process are you changing or trying to improve? Is there something you noticed that didn’t work right when you joined?

The biggest thing for me was instituting a fair compensation philosophy. We have a range that people can negotiate, but the highest we can go is what we pay people internally. We don’t have a world where, if you are external, you can negotiate a higher salary than the people who already work here. I think that’s really important because I don’t want people who come in making more than workers who are already here, just because they can negotiate well.

Another element we focus on is getting managers more engaged in hiring. The hiring panels have much higher levels of engagement now since we have both the team’s managers and the HR team on them. We really take into account each “yes” and “no.” If we have a panel that has even one “no” on it, we don’t hire that candidate. Not because they’re not a great candidate in general, but because we really want to trust our panel. All the voices have to have equal measure. In general, the panel has to be unanimously “yes” for someone to be hired. We are still trying to figure out the best way to scale the company, so we really need to be confident about the talent we’re bringing and if they will be successful.

Studies have shown that Gen Zers love flexible work and benefits that prioritize mental health and work-life balance. How can hiring managers better entice Gen Z workers?

You have to be real about what your own mission is and target people that care deeply about the company’s values and the problems they are solving. It’s been true for every company I’ve worked at in the past, and even now. Make sure that you’ve geared up your recruiting team so you know what they’re selling. That’s exactly what I had to do here when I started. I really had to dig deep to understand what my team was selling to candidates, because if we don’t lead with the mission and lead with something else, then it becomes tricky.

I know a lot of studies have said that Gen Z doesn’t want to come into the office, but I read a recent article that says they don’t want to remotely work five days a week. So you can ignore the hiring trends sometimes. Just because the trends said that people only wanted remote work full time, that didn’t stop us from trying to get people into the office and eventually succeeding. You need to know what the trends are, but you don’t have to fall victim to them if you want to build something different.

Can you share tips for other hiring managers looking to build a successful hybrid playbook? 

It’s really, really important to be deliberate and intentional about the time that people spend at work. When employees are in the office, make sure they are working collaboratively. Building relationships and interacting are the priority. When they’re at home, make sure they are doing focused work.

One tip is to own the collaboration and experience. As the HR team, we are the ones who, all the workers, we hired, who is in the office, and who is remote. Own the office experience and don’t leave it up to the managers. We are the ones responsible at Envoy for ordering lunch, prepping activities, and making sure people connect. You should also bring your managers together. Understand from them what they’re doing, ask them what they need, and how you can best support them and the team. Communication here is everything.

Why did you choose to leave Facebook when you did?

I left Facebook because, quite honestly, my manager was biased and borderline racist. I worked for her for six years and I just couldn’t do it anymore. The leaders who I was closest to had also left, so all of my manager’s energy was put toward making my life pretty miserable. I was tired.

I also left because I had thought I was going to retire after Facebook. My goal was to make enough money to send my kids to college without any debt. Luckily, I was able to do that. Afterward, I chose to take another job at a startup called Roots. I moved to Columbus, Ohio, and took this job because I loved that they were making technology that had insurance as a product. I went there because it was very similar to Facebook in the early days when I joined: great leadership and energy. I also wanted to live somewhere else for a while so I wasn’t reminded of Facebook all the time.

I started that job on the first day of the pandemic, which was very hard. You can’t really build real relationships in a new city at a new job at the beginning of lockdown. After a year, I came home. I joined Envoy because I really believe in our mission. I’m very mission-driven and really believe we need to get people back in the office a few days a week. I don’t think it’s healthy to always be at home.

What was one of the most important lessons you learned while working at Facebook? 

I learned a lot of lessons. I learned about scaling. When I started at Facebook we were 1,400 people and when I left we were 40,000. When I started, I supported the sales team, business development, and growth. I worked with some of the smartest people in the world. The reason I got promoted is because I was really a strong partner to the business. How I spent my time was taking leaders from good to great, and great to greater. That’s what I cared about the most and I feel really proud of the work I did there.

In 2010 and 2011, we had some issues around privacy, and Mark Zuckerberg was so sure that he knew which way the world was going to go. The world didn’t go that way, so he had to pivot. I watched him do that and learned that you can be confident in your decisions, but not stubborn. That helped me think about what kind of leader I wanted to be. When change happened or I was wrong, I wanted to be okay with that.

I also learned about the value of care. I cared deeply about the people I worked with and Facebook was my family. I could be “Annette” with the people I developed a relationship with. I was known for giving tough love and for telling it like it is. I also cared a lot about Facebook.  I “bled blue” as we say there, because what our company was doing to change the world was pretty spectacular. You don’t see that kind of community every day — there are thousands of people who care about you. I was also giving so much, and that was what fueled me. The people who I was giving to were those who were building great products that were changing people’s lives. Through that, I was effectively changing the world.