Grit and Gumption
Oct 06, 2016 03:32PM
● By Ashley Pape
Southlake moms: Kim Garrett is probably a lot like you. She hustles to get her two sons out the door each morning for school. She finds Zen at yoga classes. She loves to cook for her family (and admits she enjoys a juicy burger or some fried chicken every now and then).
However, when it comes to social media, Garrett knows Facebook in a much different capacity. While you might scan your newsfeed throughout the day, Garrett has a more personal experience with the platform—she worked for Facebook for four years.
She walked the halls at headquarters with Mark Zuckerberg and powwowed with Sheryl Sandberg. Oh, and Garrett retired from the social networking giant in 2011 as a multimillionaire.
Now, this North Dallas mom wants to inspire others with her tales of perseverance and modern parenting. Garrett is the keynote speaker at Southlake Style’s inaugural women’s luncheon later this month: Harnessing Your Potential (and Your Kids’ Too!). For details on the upcoming event, visit SouthlakeStyle.com.
RISING ABOVE ADVERSITY
Garrett is the definition of a self-made success. Before she landed her role at Facebook, Garrett experienced an upbringing that was far from conventional. She was born to unwed drug addicts and originally named Electra Zane. When Garrett was a toddler, her grandmother, a Fort Worth bartender, swooped in to care for her and legally changed her name to Kimberly.
From then on, Kimberly’s childhood consisted of hanging out with her grandmother at the bar, sipping Shirley Temples and perfecting her pool and dart skills until closing time at 2 a.m.
Garrett’s eccentric upbringing didn’t hinder her one bit; in fact, it propelled her to achieve. As a student at Eastern Hills High School in Fort Worth, Garrett was a member of the student council, drill team and tennis team and was even named homecoming queen one year.
In 2015, Garrett received Distinguished Alumnus Honors from her alma mater, joining the ranks of esteemed graduates such as Fort Worth mayor and U.S. Congresswoman Kay Granger and former NFL star Byron Chamberlain.
“It sounds silly because it’s my high school, but it was one of my proudest moments,” says Garrett. “I have a picture of my nine-year-old and me on the football field [being honored]. You can tell he’s so proud of me!”
After high school, Garrett attended Tyler Junior College for a year and then joined the job force, first leasing apartments and then handling suites for the Dallas Cowboys. From there, she advanced up the ranks at Riddell Co. and eventually landed a gig as national sales director for Clear Channel Radio. Along the way, Garrett got married and started a family with her husband, Danny, to whom she’s been married for nearly 20 years.
Life was good for Garrett. She was working at home in a job she loved. She had a new baby in the family, Jack, now age 10. (The Garretts’ oldest son is 15-year-old Carson.) Little did she know that things were about to go from good to off-the-charts amazing.
THE JOB OPPORTUNITY OF A LIFETIME
Garrett wasn’t looking for a new job when her life intersected with Facebook. In 2007, the relatively unknown company was just getting off the ground and social media was picking up steam. But when Garrett got a call from the California company about starting a Dallas office, she was intrigued.
She had no digital experience and went through 13 interviews to get the job, but Garrett took a leap of faith. “When I looked at Facebook, I just knew it would be a game changer,” she says.
The beginning was indeed humble (Garrett’s first Facebook business card listed her home address), but her career—and Facebook itself—quickly catapulted to new levels. Garrett worked as a brand ambassador, talking to CEOs and CMOs and essentially opening the central region for Facebook. She managed every brand and every client—from Coors in Colorado to Dell in Austin, HP in Houston, and Dr Pepper and Yum Brands locally.
“Back then, there wasn’t social media,” she says. “People were just curious about what we were doing.”
Garrett was based in Dallas, but her work often took her to Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California, a place that’s just as awe-inspiring as you might imagine. Garrett recalls sitting in a room bustling with people with Ph.D.s who spoke multiple languages and played multiple instruments. Everybody brought impressive talents to the table, but all egos got checked at the door.
“At some places you see people jockeying for positions. There was none of that at Facebook,” she says. “Everyone was focused on working hard.”
Perhaps it was the nature of their work; perhaps it was the leadership. Though Garrett’s interaction with CEO Mark Zuckerberg (“Zuck,” as she calls him) was limited, she recalls feeling in awe anytime she was around him.
“Working for Mark was humbling because he’s such a visionary,” says Garrett. “And he was so young!”
And then came Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer who later went on to start Leanin.org and was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential women in the world in 2012. Garrett had worked at Facebook for about a year when Sandberg joined. She says it was refreshing to work alongside a fellow mom who was similar in age. Plus, Garrett says, Sandberg was just all-around amazing.
“She’s so incredibly smart, just wicked smart,” says Garrett. “She was great at motivating and challenging us. But even though she was approachable, I never felt too comfortable around her, which is a good boss. I always felt I had more work to do and more to learn.”
During her time at Facebook, Garrett helped build the brand and define its social strategy, ultimately helping shape it into one of the most influential social media sites in the world. She retired in 2011 for logistical reasons: The tax bill from her prenegotiated stock options were too high. So Garrett cashed in her company stock for an eight-figure payday.
Does she miss her job? Sometimes. But mostly she’s just grateful for the wisdom she gained from it. “A little of me wishes I had stayed. It was such a good job,” says Garrett. “It changed the way I look at the world. I traveled so much and worked with so many people from different cultures. It opened my eyes to everything.”
KEEPING IT REAL AT HOME
These days, Garrett is fully entrenched in family life: homework, carpool, and with two sons, plenty of football. After she gets her children off to school in the morning, Garrett recharges with yoga, weights and an occasional run. On the weekends, the family spends time at their ranch about 45 minutes outside Dallas.
Though Garrett could provide anything for her children, she wants to instill a sense of teamwork, not entitlement. Her sons don’t get allowances; everyone is simply expected to pull their own weight.
“It’s okay that other people give allowances, but in our little family, we do things as a team,” Garrett says. “My husband does the laundry and I cook. The boys have chores and feed the dogs. I don’t feel like I should have to pay them.”
When Garrett sees clothes, backpacks or general boy stuff strewn through the house, she refrains from picking it up. Instead, she feels a sense of pride when her kids clean up after themselves.
“I’ve seen my 15-year-old slip a little bit and then come out stronger on the other side,” Garrett says. “It’s so rewarding to see that. I think, ‘They’re going to be okay.’ You just have to let kids figure stuff out on their own sometimes.”
Her general parenting approach? Do less. “Humans are wired to give their kids a better life than they had. But sometimes a better life is, like, ridiculous,” she says, with a laugh. “Give them structure, let them know you love them and that’s it.”
Garrett expands on her views on life and parenting in her book, “Roll With It: Living, Working and Parenting by the Seat of Your Pants.” Writing a book is something Garrett always wanted to cross off her bucket list, and she’s happy her future grandchildren and great-grandchildren will have a piece of family history in the book. She also hopes other moms will get a good laugh from it and maybe even gain the courage to live a more authentic life.
“We all have a story. I wish people would embrace what makes them unique instead of trying to paint a perfect life,” says Garrett. “If people would stop judging each other, it would be such a beautiful world.”