Director of Policy Australia and New Zealand, Facebook
Ceremony: 16 May 2019, 10:30am - Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Thanks so much. I’m really excited to be here. I wanted to begin today by acknowledging the Pro Chancellor, Vice Chancellor, presiding Dean, University Secretary, members of the University Executive and Academic Board, staff, friends, family and, of course, especially you all who are graduating here today. I also wanted to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which this campus stands, the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, and pay my respects to their elders past, present and future.
So, congratulations. You did it! As part of preparing for today, I asked the university to share with me some details about this amazing cohort sitting before us and I was just amazed to learn about your achievements. So, among the students being awarded a Bachelor of Communication in Media Arts Production, we have Baro Lee, who’s had a film selected to screen in the Antenna International Documentary Film Festival; we’ve got Meg White, who’s an inaugural recipient of the Screen Australian Onbass Fellowship; Matthew Young, who’s had a film screen already in Flickerfest.
And among those of you who are receiving a Bachelor of Communication in Journalism, we’ve had 150 students producing multi-media journalism as part of Central News, and that’s involved high-profile journalists coming onto this campus and undertaking one-on-one interviews. And these are really renowned journalists, so Leigh Sales, Hamish MacDonald, Rick Morton and Sandra Sully – many of our political leaders and public figures in this country quiver in the face of these journalists, and yet, you have already had this experience and thrived. Well, at least I can’t see any visible bruising from up here, so I assume you’ve thrived.
There’s also Marlee Silva, who’s being awarded a Bachelor of Communication (Honours) in Writing, who’s been accepted as a finalist for the Red Cross National Youth Advisory Committee and is also the founder of the Instagram account, Tiddas 4 Tiddas which celebrates the stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. You now have a new follower in me and I hope many more people here today as well after the proceedings.
So, to all of you graduating here today, I cannot wait to watch you build on your commitment and successes at UTS, and to watch you contribute to your chosen profession and to our society. As you all stand on the doorstep of the rest of your lives – no pressure, guys! – I thought I would try to make our time together useful and share with you four things that I’ve learned since I left university that you may find helpful as you cross the threshold and make your way in the world.
The first is that change is constant. It’s an oft-repeated refrain, that the world is changing and has changed so much from when I was young. My job literally did not exist when I graduated. I graduated in 1998 in law. Google had only just launched that same year. Prior to Google’s invention, those of us who were enthusiastically searching this thing called the World Wide Web were using a directory that was known as Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web, and that had only started four years earlier in 1994 and would go on to become known as Yahoo.
When I graduated, there was no iPhone or smartphone; Facebook would not be invented until 2004, so I literally could not have sat where you’re sitting today and have known that I would end up working at Facebook.
So, the communications industry has changed so much during my career, and so it seems certain that you’ll be working in an industry that undergoes considerable change at the same time you’re working to find your way in it. Even today, while it seems impossible to predict what the changes will be, some of them we can foresee.
You are finishing your studies at a time when there are still really big questions for the communications and media industries. What does the future regulation of the internet look like, what is the model for sustainable journalism, what are the tools, skills and platforms that can support communications and media professionals to create, inform and educate?
Whilst change seems a given, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Everyone likes innovation, but no one likes change. But change also represents opportunities and you now have the credentials to sit at the table. Take these opportunities and shape them into the future that you want to see in the world.
The second insight I’ve learned is that sometimes your career may seem more like a snake than a ladder. I think many of us start our careers thinking if we get our first job and work really hard, we then get a promotion and then we work really hard, we get a better job then we work really hard, we get a promotion and we move forward and upwards to more and better things.
But life is complicated and so is work. When I first moved over to Silicon Valley in 2002, it was because I wanted to work on the issues that were written about in Wired Magazine and not just read about them from Sydney. I thought to myself I was destined to work at Google. So, I applied multiple times and figured I must be an ideal candidate – I studied at Stanford, I was working in a top-tier US law firm. Why oh why would no one respond to my many applications?
No one ever did, so I jumped to the next opportunity I saw that excited me. It was a non-profit called Creative Commons and I joined as their general counsel to provide advice and guidance to help create something new and innovative: public licenses that facilitated the lawful use and re-use of copyrighted content online.
After I’d been at Creative Commons for a few years, Google called me and they wanted to see if I was interested in a job, because they were looking for people who had demonstrated that they could succeed and thrive in an innovative and often-changing environment. Not many people would think that taking a leap of faith and passion – and a pay cut – would land you your dream job, but sometimes you meander forwards rather than go straight up a ladder.
The third thing I’ve learned is to debate the issue and not the person. A common experience across many of my roles has been engaging, hosting and moderating online communities. Connectivity is a fantastic way to bridge divides and it often brings together very passionate people with very different ideas about how to move things forward or about what the right perspective is to take on an issue. And – spoiler alert, team – from time to time, passionate people have heated disagreements.
This was true even back in the early days of the internet. As early as 1990, back before even Yahoo had been invented, the US lawyer Mike Godwin devised Godwin’s law. Godwin’s law states that as an online conversation grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving the Nazis or Hitler approaches, and that if an online conversations, regardless of any topic or scope goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Adolf Hitler, at which point the discussion effectively ends.
Godwin’s law has been invoked so frequently that in 2012 it entered to Oxford English Dictionary. I think Godwin’s law is a very helpful caution for all of us to think about as we think about how to build persuasive arguments and engage with people with different ideas.
Often, people try to win an argument by referencing extreme examples or highly emotive language. As you explore the world and seek different perspectives, remember Godwin’s law and remember to debate the issue and not the person. If you can, avoid using hyperboles that evoke emotive responses to advance your case, because it’s most likely only to evoke an emotive response rather than advance your case.
And the fourth and final thing I wanted to leave you with is don’t mistake motion for progress. One feature of Facebook’s culture is to have posters on our offices on the walls with key quotes to remind us about what’s important with our work. My favourite one is a photo of a rocking horse that says, ‘Don’t mistake motion for progress.’ I find this so insightful because it’s easy, both in our work and our lives, to be busy, but the thing we should constantly asking ourselves is, am I doing something that is meaningful and impactful, either for my work or my personal wellbeing?
The Economist queried in a 2014 article, why is everyone so busy? It noted that famed economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that back in 1930 that our grandchildren would work around three hours a day. The thinking was that economic progress and technological advances had already shrunk working hours considerably by the 1930s and so there was no reason to believe this trend would not continue.
As we all know, this hasn’t turned out to be the case. As a society, we’ve had many technological advances and here in Australia we’ve had many economic opportunities before us, but the one thing that hasn’t changed is how many hours there are in a day. There’s still only 24. So, how best to use them? Whether it’s through building out six-monthly plans or monthly plans at work or writing lists of your personal priorities at home, take time to sit back and identify what’s important to you and set goals and work towards them, because this will help you be productive rather than busy, and it will help you feel fulfilled rather than frustrated.
The Economist quoted the political scientist Sebastian de Grazia’s book Of Time, Work and Leisure when he wrote, ‘Lean back under a tree, put your arms behind your head, wonder at the past we’ve come to, smile and remember that the beginnings and ends of man’s every great enterprise are untidy.’ And so too of women’s, of course.
And so now your enterprises, both personal and professional, are today standing before you. Because of the investment you have made in securing your degree, you’ll have more opportunities to lean back under a tree and be sure that you do progress, rather than rock back and forth in life.
So, congratulations again and I look forward to hearing of your successes.
About the Speaker
Mia Garlick is the Director of Policy for Facebook in Australia and New Zealand. In this role, Mia works with government, child safety and other stakeholders to promote greater awareness about Facebook’s policies and products.
Prior to joining Facebook, Mia was the Assistant Secretary for Digital Economy and Convergence Strategy at the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy during which time she served on the Government 2.0 Taskforce, which advised the Government on how best to engage on social media and adopt a more open data policy.
Mia joined the Department shortly after returning from Silicon Valley for 5 years, where her experience included working as Product Counsel for YouTube and as the General Counsel for the non-profit Creative Commons.
She has a Bachelor of Arts Bachelor of Law from the University of New South Wales, and a Master of Laws from Stanford Law School.