How to not get fired, by someone who was sacked from Facebook

A blog by a former Facebook staffer explains how he lost $100m in stock options when he was fired by the company.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 17 Mar 2015

Whether it's through redundancy or by making a mistake, most people have lost a job at one time or another - but for the majority of us, that just means an awkward gap in our CV. For Noah Kagan, though, that mistake cost him $100m, when he was 'let go' by Facebook in 2006 after just nine months at the company.

In September 2012, six months after Facebook IPOd for $104bn, Kagan (who went on to found app marketing company AppSumo) made the brave decision to blog on the subject, confessing the lessons he'd learned in the process.

Six years after being fired, he wrote, he had learned that unless you make yourself invaluable to your company, a fast-growing business like Facebook will find someone better. But he says he now realises Facebook was right to fire him:

1- Selfish. I wanted attention, I put myself before Facebook. I hosted events at the office, published things on this blog to get attention and used the brand more than I added to it.

Lesson learned: The BEST way to get famous is make amazing stuff. That’s it. Not blogging, networking, etc.

2- Marketing. The marketing team’s plan was not to do anything and the night before we opened Facebook to the professional market (anyone with a @microsoft.com, @dell.com, etc…) I emailed TechCrunch to let Michael Arrington know to publish it in the morning. He ended up publishing it that night (I was at Coachella and will never again attend) before the actual product was released in the morning. I immediately notified the e-team and assumed full responsibility.

Lesson learned: I don’t think what I did was that wrong since the marketing team did not do anything to promote our new features. My lesson learned was more I should have involved them instead of just going around them. (Learn How to Hire a Great Marketing Person.)

3- Skills. As I said above when things needed to get done. I was there and shit got done. As we progressed to needing to organize massive spreadsheets and big group collaboration meetings, I zoned the F out and was then shortly out of the company.

Lesson learned: Go see if your weaknesses are hindering you at your job. Ie. I wasn’t great at planning or product management at this time. Fix them or move to another position. Also, constantly ask yourself how can I make the company more valuable. You do that and you will never get fired*. *unless you do something really stupid or the company goes out of business.

He also added that, having spent several years running his own business, he had discovered a few things about being the person on the other side of the table:

1- It stings the person WAY more than the company. I thought every day that the company missed me but I’ve learned they just keep going on with business. AND (UN)FORTUNATELY most businesses get better. So be stern when letting someone go but be reasonable and thoughtful to how it must feel. I encourage everyone to get fired once so they know that feeling. It’s unbelievable and something to definitely learn from.

2- EVERYONE is replaceable. You are NOT special and there is guaranteed someone better than you on this planet. So be the opposite, find the way to be invaluable where you work. This doesn’t mean locking things into you but opening things up so you are trusted and subsequently valued more.

3- Most people when they get let go, they know it’s time. They may not want to accept what their subconscious tells them but they know it’s right and it opens them up to something better. Instead of throwing them away, help guide / work with them to see what is their true calling and better suited for them.

He finishes with a quote from his high school drama teacher: 'it's not the outcome but learning from the experience that really counts'. Although his high school drama teacher probably didn't lose $100m in the process...

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

Subscribe

Get your essential reading delivered. Subscribe to Management Today