An Inside Look At Tech’s Buzziest Company

Photographed by Aaron Wojack.
Think about everything happening in the world right now. Big things. Small things. Things that don't count as things. And, now think about how much of that is on Twitter. When you look at the company like this, you begin to understand its magnitude. Quite impressive for something made up of tiny little Tweets.
Jessica Verrilli has always been able to see this. She was working at a venture capital firm in 2009 when she met Twitter founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone. They were pursuing a new round of funding, and she sat in on the meeting. Later, she followed up with six life-changing words: "I want to work for you." Two weeks later, she did.
Since then, the Stanford grad has gone from founders' associate to director of corporate development and strategy, launched the company's London office, and played a vital role in many of the brand's larger acquisitions (Vine ring any bells?). We met up with her at Twitter's San Francisco HQ to get a tour of its legendary office and hear how she got where she is, which really, when you think about it, is at the center of everything.
Photographed by Aaron Wojack.
Twitter logo on the Living Wall. This living art is nestled in the flooru2019s common
room and designed by by GSky Plant Systems, Inc.

Tell us about that fateful first meeting with Evan Williams and Biz Stone.

"I was at a venture capital firm in Palo Alto, where my job was to listen to pitches all day. Evan and Biz came in to fundraise for Twitter, and I was in the meeting. They talked about a group of people in Atlanta using hashtags to sort information about a gas shortage. Right after the meeting, I sent them an email asking to buy them a cup of coffee. We went to The Creamery, and I said, 'I want to work for you. Here are all the things I can do. I'm happy to learn on the job. I'll do what it takes. But, I want a shot.' I started work two weeks later."

You studied human biology at Stanford, so how did you get into tech?

“In college, I was interested in solving the problems of the health-care system. My senior year, I wanted to explore the business/technology underpinnings of health care, so I applied for the Mayfield Fellows Program. They take 12 students, connect them with a group of mentors and alumni to the program, and set up an internship for them over the summer. That exposed me to the heart and soul of Silicon Valley. I was always interested in technology, but I fundamentally changed my career path because of that program.”


Do you think playing lacrosse in college gave you a taste for working in a close-knit team?
“Sports are really similar to a start-up in that you’re working with a group of people to do the impossible. You’re trying to achieve something ambitious and daunting, and you’re willing to put in whatever it takes. We even had core values on my lacrosse team. You’d hear everyone repeat them and be willing to step up. We passed those down over the years. Similarly, even now at Twitter, new employees come in and have a sense of what our core values are.”

Photographed by Aaron Wojack.

How has your role at Twitter evolved?
“My career here mirrors the lifecycle of a start-up. I joined in a role that was really broad and unstructured. I worked on our follow-up financing in 2009 and ended up taking a lot of the meetings because I had experience doing that from my VC days. That led to acquisitions. That was a nascent effort in 2009, but at this point, we do about a deal a month. I’ve worked on about 20 acquisitions here so far.”

Photographed by Aaron Wojack.
One of the office's many common spaces. The wall art features some of Twitter's core values.

Tech is still so male-dominated. Were you ever concerned about that?

“If anything, being a woman in this industry inspires me to push forward, connect with other women, and try to be a role model. There’s an amazing community of women here with whom I’ve been lucky to build great relationships — at Twitter and at other companies.”

What resources do you have now that someone in your position might not have had five or 10 years ago?

“There are so many efforts now to encourage and inspire girls to explore entrepreneurship, math, science, and to keep women in tech once they get here. At Twitter, we have a program called SWAT: Super Women At Twitter. And, Chloe Sladden (former VP of U.S. media at Twitter) and Katie Stanton (current VP of global media) are great mentors and friends. They’re always there to lend advice, grab coffee, and be supportive.”

Photographed by Aaron Wojack.
In The Lodge, employees can sit in the cabins to enjoy a cup of coffee, eat lunch, or hold meetings.

Twitter has exploded in the time you’ve been there. What are the biggest changes you’ve seen? What hasn’t changed at all?

“There were 30 people here when I joined. At that size, everyone is defining the culture. We have about 3,000 employees across the globe now. I opened our London office in 2011 and got to see the growth up close. The culture, though, has stayed the same. We have tea time every Friday, where people ask questions or share thoughts. Early on, that was a sign that this company was open-minded. It’s still a huge part of the way we work. We’ve even codified our core values — things like 'simplify,' 'communicate earnestly to build trust,' 'reach every person on the planet.' They're are printed on the walls, on people’s laptops, and talked about in meetings.”

Photographed by Aaron Wojack.
Employees take breaks for cornhole on the Twitter roof deck.

How do you see the role of technology in business evolving in the future?

“Historically, technology has been thought of as a category. In the future, businesses will be built with software and technology at their core. Technology is no longer a category but a foundation. Pick any company you want — transportation, retail, banking. I bet in five to 10 years, to continue to thrive, they’ll need to have technology involved in what they do. The same is true of start-ups. Right now, start-ups are concentrated in Silicon Valley, but they’re popping up increasingly around the globe. Eventually, they won’t be a niche thing. They’ll be part of the fabric of the business landscape.”

Photographed by Aaron Wojack.
The roof deck and rooftop garden have an incredible view of San Francisco.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to do what you do?

“First, study computer science or become as technical as possible. Even if you don’t want to be a programmer, deeper technical knowledge will put you at an advantage throughout your career. I’m constantly sitting in tech talks and engineering and product meetings and trying to pick up more and more.

"Second, think through what you want to learn and what environment best suits you early in your career. Young start-ups will offer you an immense amount of latitude and responsibility but not structure or instruction. You have to be up for the challenge and energized by that opportunity. On the other hand, larger, more-established companies have tremendous opportunity for you to learn how to operate in an environment that’s more defined, has explicit job functions, true management, and people in roles similar to your own who can coach and mentor you. Joining Twitter when it’s a few dozen people is different than joining when it’s a few thousand people, but both are great opportunities depending on what you want to learn.
"Lastly, bet on people. No matter what stage company you join, make sure the people around you are a great fit. That will shape your day-to-day experience more than almost anything else.” Advertisement

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