Emerging Technology

Sacked Facebook employee explains why he was fired, offers insights to entrepreneurs

Engel Schmidl /

A former Facebook employee has told his story about being fired from Facebook for being a “liability” – and explains why he would never work there again given the chance.

Noah Kagan, now a tech entrepreneur, joined Facebook as the company’s 30th employee, way back in 2005, and served as a product manager for eight months. He worked on the early versions of the Status Update feature, and even the mobile application.

But Kagan says in his blog that after running his own company, AppSumo, for two years, “I’ve finally understood that Facebook made the right decision to let me go”.

Among his sins, Kagan leaked information to TechCrunch, and didn’t work on adapting his skills as the company grew – two mistakes he warns both employees and employers to look for.

Kagan breaks down employees into three categories:

  • Growers. These employees start when the company is small, and then adapt their skills during the natural course of growth.
  • Show-ers. These people can be good for the company at a particular time, but not in the future.
  • Veterans. Employees who have the most experience and can show new employees the ropes.

Kagan says he was a “show-er”: an employee who was suited to the company at a particular time, but couldn’t adapt.

“I dealt with the chaos of a 30-person company extremely well. (Did I mention my boss got fired on my first day and my next boss got fired two months after me?)”

“Most decisions were me walking over to Mark’s desk for approval, but at 150 people it was a group meeting of 30 people or me having to schedule time via Mark’s secretary.”

But Kagan’s most interesting revelations come next, when he describes what led to his downfall, saying that he was selfish and even went around the company’s marketing department for promotion – and paid the price.

“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.”

Kagan’s third revelation is the most interesting – an inability to adapt to a larger company’s structure including new procedures regarding spreadsheets and collaborative projects.

“Go see if your weaknesses are hindering you at your job; i.e. 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.”

But Kagan’s story also reveals some key tips for businesses on when it’s time to let someone go, and how to deal with that situation.

“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.”

The other, he says, is to work with the former employee to find out what they could do next.

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