Work-life advice from Twitter Curation Director

NEW YORK (AP) — Joanna Geary started off as a journalist in the United Kingdom (UK) and now lives in New York, where she is currently Twitter’s Director of Curation.

In that role, she is in charge of showing users everything from the day’s biggest news events to quirky trends.

Geary, 38, spoke with The Associated Press recently about managing people in different time zones and managing a work-life balance.

Questions and answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Q: What does your day-to-day work look like?

A: I have direct reports in London, in Toronto, in New York, in San Francisco, in Tokyo and in Sydney (and indirect reports) in Mexico and Brazil. When you’re working away from people, it’s really important to have structured time to see people. So that means that my days get quite elongated.

Q: What have you learned about problem-solving over the years?

A: The greater the diversity of skills, background and personalities in the room, the more likely it is you’ll come up with the best solution and the best way to implement it.

Q: How much do you pay attention to your competition?

A: I keep pretty well informed about what’s going on in our industry, but I try not to focus too much on competitor watching. I’ve been in that position before and it can be all too easy to turn yourself into a hostage to other people’s strategies rather than doubling down on understanding your unique value and trying to enhance that.

Twitter’s Director of Curation Joanna Geary. – AP

Q: What advice would you give your younger self about managing people?

A: You are never, ever going to have all the answers.

Most answers are going to come from your team, and your job is to try and create an environment where they are recognised and rewarded for putting them forward. Also, however hard you try, you will mess up.

The most important thing is how you deal with that.

Q: What advice do you have on how small business owners and others can use Twitter?

A: Start small and follow people that you know or are just one or two people removed from people you know. Learn to connect and have conversations with them.

A lot of value can often be obtained from expanding your network even by just a little.

Q: What do you do for work-life balance?

A: I enjoy the time I spend with my husband, family and close friends.

Moving to another country has made me value the time I get to spend with them much, much more.

I’m also a massive podcast fan, so will often use my commute home as time to listen and decompress.

But you’re also talking to someone who back in the UK used her free time to start London’s biggest monthly meet up of technologists and journalists.

Technology and journalism have always been an interest beyond a job, so I wholly admit the line can be blurred.

Q: How has being a journalist prepared you for Twitter?

A: Everything that I learned along the way, right back from the beginning of the Post, has been useful to what I do today.

The importance of the work that journalists do and the importance of thinking through things such as verification, impartiality, accuracy, responsibility, good research … all of that has come into play.

Q: What’s it like working with non-journalists at Twitter?

A: I was worried about not being a journalist any more. It was a big step to take … but also exhilarating to end up in a business where some people have the same sort of instinct as me. But not everyone.

I was exposed to many more different skills and expertise, which helped me think very differently about journalism and its place in the world. And not everyone was the sort of news junkie that I was.

Q: What is the most challenging part of your job?

A: I’m regretfully a monolinguist. I only speak English, so building up a structure and a format and a way to build rapport with teams who work in completely different languages and to understand the quality and the nature of the curation, it’s super challenging.

Over time, I feel like I’ve built up a tool kit … and a level of standardisation as to what we’re expecting.

Q: What about cultural sensitivities?

A: Even within a shared language, there’s such diversity of meaning and cultural differences to how people approach communication. I’ve learnt a lot about where I should sit in a meeting room in Tokyo, how direct do you need to be when asking for work with Arabic speakers. Words that are not rude in

the United States (US) that are quite rude in the UK.

People sometimes forget how much of Twitter is outside of the US.

Q: Is it hard to not be US- and English-speaking centric on Twitter?

A: I don’t think so. One of the pure joys of the job is having such an international team. The joy is there are many different communities on the platform.

For example, I had no idea about Japanese cat Twitter, where people in Japan post totally normal, everyday videos of their cats. It’s amazing.

Q: What’s your ideal vision of Twitter?

A: I believe very much in the power of connection over a geographical distance and culture. When you can get it right, it’s incredibly powerful, especially when it builds empathy and understanding. The interesting thing about Twitter is we’ve demonstrated that we can do it.