Deborah Liu, Facebook

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If a street vendor in Asia is selling and promoting goods with more payments technology than some restaurants in the U.S. possess, that's an indication that there's a major opportunity to change how U.S. citizens initiate and receive payments.

Deborah Liu, Facebook's vice president of marketplace and commerce, saw that street corner tech at work on a family trip and would like to see her powerful social media company be a part of expanding that.

Facebook has had some starts and stops along this path, but it's made enough progress with Messenger and other products that everyone in the payments industry should pay attention to what the company is saying and doing.

Read more: The Most Influential Women in Payments, 2020

Liu, one of PaymentsSource's Most Influential Women in Business honorees for 2020, oversees payments and commerce across Facebook's family of apps, including Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp, and has also developed the strategy and led development of Facebook Marketplace and Facebook Pay.

"By 2025, I imagine we'll see the payment experiences which are already commonplace in Asia begin to take shape in the U.S.," Liu said. "I was impressed by the number of street vendors selling snacks and trinkets through QR codes and other forms of online payment methods to offer deals, complete sales and avoid the hassle of making change."

Deborah Liu, Vice President of Marketplace & Commerce, Facebook
Deborah Liu, Vice President of Marketplace & Commerce, Facebook

Mobile payments and e-commerce have "changed the daily lives of hundreds of millions of people," Liu added. "I believe this shift to digital payments will continue to gain momentum."

Liu is in a position to help trigger that momentum. Prior to her role at Facebook, which she has held for seven years, she led the product team for the end-to-end buyer experience at eBay. She also worked at PayPal, where she served as product director for eBay business, social commerce and charity. In addition to her job at Facebook, Liu also serves on the Intuit board of directors.

To get where she's wanted to go in payments circles, Liu said it was important to silence the imposter syndrome.

"Ignore that voice in your head that tells you that you are not good enough, not qualified enough, or not ready to take something on," Liu said. "Be open to taking risks. Failure to take risks means that you are guaranteed to stay in the same place, but being open to the next role means there is a chance you will fail — but there is a world of opportunity you can achieve."

She was told early in her career that her analysis skills were good, but she had "no presence with clients." So, Liu was determined to overcome the lessons of her Asian American childhood in which her immigrant parents told her not to stand out too much.

After taking a class on organizational behavior in business school, Liu changed her philosophy on her approach to work. She decided she would speak up more and let her true feelings be known.

"I've come to learn that people want to know the real you," she said. "It is hard to build trust with others when you are holding back. Being vulnerable and authentic are qualities I continue to strive for in my work and in my personal life."

All of that helped in her 2009 move from eBay, where she was quite content and not really looking to move on, especially after having a newborn and just returning from maternity leave.

"A friend reached out to me about a role at Facebook, which was then a 900-person startup," Liu said. She took the interview and six weeks later she was offered a job, one that she considered at that time a significant risk on her part.

"I joined Facebook without a clearly defined role or product," Liu said. "I took the risk because I wanted a seat on the rocket ship, not knowing where it would take me."

It took her into a new type of work world in which she helped build products like Facebook Credits and Games, Mobile App Install Ads, Audience Network, App Analytics, Marketplace and Facebook Pay.

Liu hopes other women can overcome any unconscious or structural bias to take risks and have their own rocket-ship ride.

"We need to be conscious of the signals we are sending to ensure that where we work feels like home for everyone regardless of gender, race or background," she said. "This includes being mindful of how our culture has different expectations for men and women."

Through various experiences and in speaking to other women at industry or leadership conferences, Liu learned that holding back when encountering a bias is no longer an option.

"We encouraged each other to make it awkward to draw attention to the unconscious bias we all faced, so that people can see it and acknowledge it," Liu said. "Our goal was not to embarrass people, but to help them see how these small things were impacting our interactions so they may be more aware of it in the future."

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Women in Payments