Alumni Q&A: Fadzai Madzingira (Zimbabwe & Lady Margaret Hall 2014)
Q: Can you tell us what you are working on at the moment?
A: "I recently started as Director in the Office of Ethical and Humane Use of Technology as the EMEA lead for the policy team. I am ecstatic at the opportunity to help build out the team. The Office is a diverse group of lawyers, engineers, political scientists (amongst others) collaborating with partners across the company to assess unintentional harms in the products Salesforce provides and to help prioritize which issues to bring to the forefront. The policy team (where I sit) is responsible for creating policies to ensure Salesforce technologies, including artificial intelligence, are not used in a way that will facilitate harm or human rights abuse. It is exciting to work in this space at a company that so strongly stands by values such as honesty, inclusion and safety. I cannot believe I am in a field that didn't exist a few years ago."
Q: What are you passionate about?
A: "You know when Issa Rae says "I'm rooting for everyone Black"? That statement encapsulates what makes me passionate and happy. I am passionate about this community. I feel like that is a political statement. It speaks to uplifting, praising, putting light on, fighting for and celebrating everything to do with Black people. It says you are anti-racist and committed to a world where everyone is treated with respect and dignity. Are you thinking about who is most impacted by your policies? What are the negatives impacts of any decisions you or your company may make? Are there any unintended consequences from your decisions? Are you entrenching the systemic harms of any community? That means truly understanding how systems of oppression work and who are most harmed. That is an intersectional approach to how you make decisions and how you create policies. I am driven in my work to do that. I am excited to support spaces that protect Black people and do what I can with that in mind."
Q: Has your career trajectory panned out as you planned?
A: "Not even close. When I was 24 years old, the plan was to become an attorney then an advocate and spend my life in Johannesburg, South Africa. None of that happened at all. Mostly because the Rhodes Scholarship opened so many doors that I would never have even thought of. I also don't think I realised what service for me looked like. I always thought service had to be to a country or an ideal or something. My commitment to the kind of service I want to do was only concretised in my head when I was 30 years old when I realised what that could look like. It was quite freeing actually because I worried I would have to commit to a career or company or something that would make me unhappy. The way we talk about doing good can often feel quite limiting.. In actuality any job or role I am in, I can raise issues around oppression and equality. I can push for policy decisions that do not further or entrench the harms of historically targeted people. Once I realised the community I want to serve, it was a lot easier to carve out a career (I guess that is what I am in now) in Trust and Safety. I don't know what I will be doing in 5 years, but it will be in service to this community."
Q: What excites you about the future?
A: "The joy about working in tech is seeing how brilliant people have been in building community online. The world is at its most divided and this was so sadly inevitable. It has been comforting to see how so many people continue to find new ways to connect with vulnerability and care and I am excited for the future of that."
Q: What’s been the best lesson you have ever learned?
A: "I can give two quick ones easily. 1. Go to therapy the moment you can afford to. I started therapy in 2020 in the shock of lockdowns and I wish I had gone earlier. When I tell people to go to therapy, they think I am telling them something is wrong with them. Go to therapy because you are deserving of a space to think through and process your emotions and thoughts in a world that often does not give us time to. 2. Being a good person doesn't mean you aren't allowed to make decisions that make you happy. Being happy is not an act of selfishness. I am so committed to happiness now."
Q: What's unique about the sector you work in?
A: "Trust and Safety didn't exist as a career 5 years ago and now it is a full fledged career. I love being in a sector that is constantly changing and innovating. Probably very millenial to say but being in a field that looks so different every few years is exciting."
Q: What was it like moving from Meta to Salesforce?
A: "It was difficult. I did some of the best work of my career thus far at Meta with some of the smartest people in this industry. Leading the Hate Speech Policy work allowed me to find an area that I am good at and I grew as a professional there so I am grateful for that chapter. I am in awe at the opportunity I have been given at Salesforce. The future of this sector has to go beyond where they are now and we all need to be committed to creating a safer internet. I am ecstatic so many companies are engaging in this space."
Q: What was your Rhodes Scholar experience like?
A: "You know how everyone says they met their spouse or their business partners during the experience? Well that was not me 😂 I did however meet friends who are more like family to me than any I have ever known. They are truly my closest and dearest people to my heart. It is an overwhelming experience to find that kind of friendship that hold you up and probably the biggest gift the scholarship gave me."
Fadzai Madzingira (Zimbabwe & Lady Margaret Hall 2014) is Director at the Office of Ethical and Humane Use of Technology at Salesforce. With a background in law, she previously worked as the Global Hate Speech Policy Lead at Meta, and was a researcher at the Institute of Comparative Law under Professor Christof Heyns during his tenure as the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions.