Nkechi “Payton” Iheme is an accomplished public policy leader. Currently the Head of Americas, Public Policy at Bumble, she has also served in our military, led aspects of public policy outreach at Facebook, and advised the Obama administration on communication technology—just to name a few stops along the way.
I interviewed Payton for Nixon Peabody’s Let’s Talk series. In addition to learning more about her career path, Payton shared valuable advice.
Real mentoring is bringing others along for the win. Payton stressed the importance of making sure that everybody who should have a seat at the proverbial table does. This may mean people of different backgrounds, opinions, or generations, as well as what we generally think of as diversity. Payton also talked about mentorship in terms of collaborating, but made clear that the best form of mentoring is not just collaboration, but making sure to give credit to those you work with. Payton shared, “It’s okay to give up a little bit of your sparkle to help someone else shine.”
You don’t need to bloom where you are planted. I love how Payton flipped this common saying on its head. Finding your people and surrounding yourself with the right crowd is a privilege, and fortunately, the younger generation has more choices when it comes to their surroundings. Through technology, they can live bigger lives and move where they can thrive. If something isn’t working for you, whether it is where you live, your career choice, or some other obstacle, it is ok to make a change.
Look to the younger generation for inspiration. Payton shared that she often finds inspiration in the next generation. In her words, they are confident and not afraid to speak their mind. As we know, this generation grew up fully online, providing an interesting perspective that an older generation can learn from. But with growing up fully online comes its own struggles. It is increasingly difficult to separate the online world from reality, and we see mental health suffer as a result. Payton appreciates these challenges and started a public policy fellowship at Bumble to help lift the next generation up.
Stand up for marginalized communities. Payton and her team at Bumble were instrumental in passing cyber flashing legislation in Virginia, Texas, and California. The FLASH Act protects women against cyber flashing, making it illegal to send unsolicited, sexually explicit images and videos without the recipient’s consent. Payton noted how interesting it is that sending unsolicited explicit images and videos is illegal in person, but not protected uniformly on the internet. Payton also discussed how these acts are a gateway to more aggressive forms of harassment and empower aggressors even more. It is extremely important that we not only create consequences for these actions but also support and lift up the victims, to let them know they are not alone. Payton continues to work on behalf of women and victims in the US to get similar legislation passed in more states.
It was truly a privilege to speak with Payton. As someone working in what can seem like the wild, wild west of data, privacy, and technology, I see the constant struggle between the ease technology provides and the desire to unplug and maintain privacy. I acknowledge and appreciate the work that Payton is doing to protect individuals. I hope that more companies see how Bumble is taking a stand in a meaningful way and choose to do the same.