It’s always thrilling to meet famous entrepreneurs, those who disrupt industries and create new products and services that suddenly none of us can live without. They are usually young, vibrant, passionate men and women who didn’t set out to be famous entrepreneurs but whose indomitable spirit drove them to fulfill their dreams bringing along millions of followers. At only 31-years old Randi Zuckerberg is one of our favorite famous entrepreneurs not because she was there to support her brother Mark to launch Facebook but because she made a name for herself within that company and most importantly, because she has decided to walk away from it and start her own business. I had the good fortune of meeting Randi during the presentation of her first pair of books —Dot, for children and Dot Complicated for adults, both published by HarperCollins— at the iconic Books and Books bookstore in Coral Gables.
Working with Famous Entrepreneurs
When you were working with one of the most famous entrepreneurs in modern history who happened to be your brother, it must have been awfully difficult to ponder the decision to walk away; to consider all that you would lose and decide to let it go. What internal process did you go through to arrive at the decision of leaving Facebook?
I loved working at Facebook and I could easily see my self being there for 10 more years and being very happy. But for me it was important to make a mark in the world and for that to happen it was inevitable for me to leave and do my own thing. It seemed that hosting the President during an event I helped organize at Facebook was a great moment to exit when I was on a high note, and start a new chapter in my life. I was also about to have my first child so it felt like the right time to take leave.
What other famous entrepreneurs do you admire and why? Any women come to mind?
There are so many women, especially in the media who I really admire, Kathleen Kennedy, the president of Lucas Film, was a real mentor to me. She’s such an awesome badass woman. She was behind the merger with Disney and it’s especially interesting when you think that Star Wars is mostly men and yet behind it there is a woman.
Leslie Blodgett founder of Bare Essentials, she created her company from nothing and made it into a billion dollar company.
There a lot of famous entrepreneurs who are women and that maybe are not as loud as men but they are doing some amazing things.
You’ve been very visible and have interacted with very powerful people from a very young age. How did you project the executive presence needed to be taken seriously?
I was 24 when I started at FB. It was interesting because people would book a meeting with “Randi” and they probably thought they were going to meet a guy so they seemed disappointed when they saw it was a young woman they were meeting with. It was hard for me because people assume if you’re young you’re inexperienced. The good thing is that in Silicon Valley people don’t take age as seriously as other places. It’s cool to be young in Silicon Valley and be creating something new.
I encourage women to be patient, work hard, and keep their head down because as you accomplish small achievements they shout louder than self-promotion.
But isn’t that what women do? Keep their head down waiting to be recognized while men self promote and get the recognition?
Yes, you are right. But unfortunately there is a double standard, so it’s important for women to surround themselves with a network that promotes them rather than doing it themselves. Because when men self promote they are cool, they are great, but when women self promote they are seen as self centered. So it’s best when you let others promote you.
Any suggestions for women who wonder whether you’re born with executive presence or you can develop it along the way?
You can 100% develop executive presence along the way. If you had told me when I was 22 years old that I would do a lot of public speaking I would’ve never believed you because it was one of my biggest fears. Nobody is born with the ability to speak concisely in front of a large audience, or to convey confidence. You’re not born with any of these skills. They are all skills you can learn. Take a Toastmaster’s speaking class, take an online course, practice with friends. As Malcolm Gladwell says “10,000 hours will make you an expert on anything.”
A Woman in Technology
Let’s make sure everyone reading this knows YOU did graduate from Harvard with a marketing degree. But you’ve always been very involved in technology and part of your focus now is to help people achieve life-technology balance. Give us a few ideas of when it’s good to use technology and when we should turn it off.
This is a great topic to discuss over the holidays because in some ways tech can bring the family together. There are some fun games like a fun Charade game where everyone puts a phone over their forehead with the picture of who they are, everyone knows except for the person holding the picture. On the other we need to understand that if you’re hosting a party you can set the tone by telling people you expect them to be in the moment and not on the phone. There’s another fun game we play, called Phone Stacking, Everyone puts their phone in the center of the table and the person who reaches for it first does the dishes.
And when it comes to teens, you should give them a digital allowance over holidays. For example you tell them you have 4 hours of digital allowance for the week. If you want to expand your allowance you need to play outside or do chores, or anything else you think is important for them to do.
What can each of us do to motivate more girls to get involved in the technology field?
We can talk to young girls about how much impact they can have. There is no other industry out there where with few lines of code you can reach millions of people.
It’s good to encourage them to go into design, a growing area in the tech industry which is a skill that women have innately. We don’t need to encourage girls to just be technical coders.
Tell us about your new projects, Zuckerberg Media and Dot Complicated.
Zuckerberg media is doing media production, shows online, TV, radio, consulting with brands around the world to make the most of their companies.
Dot Complicated is an online community aimed at “untangling” our wired, wonderful lives. We are reaching our one-year anniversary and we will continue to grow the community with great content.
You can follow Randi on Twitter @DotComplicated