WINCHESTER – Randi Zuckerberg told an audience at the Shenandoah University business symposium Friday about the variety of reasons for why she left Facebook, the company co-founded by her brother Mark.
She said one of those reasons was that “I hated being the only woman in the room” – a trend she noticed is widespread throughout the tech industry.
Her best advice to women in the field remains: “Have a man’s name like Randi.”
So, she decided to advocate for diversity in technology and business. One way she has tried to accomplish her goal is through writing Dot, a book that was adapted into a TV show that follows the adventures of a tech-savvy 8-year-old girl.
Zuckerberg noted that her industry’s entrepreneurs had idealistic views about giving everyone a voice during the early days of social media.
“Then I woke up this past presidential election and thought ‘whew, we gave a voice to everyone,’” she said, and encouraged entrepreneurs to envision their products 10 years in the future.
Zuckerberg was one of Facebook’s first employees at the behest of Mark Zuckerberg.
While employed at an ad agency, Zuckerberg said she received calls and instant messages from him saying: “‘Hey, Randi. I started this thing called The Facebook, and I could really use someone who understands digital marketing.’”
She eventually accepted, and noted that although the inaugural Facebook office was not glamorous, the employees believed “they were going to change the world.”
She said the most incredible aspect during Facebook’s early days was a culture encouraging everyone to be an entrepreneur. This was illustrated in 12-hour “hackathons” in which employees pursued passion projects.
“If you were still standing at about 6 a.m., you got on stage and presented your idea to everyone at the company. Most of the ideas were the dumbest things you’ve ever seen,” she said.
Because people were not afraid of judgment, however, at least one great idea always emerged.
One such idea occurred when Zuckerberg thought: “We have a video camera in our pocket. Will there ever be a day when each of us can be broadcasting and be our own media station inside of Facebook.”
She “sat in a broom closet that I turned into my studio and I called it Facebook Live with Randi Zuckerberg. Two people watched, my mom and dad.”
Upon being told by her mom that the video was “’that’s the most boring thing that I’ve ever watched,’” she opted not to present the idea and went home.
Three weeks later, Katy Perry’s manager called and said his client would like to announce a tour on the Facebook Live show. Four months later, President Barack Obama conducted a town hall with the feature. Then about two years ago, it was released to all users. She said not to be discouraged by failure, noting that Facebook Live took years to become successful.
“It doesn’t matter if you get 1,000 nos, you only need one yes in life,” she said.
Zuckerberg said technology has ushered in an “amazing time in history” with tools that Shenandoah University students are in a great position to use.
Still, she encouraged people to put down the phones “every once in a while and invest in yourselves.”
“One thing I have noticed is that nobody has ever changed the world when they were glued to their phone 24 hours a day,” Zuckerberg said.
She later noted that “nothing in life is free,” including social media platforms and other phone applications.
“If you’re using something, and it’s free, you’re the product. So you just have to think ‘am I getting enough value out of this service that I am okay being the product?’…it’s a value trade-off that only you can make,” she said