Entrepreneur, executive producer, businesswoman extraordinaire and avid theatre lover, Randi Zuckerberg is a powerhouse woman with a vast collection of experience. After leaving Facebook in 2011 as the director of market development, Randi founded Zuckerberg Media, a boutique marketing firm and production company. She also developed a children’s book, Dot, about a tech-savvy 8-year-old girl who goes on adventures and solves problems. The book turned into a children’s TV series with Randi as the executive producer. The Symes Report asked her about Facebook, women in tech and the power of creativity.
Your dream in the early days was to sing on Broadway. How hard was it to initially give that up?
I don’t think you ever really “give up” on your dreams, they just take different forms. Theatre has been a crucial part of my 15-year career, but not in the traditional sense. From learning entrepreneurial grit and perseverance from the auditions and rejections process to my onstage performances preparing me for the countless speaking engagements I do each year. Plus, you never know when your dreams come back to find you, like in 2014 when I got a call from the producer of Rock of Ages on Broadway, inviting me to star in the musical for 30 performances!
When you’re an artist or creative at heart, it becomes infused in everything you do professionally!
You had a wonderful life in NYC after you graduated from Harvard, and a great career ahead of you. How did it feel to leave that to join your brother’s “project”?
I was very lucky to begin my career at Ogilvy & Mather in New York City. They have an excellent entry-level training program where I came away with a deep understanding of digital marketing. So it was really a happy coincidence when my brother called me saying that he was starting a company and could use some help on the online marketing front. My original plan was to spend a week or so in Silicon Valley then return to NYC. But once I saw what they were building — and how exciting it was to be young and entrepreneurial — I decided to stay in California. One week quickly turned into 10 years! But there are definitely no regrets in having the experience of a lifetime.
How significant was your contribution to the development of Facebook? What did you take from your time there?
Facebook was a small company with limited resources in the early days. Everyone had to roll up their sleeves and take on multiple jobs. It was exciting and empowering to learn new skills and take on challenges and responsibilities as the company grew. But the biggest takeaway I have from my time there is that taking risks, trying new things, and failing was not something to be feared, but to be celebrated. I’ve carried that philosophy with me in every role and project I’ve taken on since.
You’re now following your own vision, and no longer the supporting act in somebody else’s. How does that feel?
Starting my own company was the hardest and most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. I’ve certainly had my fair share of celebrations and roadblocks. But I think I echo many other entrepreneurs’ sentiments when I say that even my worst day working for myself is better than my best day working for someone else. It’s exciting to wake up every morning in service of my own vision and passion projects.
Your priority now is recruiting women in tech. Why is that so important and what can women contribute to the industry?
I spent 10 years in Silicon Valley being one of the only women in the room. I could never understand how such an influential industry as tech was and still is so incredibly male-dominated and often unfriendly towards women. I want things to be different for the next generation so I started researching when and why we lose women in STEM fields. I found two major gaps: One in childhood around age 8, and one in entrepreneurship and access to venture capital. With this knowledge, I set out to create my own company, Zuckerberg Media, which is focused on media projects and education initiatives at these two pivotal gap moments.
As for what women can contribute to the industry — what can’t they contribute? Studies show that firms with women in senior management outperform on nearly every metric. Plus gender diversity is critical to every industry’s success.
How do you see tech enhancing our lives in the future?
I think the most inspiring aspect is the fact that the jobs many of us will have 5 to 10 years in the future don’t even exist yet! The best thing we can do is to stay open-minded, curious and excited to learn and grow as the world changes.
You’re still a creative. How did it feel to revisit the Broadway dream?
Performing in Rock of Ages was an amazing dream come true. It’s one of my proudest moments. And it’s especially fortuitous because my dream coming true also opened up a new, unexplored possibility of contribution. I realised during my run on Broadway that my love of performance combined well with my business and entrepreneurial skills. Now here I am, five years later, co-producing two Tony award-winning Broadway shows (Hadestown eight and Oklahoma two), and producer on the revival production of Rock of Ages! Sometimes your passions and skills intersect in a way never imagined.
You’ve lived in the corporate technology world for a long time; how do you keep the creativity and what does it mean to your work and family life?
I try to create experiences and content that help kids, families, and the young at heart fall in love with STEM in a way that’s fun and educational. That being said, today — and probably for the next few years — my kids think I’m the coolest mom on Earth. But soon they’ll be teenagers and say, “Come on mom, pop-up tech restaurants? Animated kids’ shows? That’s so pre-2025.” Regardless, I’ll keep chipping away at different paths for women and girls to get into tech any way I can. And I’ll always be a creative and artist at heart!
Pick Three: Randi Zuckerberg
‘Pick three’ is an inspiring manual for ambitious women who want to live a purposeful life encompassing career and family. With vivacious wit and fantastic tips and tricks, Randi Zuckerberg shares hilarious insights into how to be ok with living a topsy turvy life.
“Even my worst day working for myself is better than my best day working for someone else. It’s exciting to wake up every morning in service of my own vision and passion projects.”