Randi Zuckerberg

At first blush, it seems ironic that a woman who helped grow Facebook would become an advocate for disconnecting and focusing on other areas of life. But after a little digging, you realize Randi Zuckerberg’s onto something—and has perhaps arrived at it even sooner because of her career’s deep dive into all things digital.

In Dot Complicated and her companion children’s book Dot, Randi puts the focus where it should be: away from our smartphones and onto what she’s dubbed a “tech-life” balance. “These devices that we have are amazing, because they give us the flexibility to work, spend time with our family and follow our dreams,” she says. “At the same time, though, it’s so easy to be overwhelmed by them that they come at the expense of the people we love.”

At I Want Her Job, we were thrilled (thrilled!) for the opportunity to Skype with Randi, a former Emmy-nominated, Facebook marketing alum who also boasts credentials from Forbes and Ogilvy & Mather. She’s even been known to get a few calls from the White House, since she was the force behind many of Facebook’s election integrations; from a President Obama town hall orchestrated in mere weeks to launching the social network’s “Global Disaster Relief” page after 2010’s earthquake in Haiti.

Currently, Randi is the CEO of Zuckerberg Media, a tech-savvy media company whose clients have included the Clinton Global Initiative, Cirque du Soleil, Bravo and Conde Nast, among others. She also serves as editor-in-chief of Dot Complicated, a modern lifestyle community that centers on her passion for tech-life balance. Striking balance isn’t easy, and it won’t always look the same week after week, but our chat with Randi proves it’s more than worth the effort. 

Wouldn’t it be nice if we gave ourselves permission to be well-lopsided instead of well-balanced, just as long as it balances out over the long term?

A few years ago after you gave birth, you tweeted, “The entrepreneur’s dilemma: Maintaining friendships. Building a great company. Spending time with family. Staying fit. Getting sleep. Pick 3.” We loved this, and it inspired a blog post for us about work-life balance in today’s society, but we wondered at the time why that only applied to entrepreneurs. We love how that phrase has since evolved into your mantra. How did you come to this realization?

I think a lot of people did point out to me after that tweet that that’s not just an entrepreneur’s dilemma; that’s any working parent’s dilemma … It’s anyone, just juggling life. I phrased it as an entrepreneur’s dilemma, because that’s where I was in my life at the moment, but I was like, “You know what, I’ve always kind of balanced these things.” I think that, for me, there was so much talk at the time about being well-balanced. I feel like we put so much pressure on ourselves to do it all and to do it all great. And I thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we gave ourselves permission to be well-lopsided instead of well-balanced, just as long as it balances out over the long term?” It’s OK to just do one thing really well each day.

I grew up in a big house. There were four children, so my mom was a great example of this. Each day, she would devote kind of an “after-school” time to one of us. She could have given each of us 10 minutes every day, which wouldn’t have been great for anyone, or she could totally be all-in on spending, say, the afternoon with Randi.

And that was something I really took into my own life. I just got back from a six-week book tour, and I had a lot of mommy guilt. During the book tour, there were times where it tore me up to be away, but I would always talk to people and say, “I’m giving myself permission to be well-lopsided for my career right now, and when I get back from the tour, I’m going to devote a lot of time to being a great mom.”

At one point in Dot Complicated you say, “You need to have an ‘all’ in order to ‘have it all.’” What advice do you have for our readers to nurture their ‘all’ while still striving to ‘have it all?’

First of all, you need to invest in yourself. It’s so important to invest time in yourself, in your friends and in your family. These devices that we have are amazing, because they give us the flexibility to work, spend time with our family and follow our dreams. At the same time, though, it’s so easy to be overwhelmed by them that they come at the expense of the people we love.

Also, I don’t know how anyone expects to be creative or truly dream up the next big idea if you’re constantly distracted and bombarded with messages all the time. Giving yourself the flexibility to unplug, put the device down and invest in yourself or your relationships is going to pay so many dividends in the long run.

You even talked in the book about having a digital Sabbath day?

Yes. We have to give our devices a day of rest every once in a while.

One of our favorite parts of your book might have been one of your more “I can’t believe this happened” moments. You mentioned that while working at Facebook, a mentor of yours took you aside and said, “Because you’re a woman, they’re only going to talk about you in one light in the press.” Do you still feel this is an evident stereotype at this point in your career? What tips do you have for women to manage their personal brands to focus the discussion on their achievements, and not their hair … or love for singing in front of crowds?

The answer is that yes, that’s still in place. Does that mean that we need to cater to it? No.

I think the sad reality for women is that if you do anything other than family or work, it’s looked at as being frivolous. Society feels like, with women, there are two things women should do and can do: go to work and be a mom. If you’re seen doing anything else, you’re being frivolous; you’re wasting time. And if you’re doing things for yourself, you’re being selfish. I think that was really what my mentor was trying to tell me when she was saying, “Don’t sing so much. The media doesn’t like that. They only like business women and family women.” Do women need to understand that that’s the case? Yes. Do they need to cater to it? No. Because if you have a passion … if you have a love … if you have an interest, life is way too short just to put it on hold because of what other people think.

You believe a person should be their authentic self in person, as well as online. That can turn into a big murky grey area, though, when it comes to your career. What tips do you have for navigating these blurry work/personal lines?

On one hand, don’t be afraid of sharing. A lot of studies show if you do share a few details of your personal life with your coworkers and your boss, it actually makes you more likeable in the workplace and can contribute to more career success.

That being said, you’d be shocked at what people overshare. It may seem obvious, but don’t complain about your job online. Also, if you’re going to be friending your colleagues and boss, make sure you don’t get a false sense of how buddy-buddy you are in real life. At the end of the day, they’re still your colleagues, and if you’re posting crazy party photos or vacation photos, it’s always better to err on the side of keeping those private.

You also can use this power to advance your career, though, too. Right?

If there’s a dream company that you want to work for, or a career mentor, there are so many opportunities now to digitally connect with the company and wow them. Even just establishing a relationship with that company or their PR department on Twitter or on Instagram or on Facebook is a great way to get in front of them.

With all of these tools, it’s a great way to stand out from the crowd. You know everyone’s going to be submitting a typical Word doc resume, so why shouldn’t you be the one to cut away from the clutter and submit a Vine resume or a Pinterest resume? If you have even an ounce of creativity, there’s so much that you can do to stand out from the clutter. I’m always surprised that more people don’t have creative resumes.

Many of us are looking for meaning in our work and our careers, especially when we’re starting out. You’ve mentioned you felt this way too, before starting at Facebook. What advice do you have to create more meaning, even on a small scale?”

The fact is all of us have been given a gift with social media in that we now have a megaphone. We all have a much louder voice than we used to, so even if you’re at a point in your career where you’re paying your dues and it’s early, you can still get really involved with a charity or a cause you care about. Maybe you can use your voice to encourage your company to rally around doing a project for good.

Also, there are always opportunities out there to mentor somebody that’s younger than you, even through social media—be it through Skype or a Google Hangout or chat. Any way you can pay it forward—especially women supporting women—is really just a wonderful thing.