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Julie Zhuo blog

GREAT IDEAS: The Making of a Manager by Julie Zhuo {interview}

One of Facebook's founding executives shares how she learned to be a manager

Julie Zhuo blog

At just 25, Julie Zhuo, now Vice President of Product Design at Facebook, was thrown in the deep end when promoted to manager in the rapidly scaling tech start up.

She scrambled to find a book that would help her.

“There wasn't much for someone like me who really didn't know the first thing about what I had gotten myself into,” she told us.
“The basics of management principles - things like doing one on ones or having conversations. Why were these things even important?”

So, a decade on, she’s out to help others with her book The Making of a Manager.

GREAT IDEAS from The Making of a Manager:

  • Recognise what management is. It’s to get great outcomes from a group of people.
  • People, Process and Purpose are the three levers available to a manager.
  • People” is #1.
  • There must be a foundation of trust, but be aware of the manager/report power dynamic.
  • It’s up to the manager to make the report feel safe, empowered and motivated.
  • Feedback doesn’t have to be negative. Constructive feedback can be helping someone understand what their strengths are.
  • Ask yourself, Am I giving feedback with the right intention? Do I just want to be right? Do I want to look smart? Or do I genuinely want to help them improve?
  • The most important quality of any meeting is that you are clear what outcome you want. 
  • If everyone is not listening or tapping on their keyboard, a meeting has lost its purpose.
  • Is a meeting necessary in every instance? Status updates can be done via email, for example.
  • Meetings are better for things that are done in person: making hard decisions, inspiring and motivating, making people feel closer to each other.

GREAT EIGHT (Get-to-know-you questions with our featured author) with Julie Zhuo:

What’s a book you’d recommend? Mindset by Carol Dweck

What was your first job? My first job was tutoring for the SATs, the college prep exam. This was a high school job that I held.

If you were not doing the job that you're doing now, what would you be doing?  That's a great question. I would either be a novelist, I love reading fiction and short stories, and one day I'd love to sit down and write fiction of my own, or a coach or relationship coach, that's another area that I think would be really quite fun.


How do you push yourself when the going gets tough?   I often like to just take a step back and retreat with a journal or my laptop, and take some time to reflect. Even if it’s an hour or half an hour to write down and reflect on, what’s important for me...if I had a great next day, what would that feel like? Or the next week? Or the next month?  

 What’s one of the best decisions you’ve ever made to improve your career? It was when I decided that I would rather be honest about what I didn’t know rather than pretend like
I knew everything. It was actually a huge inflection point in my own learning, because if I could very quickly admit to someone that I was having a meeting with that I didn’t understand what they were talking about or if I was sitting in a room in a presentation and honestly just didn’t have the first clue of what this term was and I raised my hand and asked, it made it so much easier for me down the road and I didn’t have to pretend like I was the smart person in the room. 

What’s a fun fact that’s not widely known about you? I love ramen. And I have made a number of video games, on the side.

What’s been your lowest moment and how did you recover? My lowest moment was likely after I gave birth to my first child and I was going through post-partum depression, and that was very hard for me. And there was a period where I wasn’t confident in my abilities as a new mother, and that lack of confidence ended up bleeding into everything, like my work life, it affected a lot of my friendships.
I acknowledged that I wasn’t well, and was able to seek the support of many people. I was being more upfront about the fact that I was struggling, and not having to maintain a cheery façade. I really learnt the  importance of that network of people who will listen and not necessarily solve things for us; but people who have our back and will reassure us everyday that we will feel better. That was extremely important and powerful for me. 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received that you can share? Really know yourself, when people tell you that you’re doing awesome and you’re company is doing great and you can do no wrong, you’re probably not as good as they say. And, when they say you’re doing terrible and things are going really bad, you’re probably not as bad as they say. The real truth is somewhere in between, and let’s not get caught up in the hype-cycle of what’s going on around us, but let’s focus on what really matters to us, let’s focus on our values, let’s focus on what doing great work means to each one of us.

This is a short summary of a longer interview. Members of The Growth Faculty can hear or listen to the full interview with Julie Zhuo by logging into On Demand and clicking here. 

To become a member and get access to this and other exclusive interviews, plus event highlights featuring international speakers and authors, click here. Members receive the greatest discounts to live speaker events. First 14 days' trial are free.



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