Recap: Women in Product event @ Facebook

Last week I trekked down to Facebook HQ to hear these five women share their experiences, their wisdom, and their joy:

Amy Vora

Ami is a Product Director at Facebook where she leads the product team for Facebook’s $25B+ advertising business and focuses on making ads better for people and businesses.

Naomi Gleit

Naomi is Vice President of Social Good at Facebook and leads the team responsible for the growth of Facebook’s core app.

Deb Liu

As Vice President of Platform and Marketplace, Deb Liu runs Facebook’s developer and commerce businesses, where she oversees product management and engineering for dozens of products and initiatives that make it possible for companies all over the world to build, grow, and monetize their apps and sites.

Fidji Simo

Fidji Simo is a Vice President of Product at Facebook, in charge of Video, News and Advertising in News Feed. She leads a team of product managers and engineers who build new experiences for people to discover and create videos, consume news, and interact with ads in News Feed.

Mary Ku

Mary Ku has spent the last ten years of her career in the payments and commerce space. She is currently the Director of Product Management at Facebook where she leads the company’s commerce efforts.

They shared so many quotable pieces of advice, I wrote this recap for both my future self and anyone who wasn’t able to make it.

Here are my notes on three major themes from the evening: Feedback, Confidence and Product Development.

On feedback:

One of the major themes Ami wove throughout the evening was how to give and receive feedback effectively, particularly as you advance in your career.

Fidji told us about when an early piece of feedback she got as a PM. She was really proud of how much headway she was making in her interpersonal relationships on the team, but her manager pointed out that wasn’t the way to long term success:

He told me “You need to care a little bit less about being liked, and a lot more about being respected.” — Fidji

Ami shared how she’s watched feedback change over time:

“Early in your career, you’ll be told to smooth out the rough edges and be less objectionable. As you get more senior, that shifts and people start asking you to do the opposite.” —Ami

Deb shared a similar piece of caution when it comes to listening to feedback over time:

“The thing that’s worked best for you to date can turn into the biggest thing holding you back .”— Deb

On confidence:

It’s easy to wonder about how much authority you have, what the boundaries are, and if you’re overstepping. Fidji shared some personal anecdotes about her early career and how her manager encouraged her there:

“I used to bring my boss to every meeting. He asked why, and I replied that I needed the authority his presence gave me. He said: ‘You have a lot more authority than you think. Just imagine I’m there in the corner and you’ll have the authority you need.’ It totally worked.” — Fidji

Ami advised that you build up a set of reference points for how bad things can go. Sometimes from yourself, sometimes from others:

“I think about the fail cases. Whenever I mess up I think ‘Well that mistake was definitely better than the time I did that other thing, and people still talk to me!’ Even better, I have models in the world that help me establish how far I can push things. ‘That woman is super aggressive, and people still respect her’ etc”—Ami

On product development:

Naomi, the paragon of execution management, had some strong words of advice about why effective execution matters:

“You can have the right strategy or the wrong strategy, but if you don’t execute well against that strategy, you won’t know if the issue is with your strategy or your execution.”— Naomi

Deb encouraged us to remember that humans are the people on your teams, and it’s important to have relationships with them:

“I was having a lot of trouble working across these two teams, and I realized, we had no peace-time relationships. We only ever worked together in times of crisis, and those crises didn’t go well until we learned to form relationships in peace time.” — Deb

How do you think about what to make? Fidji had a piece of advice I hadn’t heard before:

“Think about the emotion that you want your product to convey. Make every decision about how to convey that emotion.”— Fidji

Remember that when you jump into working with a product, every part of that product is there for some reason, even if you can’t understand it at first. Deb learned this lesson really dramatically:

“It’s really sobering to revisit the decisions you made. I had that opportunity when I went back to deprecate a platform I made years before. Some of my early decisions were pretty cringe-worthy in retrospect. That taught me that everyone has a reason for what decisions they made.”—Deb

And they generally all advised for a development mindset geared toward learning and experimentation:

“If you fail, at least don’t fail for nothing . Make sure you learn something. And make sure you share that.”— Fidji
“I find that if I reframe ‘learning’ as ‘experimenting’ it’s totally Ok and feels a lot easier!” — Ami

It’s difficult to scoot down to the South Bay for an event on a school night — let’s be real, it’s always difficult to scoot down to the South Bay! — but this event was totally worth it.

I hope I was able to capture a lot of the highlights & actionable tidbits from this evening, but feel free to drop me a line if you’re curious about more context on any of these quotes, etc.

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