5 Questions with Fidji Simo, Director of Product at Facebook

Fidji Simo is Director of Product at Facebook and a founding member of Women In Product. She will be moderating the Lean In Panel at the Women In Product Conference.

What was your journey to getting into product management?

I studied business in France and started my career in strategy at eBay. It gave me the foundation to understand all kinds of complex problems, break them down to better address them, and develop solutions — skills that apply to a variety of jobs. But after a few years in that role, I realized that I was craving something more operational, where I could implement my recommendations instead of just passing them over to the operational teams.
 I was also fascinated by the emergence of social, and Facebook in particular. As I was thinking through my transition, I decided that I was ready to take pretty much any operational role in order to get to work at Facebook. I landed a product marketing job at Facebook, where I worked closely with a large number of PMs. After a year in product marketing, I realized that I liked the product part more than the marketing part, and I made the move over to product management.

What is your greatest achievement to date? Why is it meaningful to you?

I’m most proud of having scaled Facebook’s mobile advertising. I took over the team when News Feed ads had just launched, and now mobile represents more than 80% of the revenue. But what’s more important than the growth is how we went about it; we invested heavily in understanding both user sentiment with ads as well as the value that ads were delivering to advertisers, so we would ramp up mobile ads in a sustainable way. We were and still are inspired by the idea that ads don’t have to be a necessary evil; they can be additive to the user experience. That’s why we spent so much time innovating on the ad formats so they would be best adapted to a mobile world — from carousel ads to canvas ads to lead ads. Reading comments from people saying that they loved an ad because it was fun to interact with it, or because it was very relevant to what they like, is a real gift.

What has been your biggest challenge working in Product Management?

The biggest challenge in my mind is constantly understanding where you can have most impact. Since the PM is ultimately responsible for everything going well around a product, it’s easy to start thinking that you need to do everything. But that would not be good for your team — who would be robbed of opportunities to step up — nor for you — who would drown rapidly. So the challenge is learning what to delegate versus what to focus on because where you can add unique value is critical.

Who has been your biggest ally during your career? Why?

Beyond my husband who is by far my biggest ally, I would have to call out Will Cathcart, who has been my manager for most of my career. He was always convinced that I could take the next step in my career before I was convinced myself, and he put me in situations where I could take risks while at the same time providing me with the support I needed to feel safe doing it.

What advice do you wish someone had given you when you were starting your product career?

My biggest advice is to iterate on yourself and your career the same way that you iterate on your products. It means trying new things, testing different styles to see what feels most authentic yet most effective, and always stepping back to reflect on whether where you’re at and what you’re doing is working for you.