So there she was. Julie Zhuo. Just two years out of Stanford. At 25, a newly promoted manager at Facebook, wandering around the business sections of Bay Area bookstores, desperately looking for something that would tell her how to lead the team she’d just been battlefield-promoted to run. And finding nothing.
It was 2008, early days at Facebook. (“The Social Network” was still two years away.) Zhuo’s manager had recently pulled her aside to say that the design group had gotten so big, she needed to start off-loading direct reports. “You get along with everyone,” she told Zhuo. And just like that, Zhuo was a boss.
“Very quickly, I realized managing is a job,” she says. To educate herself on how to do it, she went straight to the latest business books on the bestsellers list. Staring back at her were GE chairman Jack Welch’s “Winning,” Jim Collins’ “Good to Great,” Clayton Christensen’s “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” Michael Lewis’ “Next,” Daniel Pink’s “A Whole New Mind,” and Honeywell CEO Larry Bossidy’s “Execution.” All CEOs of Fortune 500s, high-powered consultants, and prominent journalists. All writing at a remove from the present or from the elevated perch of theory.
Zhuo needed something tangible, full of practical, real-world advice that would explain nothing more complicated than how to manage a four-person team. A few years later, Zhuo started keeping a blog to talk about various challenges she faced as both a product designer and a leader. “I thought if I could just put my opinion out on the internet, maybe people would give me feedback,” she says. “I was very upfront with what I was struggling with.”