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Randi Zuckerberg details how technology advanced business and lifestyles, but what is the tradeoff?

Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Monday, 8 July 2019 00:00


  • Every single business is a media company. That is something difficult for leaders 
  • Opening up our lives to so much technology, consumers are inviting big tech companies into their homes
  • It is a question of quantity and balance. What are we doing to balance the negative impacts of those advancements?


By Darshana Abayasingha

The 2019 sessions of the World Business Forum in London paid considerable focus to digital media and the impact of social networks on lifestyles and business. Alongside the myriad of benefits they proffer, there are also considerable costs that are constant. The balance of technology in this day and age is that we are connected, but we are still disconnected. It has addictive qualities that are closely associated with gambling it was revealed, as we cannot be alone from our telephones. 

For instance, if you wake up in the morning and look at your phone before you say good morning to the person sleeping next to you; then you have a problem. Just as with any other addiction, we need to manage it. Rather than a question of good or bad, it is a question of quantity and balance. What are we doing to balance the negative impacts of those advancements, and this seldom gets adequate attention.   

Randi Zuckerberg, the former Director of Market Development and Spokesperson of facebook, and sister of CEO Mark Zuckerberg, says walking away from the social media giant was one of the hardest decisions of her life. However, she adds there were always a few things that felt a little complicated to her about the tech industry and Silicon Valley. 

“One thing I didn’t like about Silicon Valley was that I was the only woman in every room I was in for 10 years. That’s sad, because even 15 years later the numbers really haven’t changed much. Then on the other hand, sometimes you work on products and put them out into the world and the world doesn’t use them in the way they should and that can be complicated too. There were days I woke up in the morning and I felt great because ‘yes we are giving a voice to everyone’! Then, I basically started waking up to ‘Great! We gave a voice to everyone’.” “For instance, one thing I’m proud of at my time was creating facebook Live; our live streaming platform. When I think back to the first day, there were so many things I thought it would be used for. Not so long ago there was a horrible event where a shooter in New Zealand live streamed killing people via facebook Live. I never thought people would use that for something so horrible. That was complicated. For the millions of people who use it for business and for good, there are so many others who are using it in horrible ways. So, for me it was time to back up a bit and look at other opportunities around technology,” Randi Zuckerberg avers.

Having left facebook and now the founder-CEO of Zuckerberg Media, Randi believes that on the whole people’s lives have gotten better with technology, and have become part and parcel of life. However, she warns that by opening up our lives to so much technology, consumers are in effect inviting big tech companies into their homes. “You are welcoming them into our intimate conversations when we set up smart speakers inside our houses.”

There is also a lot of development taking place with respect to biometrics, which are designed to keep us safe in today’s complicated world, at places such as airports and stadiums. However, this entails sharing people’s biometric and personal data with private companies and governments. This entails a great deal of tradeoff; utility and convenience versus data. Zuckerberg feels that with much of the technology we use the convenience and utility we get will outweigh the data we share, but adds this may not always be the case. We have to constantly evolve and consider in our own personal decisions where that trade off lies to all of us.

“I do think younger generations are savvier about these things, but I also feel it is a matter for legislation especially when we look at biometrics and heath data. I think there is definitely a need and matter for education, and we need to start educating children at schools on digital identity and privacy. I think we also need to educate parents, because a lot of parents still operate from a place of fear when they think of digital technology,” Zuckerberg says.

Looking back at the founding years of facebook, Randi Zuckerberg reminisced how marketing for the largest social media network started off with one box of t-shirts. She says facebook was very much the underdog, as every country had their own social networking platform, but theirs was the first place on the internet to require members to provide an email, real name and identity to log in – albeit this is no longer a big deal today. This gave a sense of security, and laid the groundwork for almost everything that takes please in the sharing economy today. Because without establishing trust on the internet we won’t feel comfortable climbing into strangers’ cars, or taking up rooms. 

“I remember going to our first US presidential election with facebook, and I recall calling campaign offices and I begged them to start a facebook profile, and so often they would hang up saying we don’t believe facebook is a useful tool; how ironic is that 15 years later.”

Zuckerberg says there was a vision for long-term success at facebook, and whilst there were bids for acquisition for well over a billion dollars, the management were confident to turn them down. It had such a fun company culture, and is still one of the most innovative cultures, she adds. There is constant training imparted to employees, because the skills that exist today will change completely in a period so short as just three years. She reminds how when the iPhone came out every business in Silicon Valley had to change overnight. 

Before that facebook had not focused on mobile at all. But overnight the management decided to take hundreds of engineers of facebook and put them through a mobile bootcamp. As a result, for many months no new products had come out on the platform, but that ended up paying off because so many companies didn’t make that change and no longer exist. 

“Running a business today is so different to what it was even a few years ago. First of all, every single business is a media company and that is something difficult for leaders to adjust to; especially when you think you are running a client service or a B2B. But every single one of us is a media company. We are all a television network, a radio station, we are movie network. That can be challenging if that’s not a skill set you were brought up with. But now we live in a world where customers are not only expecting a product and service from us, but also media content and good educational thoughtful content. That’s something leaders need to prioritise.  My husband joined a tech company as a CTO, and it’s entirely distributed. There is no office anywhere in the world, people don’t see each other in an office face to face. It’s 1,000 people who all work from homes or cafes. That requires entire new leadership skills that hasn’t been used before. It’s incredible on one hand, because you can give people that flexibility and because of that his team has so many women. I think this is definitely the way the world is going, and a reality in the workforce and future.”

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