What is it like to work for Mark Zuckerberg as a product person? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
Honestly, it was one of the most rewarding opportunities I've had in my career.
Mark's most admirable quality as a leader and manager is that he is so open to ideas. When we disagreed, instead of becoming defensive or trying to "convince" me of his perspective like many product leaders I've worked with, he always wanted to deeply understand my point of view. His default response when we had complex product discussions was to ask a lot of questions--kind of a Socratic product review. I and many of the folks who worked for Mark would take long walks around the Facebook campus debating product and strategy for hours at a time.
The interactions were always extremely intellectually rewarding. We were able to work through deep disagreements without the discussion being confrontational, and I always felt that he deeply respected my perspective.
The process was also exhausting. Mark has endless energy and was willing to discuss a product issue until we reached the "right" answer even if it meant hours, days, or even weeks of walking around talking about it. I can honestly say a few of these discussions ended in my "agreeing" via losing a mental war of attrition.
It has been interesting for me to contrast my experience at Facebook relative to my experience in the early(ish) years of Google. From 2004 - 2006, Google embraced a "let a 1000 flowers bloom" approach to product development, letting teams around the company design products with very little oversight. I enjoyed a huge amount of independence developing products like Google Local and Google Maps. So, in some ways, I felt a lot more freedom as a product designer during that time in my career.
However, Google's flower-blooming independence had its practical limits: at some point the company needed to allocate resources and decide what products it actually wanted to support. Teams around Google would have their engineering resources cut, launches canceled, andseemingly randomly (or at least randomly from their perspective). The "independence" produced a widespread sense of entitlement and false expectations that came crashing down at different points in a product's lifecycle, leading to deep unhappiness from a lot of my colleagues.
Consequently, in looking back on both experiences, I was often happier at Facebook. Mark was deeply involved, but also in a meaningful and transparent way. I exchanged some independence for stability, transparency, and inclusiveness, and it was a very rewarding experience.
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