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to use the iPad Kindle app on the elliptical. “When you get sweaty, you can’t turn the pages.” What was the best book you read last year? I absolutely loved Tina Fey’s “Bossypants” and didn’t want it to end. It’s hilarious as well as important. Not only did I laugh on every page, but I was nodding along, highlighting and dog-earing like crazy. On Page 3, she offers amazing advice to women in the workplace: “No pigtails, no tube tops. Cry sparingly. (Some people say, ‘Never let them see you cry.’ I say, if you’re so mad you could just cry, then cry. It terrifies everyone.)” It is so, so good. As a young girl, I was labeled bossy, too, so as a former — O.K., current — bossypants, I am grateful to Tina for being outspoken, unapologetic and hysterically funny. When and where do you like to read? Paper or electronic? I probably shouldn’t admit this since I work in the tech industry, but I still prefer reading paper books. (In “Lean In,” I also admit that I carry a notebook and pen around to keep track of my to-do list, which, at Facebook, is like carrying around a stone tablet and chisel.) I travel with an iPad, but at home I like holding a book open and being able to leaf through it, highlight with a real yellow pen and dog-ear important pages. After I finish a book, I’ll often look to see how many page corners are turned down as one gauge of how much I liked it. I also still read newspapers and magazines the old-fashioned way; I tried the Kindle app for the iPad on the elliptical, but when you get sweaty, you can’t turn the pages. Are you a fast or slow reader? How many books would you say you read in a year? I am painfully slow and don’t get through nearly as many books as I want to. I pile them up on my night stand, and when the piles start tipping over, I force myself to speed up or to give up on the ones that, realistically, I am never going to get to. Recommend the best business book you’ve read in recent years. “Now, Discover Your Strengths,” by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton. This book has been instrumental in how we think about developing talent at Facebook. Like all organizations, we have a system for giving feedback to our employees. A few years ago, Lori Goler, Facebook’s head of human resources, brought Marcus to meet with our leadership team to help us improve this system. Marcus and his colleagues surveyed employees for 25 years to figure out what factors predict extraordinary performance. They found that the most important predictor of the success of a company or division was how many people answered yes to the question “Do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?” And this makes sense. Most performance reviews focus more on “development areas” (a k a weaknesses) than strengths. People are told to work harder and get better at those areas, but people don’t have to be good at everything. At Facebook, we try to be a strengths-based organization, which means we try to make jobs fit around people rather than make people fit around jobs. We focus on what people’s natural strengths are and spend our management time trying to find ways for them to use those strengths every day. And what’s the best book about technology? Is there a book that really gets Silicon Valley right? “The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses,” by Eric Ries, provides a great inside look at how the tech industry approaches building products and businesses. Traditionally, companies have depended on elaborate business plans and in-depth tests to put out a “perfect” product. Ries advocates that for tech, a better way to perfect a product is to introduce it to the market and get customers using it and
giving feedback, so you can learn and then iterate. (Facebook figured out this approach long ago. We even have posters all over our buildings that remind people, “Stay Focused & Keep Shipping.”) Who are your favorite authors? Michael Lewis’s ability to boil down the most complicated subjects is like a magic trick. You can’t believe your eyes. He takes on important issues — from the 2008 Wall Street crash in “The Big Short” to parenting in “Home Game” — and breaks them down to their deepest truths. His combination of an extraordinary analytical mind and a deep understanding of human nature allows him to weave together data and events to offer a fresh and insightful narrative. Whatever the topic, the result is always compelling and even thrilling. I am in awe of him. Somewhere in that pile of books on my night stand sits a well-worn copy of Anna Quindlen’s “A Short Guide to a Happy Life.” I’ve read it before — and I will read it again — and just knowing it’s at my bedside gives me comfort. Her wisdom resonates for me on the deepest level: “But you are the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk, or your life on the bus, or in the car, or at the computer. Not just the life of your mind, but the life of your heart.” Perfect. I can’t list my favorite authors without including my college roommate Caroline Weber. I love her books because I hear about them from start to finish — with the many ups and downs that go into publishing. Much of what she writes is for the comp lit crowd — not tech execs — but she is always willing to explain passages to me. In 2007, she published the brilliant and fun “Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution.” There are few books that I have enjoyed as much. And while I admit I’m biased, it’s not just me — The Washington Post Book World named it one of the best books of the year. How do you organize your personal library? Do you hold on to all books or do you like to streamline? My husband is a streamliner; I am a pack rat. I’ve even hung on to all my textbooks from college — you know, just in case I have the sudden urge to read Schopenhauer’s “The World as Will and Representation.” What are your most cherished books, and where do you keep them? I keep my books from Helen Vendler’s college class on American poets in my night stand (inside the drawer, not to be confused with the stack piled up on top). Professor Vendler says that you don’t own a poem until you memorize it, and I agree. Every year my New Year’s resolution is to meditate for just five minutes a day. I never do it, but when I recite one of the poems I memorized, I think it comes close to having the same effect. What book should every business executive read? “Conscious Business: How to Build Value Through Values,” by Fred Kofman, had a profound effect on my career and life. I think about his lessons almost every day — the importance of authentic communication, impeccable commitments, being a player not a victim, and taking responsibility. I have given this book to so many team members at work, and I’ve seen it inspire people overnight to be more aware of their actions and impact on others. What were your favorite books as a child? Do you have a favorite character or hero from one of those books? Is there one book you wish all children would read? I wanted to be Meg Murry, the admittedly geeky heroine of “A Wrinkle in Time,” by Madeleine L’Engle. I loved how she worked with others to fight against an unjust system and how she fought to save her family against very long odds. I was also captivated by the concept of time travel. I keep
asking Facebook’s engineers to build me a tesseract so I, too, could fold the fabric of time and space. But so far no one has even tried. Choosing one book (and album) for all children to read is easy: Marlo Thomas’s “Free to Be You and Me.” Its messages are — sadly — still relevant today, but its stories are beautifully written. What books have you enjoyed reading with your own children? Is there a book you particularly love to read to them? I cherish the day my daughter learned to recite “Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me Too” from Shel Silverstein’s “Where the Sidewalk Ends.” Just thinking about it makes me smile. And both my kids first learned to understand numbers from Silverstein’s poem “Smart.” If you could meet any writer, dead or alive, who would it be? What would you want to know? I would love to meet J. K. Rowling and tell her how much I admire her writing and am amazed by her imagination. I read every Harry Potter book as it came out and looked forward to each new one. I am rereading them now with my kids and enjoying them every bit as much. She made me look at jelly beans in a whole new way.
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