Julie Zhuo discusses Facebook design strategies

Nov. 17, 2016, 11:13 p.m.

Facebook is one of the world’s most popular social media sites and uses different methods to maintain its popularity. Julie Zhuo ’06, Vice President of Product Design at Facebook, visited Stanford on Wednesday to discuss Facebook’s core creative framework for evaluating new ideas.

(MINI RUDA/The Stanford Daily)
(MINI RUDA/The Stanford Daily)

The talk was part of the Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Series, a Management Science and Engineering (MS&E) speaker series that typically features eight speakers each quarter and is open to the public. Zhuo is an alumna of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program’s (STVP’s) Mayfield Fellows Program, which landed her an internship at Facebook in 2006. At the time, Facebook was considered a startup and consisted of only 100 employees.

“The thing that has been the most fascinating is the moment you start a new project,” Zhuo said.

She added that one of the most difficult parts of the creative process is determining whether a new idea will translate to something that consumers find valuable.

Zhuo outlined three criteria Facebook uses to evaluate whether new ideas should be pursued, which she exemplified through the creation process of Facebook’s Live feature. They first identify a “people problem,” then use data to decide whether it is a “real problem” and finally set measurable metrics to decide whether the problem has been solved. In creating the novel Live feature, Facebook first identified a central people problem, which is both human and simple.

“People want to share spontaneously and authentically in the moment,” Zhuo said.

Following Zhuo’s explanation of Facebook’s innovative process, students had the opportunity to ask questions. Asked whether Facebook has found research on its potential lowering of self-esteem, Zhuo said there was no conclusive evidence. She explained that Facebook satisfies a basic human need by facilitating connections between people and creating community.

Concluding with advice to future entrepreneurs, Zhuo explained that the most important factor in deciding whether to join a startup is if you value, respect and look up to the people you are working with.

“After this, the goal of the company must resonate with you personally,” Zhuo said.

According to Anais Saint-Jude, student engagement manager of STVP, the goal of the speaker series is to feature leaders in technology, business, finance, education and philanthropy.

“The series intends to educate and inspire with stories of failure, success and wisdom gained by individuals who are entrepreneurial in their personal and professional lives,” Saint-Jude said.

Other speakers this quarter include co-founder and CEO of Embrace Innovations Jane Chen, Stanford MBA ’08 and co-founder and CEO of Carbon 3D, Inc. Joseph DeSimone.

“Julie Zhuo was chosen for the series as she is an admired leader in design, technology and the Silicon Valley community,” Saint-Jude said.


Contact Mini Ruda at mruda ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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