RANDI ZUCKERBERG: Social media helps balance work, family and outside interests

Mary Yost

Thanks to social media, "you get to be a 360-degree person" living in a world of "and"-as in having a job AND a family AND personal passions. That was a key message Monday from Randi Zuckerberg, who founded her own media company after helping her younger brother turn Facebook into a cultural phenomenon.

Zuckerberg delivered the keynote address at the Ohio River Valley Women's Business Council's fifth annual Catch the Wave Conference at the Hilton Columbus at Easton.

For Zuckerberg, "and" has meant leading interactive marketing for Facebook before starting Zuckerberg Media and authoring Dot Complicated, a book and web community focused on the ways in which social media and technology shape our personal and professional selves. Zuckerberg's "and" also means enjoying family life with her husband and son, and recently indulging a life-long dream to sing and act on Broadway during a four-week stint as Regina in "Rock of Ages."

Zuckerberg wasn't always so open to taking on big challenges. Then, in 2009, CNN offered her a chance to be a national correspondent for the inauguration of President Barack Obama as part of integrated coverage between the network and Facebook. She recalled a mentor advising her, "If you don't feel like you want to vomit at least once a week from nervousness, you're not pushing yourself hard enough."

Since accepting CNN's offer other big opportunities have followed, Zuckerberg told the "Catch the Wave" audience-several hundred mostly women entrepreneurs attending the three-day conference focused on "How to Build a Sustainable Business."

Two of her biggest career successes resulted from brainstorming sessions known as hackathons at Facebook, in which coders and software designers indulge their passions to come up with creative concepts. One was the live coverage of the Obama inauguration on Facebook. The other hackathon explored the notion of streaming television inside Facebook, and shortly thereafter the social media platform hosted a world tour announcement by Katy Perry, Zuckerberg said.

In a Q&A session following her keynote, Zuckerberg advised would-be entrepreneurs to get technical skills such as basic design and coding to help open doors to career possibilities.

Her nod for next big social media trend goes to wearable and health-focused technology, such as wristbands that track activity and sleep. "That will open up so much knowledge about how we live," she said.

While social media can be overwhelming, it also "can set any of us apart," Zuckerberg said, noting "Each of us is a media company."

Women can have it all, Zuckerberg said, though there still is some pushback to women who choose to juggle career and family and still have other interests. Women's outside passions-such as a businesswoman singing and acting on Broadway-tend to be judged more as frivolous, where a man with varied interests is admired for being so accomplished, Zuckerberg said. Such views bothered her until "I learned to say, 'screw the haters,'" Zuckerberg said.

Zuckerberg had no hesitation answering what she would have done differently: "I would have asked for more stock options." Her audience roared their approval.

Women-owned businesses have seen rapid growth in the five years ORV-WBC has been in operation, says Rea Waldon, PhD, who serves as executive director of the women's business group as well as chief operating officer of the Urban League of Greater Cincinnati. The ORV-WBC certifies businesses as being at least 51 percent woman-owned, operated and controlled. Certification assures corporations and contractors a more diverse supply base without the hassle of vetting vendors.

ORV-WBC has about 900 certified entities in their database that covers Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia, with most of the certifications going to Ohio businesses. The number has more than doubled from 420 when the council began operations, with another 150 to 200 businesses in the pipeline to be certified, a process that takes 2-3 months.

Waldon said ORV-WBC hosts monthly luncheons in Columbus for those who want to know more about certification of women-owned businesses. More information about advantages of certification is also available online from the Women's Business Enterprise National Council.