It’s incredible how many opportunities have been open to women in tech over the past few years. While there is still much to do, our girls now have more opportunities to work in what has typically been a male-dominated industry thanks to pioneers like Randi Zuckerberg. Author, investor and the founder of Zuckerberg Media, Randi is always creating something new to get children and girls involved in tech in an educational and approachable way like her latest program, Sue’s Tech Kitchen. Read on to learn more about this mama, her goals and how she juggles it all.
We love how your company is changing the way girls and women view and understand technology. Why is that important to you?
I spent 10 years in Silicon Valley being one of the only women in the room and I want things to be different for the next generation of women. If we’re going to have equal representation of women in tech and entrepreneurship, it starts early! We need to be having these discussions with young girls and making sure we present tech, science and business in a way that feels exciting, approachable and delightful.
You’re an author, investor, host of a weekly tech show, and the CEO of your company, Zuckerberg Media. How do you manage it all?
I don’t! Ha! I do believe we can have it all, just not every day. My motto is to follow what I like to call ‘Pick Three.’ Out of the five major buckets of life—work, sleep, family, fitness, and friends—everyone should pick only three to choose from each day, thus becoming ‘well-lopsided’ instead of well-balanced. When we choose a different three to focus on, we quickly become balanced by getting things done, not by struggling to fit it all in at once.
That is what inspires me. Spreading equality and understanding.
Tell us more about starting Zuckerberg Media. What was it like going out on your own? Did you have a clear vision of what Zuckerberg Media would be from the start?
When I first started Zuckerberg Media, I wanted to inspire more women to go into tech, so I set out to create a content platform for women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. But like any entrepreneur, once you dive into the data, and you see that your initial hypothesis was wrong, you pivot. All the data was showing me that it is around eight or nine nine years old that we start losing girls in STEM! Yikes! So now, virtually all my projects are centered around “that third grade girl” and how to reach her, and keep her excited.
Do you have any productivity tools or apps that help keep you organized?
I always say we need tech to save us from tech, so when it comes to organizational apps, I have quite a few. I use Slack to stay on top of my day-to-day tasks and to interact with my team to see who’s working on what at any given time. I cannot live without Dropbox to share files with my co-workers and as a busy working mom who is often juggling several things at once, I am obsessed with the app Epic Reads which has thousands of children’s books, comprehension quizzes, and reading tools – so you can actually feel good about handing your child an iPad for a bit, rather than feel guilty!
We are so excited about Sue’s Tech Kitchen! How did the idea for it come about? What can families expect when they visit?
I’ve always believed that if you make STEM fun and approachable, more families and kids will stick with it. As a parent in this tech-focused world myself, I want to inspire innovation for the next generation and also show families that there are so many ways that tech can bring people together, rather than isolate people on screens. And of course, my passion is getting more girls into tech, which is why there is a girl’s name on the marquee, even though it’s a completely non-gendered space.
Families will enjoy 3D printed S’mores, LED cotton candy, pancakes made by robots, and fireside chats with everyone from my alma mater a capella group, the Harvard Opportones to celebrity entrepreneurs like Sarah Michelle Gellar and her baking company FoodStirs.
We want our kids to learn to have a healthy relationship with technology, and restricting their use isn’t going to give them that comfortable education.
Our daughters love Missy President! Tell us more about your writing process. What inspires you?
Amazing! To inspire children’s interest in politics during what many people thought would be a landslide victory for American women, I had the idea to create a story revolving around a young mixed girl who accidentally becomes the President of the United States after a video of her goes viral. While the presidential election of 2016 didn’t turn out as some had hoped I still took on the responsibility and effort of reshaping the political arena, especially as it relates to promoting kindness and equality.
Missy President was my way of showing what could be if we only followed our hearts. That is what inspires me. Spreading equality and understanding. When I write, I start with a character and the premise and the day-to-day events of the world help lead the process. I try to parallel the stories that are being discussed in a way that appeals to kids and adults. It’s important for me to stay active in current issues so that no child (or grown child) is ever left behind.
What are some of the tech rules in your home?
No screens at the dinner table, for everyone, including my husband and I (oy!). We also make sure the kids get enough tech time everyday, learning how to code with games like Cubetto and apps like CodeKarts. We don’t restrict tech as much as we set healthy parameters around it. We want our kids to learn to have a healthy relationship with technology, and restricting their use isn’t going to give them that comfortable education. Instead we encourage their tech use but we make sure that what they are exposed to is learning-based.
If it ain’t broken—celebrate!
Enjoy the moment, even when they’re messy and tear-filled. Kids grow up so fast.
Don’t restrict screen time—embrace it. Ask what your kids are working on and collaborate on their tech projects. Kids’ interests are piqued around 5-7 years old. If you use screen time as a punishment or reward, their relationship with technology will have a sugar-like effect—that it’s only appreciated in secret and to be enjoyed it certain allowable bursts. You could be suppressing the next Elon Musk or Hedy Lamarr!