Julie Zhuo Profile picture
28 Apr, 12 tweets, 2 min read
"Some people are simplifiers. You're a complexifier."

This was a piece of feedback I received once from a colleague.

Yeah, it burned.

It felt like a shitty thing to say.

Thread 👇(1/11)
Why did I think that? Let's break down the ways:

1) Immediately I'm cast as different, part of the "other" group

2) Saying I'm a "complexifier" makes it sound like this sucky label is my permanent identity.

3) Geez this statement is broad. How about some examples?

I can't say why my colleague gave me feedback this way.

Were they trying to sound insightful? Smart? Superior?

Maybe they thought this kind of delivery would have the biggest impact?

Maybe they wanted to see me squirm?

Would it have been so hard for them to say it differently?

"Hey Julie, when you presented XYZ the other day, I found it hard to follow. It'd be great to know the summary of your point right at the beginning."

"Thank you!" I would have said. "That's really helpful!"


"I couldn't wrap my head around your explanation of ABC; there were too many details and I got lost trying to figure out what you thought I should take away."

Or simply:

"I've noticed when you explain things like XYZ and ABC, you have a tendency to include complex details when I'm just looking for a three-sentence summary."

At the time I heard this, I felt justifiably defensive.

I activated my armor and let the words bounce right off of me.

I thought *their feedback* was the problem.

It's a shame I did.

It took me years to see that my colleague had a point.

I *did* tend to over-provide context.
My points weren't succinct.
My thinking was sometimes muddled.

There's a kernel of truth in every feedback.

I could have asked for clarification and learned this sooner.

So what's the lesson here?

If you're the feedback giver: aim for your words to be helpful and actionable.

* Let them know you care about them (don't give the feedback if this isn't true)
* Give examples of their behavior and its impact
* Suggest things to try

If you're the feedback receiver: try your best to see all feedback as a gift, a mirror to reflect back and sharpen your self-awareness.

Unless they are trolling, don't let the delivery of the feedback impede your ability to hear the message.

You can't control someone's feedback, and how or what is said, but you can control whether you receive it graciously and whether you allow it to help you improve.

Sometimes, precious gifts lie behind shoddy veneers.

P.S. I write a new Twitter thread every week, and you can get the summaries in your inbox once a month here: lg.substack.com

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More from @joulee

22 Apr
Companies are like people.

Not sprawling networks of people (though technically that's right)

Rather, thinking about a company as an individual makes many things easier to understand.

Pick the company to join like you'd pick who you'd want to hang out with every day.

Companies have personalities, just like people do. Some companies are flashy and dramatic. Others are staid and quiet. Some live in the future, constantly tossing out new inventions. Others are ruthlessly competitive.

Like with people, all strengths have shadow downsides. Apple's quality and cool comes from a secretive, top-down culture.

Zoom's focus on superior tech leaves it lacking when it comes to product features.

Read 13 tweets
8 Apr
One of the stories we used to tell in the early days of Facebook was how a small, two-engineer project came to dominate the entire photo sharing landscape in the late 2000s.

Thread 👇 1/10
Let's zoom back to 2005, when pre-mobile Internet photo sharing services were one upping each other on storage, features, and slickness.

Across Photobucket, Shutterfly, Flickr and Picasa, there were high-res uploads, preview navigation, theme tags, search by color, + more

Facebook Photos, built by a scant team over two months, was extremely bare-bones in comparison. It only supported low-res photos. No comments. No likes. It didn't even have a nice full-screen view.

There were no bells and whistles, save one...

Read 11 tweets
1 Apr
"You were at one company for nearly 14 years?!?!"

Yes, I'd say. Here's why:

1) I loved the people
2) I was continuously challenged and learning
3) The mission spoke to me
4) I felt deep loyalty

But there was another big reason that was hard for me to admit then...

The hard-to-admit reason was this: my sense of identity was deeply tied to my job.

I felt I *belonged* there.
I had a great career there.
I'd made many wonderful friends there.

And so, it was terrifying to imagine: who would I be if I *didn't* work there?

"My identity = My job" is a common thought pattern for folks (more likely founders or young) who...

1) have invested tons of time/capital/energy into the job
2) are ambitious
3) are recognized for their job
4) have mostly work friends
5) believe deeply in job's mission

Read 10 tweets
25 Mar
I've participated in too many conversations about the role of design / pm / eng to count.

Of course there are differences.

But every tech manager role, regardless of discipline, ends up converging at higher levels.

What does this mean for you as a manager?

Thread below 👇
If you climb the management ladder to the very top, guess what? You’re the CEO. And you manage *every* function.

So if your goal is to be CEO someday, or even VP or director within your discipline, you need to get out of your box and learn how other disciplines work.

The most thoughtful designs don’t get used if engineering doesn't build them.

The most sophisticated algorithms don’t help people if they can't be put into a clear product.

The tightest roadmap doesn’t get you customers if the experience isn’t good, or you can't sell it.

Read 10 tweets
19 Mar
You're in a panic.

Your launch date is in a week. Your whole team's credibility is riding on your collective ability to make it happen. Leadership is Eye-of-Sauron-ing this project.

There's just one problem.

You suspect the product sucks.

What do you do? A thread 👇 (1/9)
Prior to a launch, saying "Our product sucks" is not what your tired, overworked colleagues want to hear. But if you feel this way, you need to bring it up.

Align the team around the launch goals. Ask: "What are we aiming for?" Then frame your concern around that.

Ex... (2/9)
"We want to fail fast and get learnings asap" → Are we well set up to get new learnings if we already know so much is broken?

"We want to make a big splash and get tons of new users" → Will these new users retain if our product is buggy?

Read 9 tweets
12 Mar
Seven incredibly non-intuitive things about growing your career, a thread 👇
The people whose careers you admire and study the most are the ones your own career starts to emulate.

This seems like a great thing, until you realize along the way the downsides that come with that kind of career.

Every glamour has its price.

We think the most confident person in the room is the one who sounds the most polished and certain.

In reality, the most confident person is the one who most readily admits and accepts *all* their flaws / mistakes.

Imagine how secure one must feel to do that.

Read 8 tweets

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