Ekaterina Walter is the author of "Think Like Zuck" and a Social Innovator for Intel. I've been fortunate to know Ekaterina for several years and I must say Ekaterina is the real deal not only as an author, thought leader, speaker, and strategist, but also as a practitioner driving change at one of the world's most recognized brands.
In this Q&A, Ekaterina talks about her exciting first book (out today!), why she wrote it, the publishing process, and much more.
“Zuck has a clear long-term vision of where he wants to take his company and he is executing on that vision.”
Esteban Contreras: Who should read “Think Like Zuck”? What should a reader expect to get from the book?
Ekaterina Walter: Anyone who has a passion for innovation and disruption. Those who have an entrepreneurial streak, whether they are an intrapreneur (a person who drives change within a large company) or an entrepreneur (someone who owns his/her own business). And just anyone who wants to learn from other successful leaders.
Packed with examples of Facebook’s success principles in action - as well as those of Zappos, TOMS, Threadless, Dyson, and other companies — Think Like Zuck gives you the inspiration, knowledge, and insight to make your own mark in the world; to build a business that makes a difference, and to lead your organization to long-term profitability and growth.
EC: Why did you write "Think Like Zuck"?
EW: I wanted to share the mentality and behavior of successful people, the lessons I learned on my own journey, and insights from the brands that have made it.
In my experience within large companies, and in my mentoring of a number of start-ups, I observed and experienced a number of things that successful people, as well as companies, did well and also the mistakes they made (that includes my own experiences and my own mistakes, by the way). I’ve also worked closely with Facebook for over four years and watched them grow as a company. Beyond that I interviewed other great young leaders like Jake, who started Threadless, and Ricky who started Connected Ventures (Vimeo, CollegeHumor.com among others), who now run large and well-known companies. And then there are just plain average people who I worked with who may not have been heads of companies, but were some of the most amazing leaders that I have ever had privilege working with. I wanted to share that knowledge with others.
EC: What was the process of taking the book from idea to bookshelves?
EW: It’s pretty involved. First you have to agree on the idea for the book with your publisher. Then you have to do research, interviews, and ideation for different parts of the book. Then you write and review the manuscript with your editor, ensuring you get an outside perspective on your content. Once you polish your content, a copywriter needs to review for extra grammar issues and the flow. And then there is the book’s layout, cover, and final touches on everything. You have to leave time to get the praise for the book and the foreword if you want to include those as well. And the real work starts – promotion of the book. LOL.
EC: What makes Mark Zuckerberg such a unique leader?
EW: Long-term strategic outlook and the courage to stand up to the pressures (both internal and external) that would veer him away from his vision. For example, everyone was saying NewsFeed was a bad idea (when it first came out) and now it is the feature we can’t live without. People were saying Facebook becoming a platform was not the right strategic and business decision, but now 24.3% of the top 10,000 websites in the world have some form of official Facebook integration on their home pages.
It isn’t easy to withstand that pressure, especially when you are in your early twenties. It is even harder to walk away from a billion dollar buy-out offer. But Zuck has a clear long-term vision of where he wants to take his company and he is executing on that vision.
EC: How have you leveraged your own "Zuck" lessons learned at Intel?
EW: Intel is naturally a culture of innovation. Risk-taking is encouraged. Our philosophy is that failure is just a stepping stone to something greater. My management encourages creativity and gives us freedom to dream and innovate. They trust that we will do a great job and they empower us to paint the blank canvas. We have a clear vision of where we want to be and hire great people who fit within our culture. We partner smartly. Just like in any organization there are ways to improve, but I wouldn’t have been able to help lead social business transformation within the company in the past four years if the above wasn’t true.
EC: What inspires you, and what concerns you about the current state of social media?
EW: What inspires me is the adoption of social listening, engagement, and response by more and more brands. That’s the right direction. What concerns me is the influx of tools that is becoming harder and harder to sort out and the huge amounts of data that marketers don’t know how to analyze yet.
EC: What should marketers do in 2013 to help their companies leapfrog competitors?
EW: Listen even more intently. Engage communities even more passionately. Respond even faster. Delight with better customer service. Focus on fundamentals. And break through the noise with outstanding content.
EC: What advice would you give to young marketers seeking to follow in your footsteps?
EW: Take risks – try out new things. Show initiative – if there is a gap, bridge it. If there is an unhappy customer – help address the issue. Constantly improve. And keep on learning. No one is a guru; if you are passionate about what you do you will find the way to break through. Remember, sometimes curiosity and naiveté trump experience. Don’t be afraid to ask “why?” and “why not?,” and keep an open mind.