ETR Exclusive: One on One with Facebook Exec Kelly Graziadei

Early to Rise caught up with Facebook Executive Kelly Graziadei earlier this year to learn some of her secrets to success and find out what keeps her grounded and balanced while working at one of the fastest-paced and fastest-growing companies in the world.

For Graziadei the opportunity to join Facebook came at perhaps the most inopportune time. It was 2010, her first son was just four months old, and she had just returned to work at Yahoo. Add to that the 1.5-hour commute from her San Francisco home to Facebook headquarters.

Still she says, “I knew that Facebook was a rocket ship and I wanted to get on it.” Despite all of the challenges, Graziadei says saying no to the opportunity simply didn’t feel right.

“I was inspired by the people, the opportunity, and the mission to connect the world,” she says. “I didn’t want to sit on the sidelines when I could be part of the flight crew.”

That excitement was tempered with realism, too, and Graziadei recalls that she cried when she accepted the job.

“It was the right decision but a big leap into the unknown for me and my growing family.”

Yet somehow, her perspective on all of it is refreshing. She makes striking a balance between family (she has two boys) and a career as Director of Monetization Product Marketing at Facebook look easy. She shared with us where she draws inspiration, what rules and routines she follows, and how she makes it all click.

ETR: Where do you find inspiration?

Graziadei: It may feel like inspiration is serendipitous but you have to make time to read, listen, learn, and do things that inspire you. You have to slow down long enough to take in the little things all around you that can inspire.

I find new inspiration in things my kids say, advice that a friend or colleague may be seeking, a walk through my neighborhood — and reading, reading, reading. The most important thing is to create the space and rest for ideas to emerge. When I hop on the hamster wheel and keep going, going, going, I think I’m being productive but I’m often trading this for inspiration and ideas.

ETR: What’s one rule that guides your life?

Graziadei: Care for and connect to people. People are what this whole life is about and what ultimately fuels and drives me. One of my favorite quotes is from Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

The other rule is never settle.

ETR: Are you an Early Riser?

Graziadei: I am a morning person. When my kids were first born, I sacrificed my early morning wake ups because the risk of me waking them up was just too great. I’m happy to say that my early morning routine is back and I typically wake up at 5:00 a.m. This makes all the difference for me — I’m more energized and much more productive than trying to work into the late hours of the evening.

ETR: Do you have daily routines that keep you grounded?

Graziadei: The one routine that I’ve maintained is making it home for dinner with my family. Cooking and eating as a family is an invaluable connection point for me and a major source of balance (as much as that exists). Putting my phone away and being present with the family — capturing the funny things the kids say, cooking a meal with my husband, my husband and I helping my oldest son with his reading — helps keep things in perspective.

At the end of last year, I committed to some new habits, which have been game changing. I start my days at 5:00 a.m. with some light journaling in Evernote, read a couple articles and then have a good hour for work. When I’m not taking calls in the car, I’m listening to inspirational or business books on my way in to the office. And, I’m ending my day at 10:00 p.m. with 30 minutes of yoga. While it’s easy to want to skip the yoga at the end of the day, the payoff has been that my sleep is so much better.

Creating space, taking care of myself, and making time for inspiration is enabling me to make more impact at work and at home.

ETR: How do you prioritize your most important tasks?

Graziadei: I am a list maker. I have a few categories of lists — urgent, important but not urgent, personal, and not urgent/not important. It’s rare that something gets checked off that last list.

Overall, I ensure that my priority list — and not my email — guides my time. This means I don’t respond to a lot of email but I make sure I set expectations with the people I work most closely with and how to track me down. I want to be productive, but also accessible — because as I mentioned before — people are the most important part of what I do, and what drives me each day.

ETR: What have you learned in the past year that will make an impact on your role at Facebook?

Graziadei: Over a year ago, I had the unique opportunity to move into Product Marketing and take on a general management approach to our business. With this move and in the last year, I’ve spent more time thinking about Growth marketing/Growth hacking. Growth marketing is the practice of driving growth (product, revenue, user base) with a combination of innovation, scalability, and connectivity. I’ve found these to be important principles to apply to my personal and professional life. Typically, growth marketing starts with a lot of creativity and A/B testing. Once you find the small move that makes an impact, you scale.

In my personal life, this is important because I often defeat myself before I start, making my goals hard to achieve out of the gate. This year, I vowed to start small — the pre-bedtime yoga, for example. I can always scale from there, but finding success with smaller moves has been key to my personal growth. These changes are allowing me to show up better at work, with energy and clarity to prioritize, make decisions for the team, and drive key areas of the business.

Likewise, on the work front, I love to see and solve for the full 360 picture. I love that I get to work at a place like Facebook, have access to such rich insight, and form a point of view on the future of marketing. That said, it’s important to break down the long-term vision into much smaller moves for building products and testing what works. These smaller and shorter-term goals create momentum and allow us to get important insights early and often that ultimately help shape the long-term direction.

ETR: What drives and motivates you?

Graziadei: I have spent a lot of time racing toward a finish line… a new job, a move, a promotion. But as soon as I arrive, the celebration is often very short and suddenly there’s a new race and a new finish line. The big learning for me has been that there is no finish line and there’s little glory in “winning” any individual race.

What drives me today is managing my time to have the life I want — time to take care of myself so I have the energy for work and family; precious time with my family; time to work on the big, juicy problems at work, and time to coach and support my colleagues and help shape and support the next generation of leaders. This is a life long adventure and I don’t want to get to the finish line anytime soon.

ETR: Who have been the most important contributors to your success?

Graziadei: I am so grateful for the people and experiences in my life that have led me to where I am now. So many have been iterative across my life. Those that stand out do have similar traits — experiences and people that asked me tough questions and gave me confidence to trust my gut and perspective.

My husband listens, supports and challenges me. He keeps me grounded and focused on the things that are most important and is a true partner, juggling his own demanding job and sharing responsibilities at home so we can be successful as a family.

My best friends are always there, cheer me on and listen when I’m at a crossroads. And my parents play a big role in supporting our life and family today and showed me the value of hard work, grit and caring for people above all else at an early age.

ETR: What are the most valuable lessons you’ve learned?

Graziadei: I learned early to be fearless, raise my hand for any and all opportunities and ask for what I want. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg talks about “tiara syndrome,” where many women in particular work hard and keep their head down and wait for someone to notice and put the “tiara” on their head. You’ve got to look up and ask for what you want. Don’t just wait for someone to notice and reward you.

Secondly, care for people and make them feel connected to something bigger. I believe people are most motivated and do their best work when they feel like people care about them and are invested in their success. I had these kinds of managers and mentors in my career and this is paramount to how I treat with and work with others.

I’ve also learned to be vulnerable and not to be afraid to ask for help. My most breakthrough moments have been digging into tough feedback and working on being better.

Finally, if you have a chance to work with an executive coach, do it.  Even when you have a great manager, having a coach that’s just focused on your success and helping you in key development areas, challenging you with tough questions and approaches to practice can help you make big step changes in your performance and contribution.

ETR: Do you have a formula for success?

Graziadei: It’s taken me a lot of years to learn this and really believe it, but I think the most important thing about success is defining what that means to you and not trying to live up to someone else’s definition, or even one you’ve created because you think it’s the “right” one. Success that’s about external measures may ultimately be empty if those measures aren’t core to who you are and what you value.

(Editor’s note: This interview was conducted by Tara McMeekin and originally appeared in ETR’s Success Formula Newsletter.)