Brainstorm Tech Spotlight: Kate Aronowitz, Design Director of Facebook

July 22, 2013: 1:05 PM ET

Why leaders have to set their own limits.

kateCOLORFORTUNE -- Fortune's Brainstorm Tech Conference (beginning today in Aspen, Colo.) regularly brings together the best and brightest minds in tech innovation. Each week, Fortune turns the spotlight on a different conference attendee to offer his or her own personal insight into business, tech, and entrepreneurship. This week, we asked Facebook Director of Design Kate Aronowitz to answer 10 questions about life outside of work, the company she admires most, and industry advice for young entrepreneurs. Her responses follow.

What is the best advice you ever received? 

Show up to work with the energy and curiosity of your first day and the honesty of your last.

What would you say to a group of young people looking to enter the tough job market? 

You'd be surprised at how many young people I meet who are ultra picky about what they will and won't do. Don't be that person! Be the one who jumps at the opportunity to try something new. Just being a positive and enthusiastic team member will set you apart from the pack.

What would you do if you weren't working at your current job? 

I'd love to have the experience of being an apprentice to an established fashion designer, just to get my hands dirty in their work and play a behind the scenes role in planning, designing, and launching a collection.

What is one startup you would have wanted to found? 

I'm somewhat biased here, as I know and work with the team, but I would have loved to have started Instagram. It's so simple, visual, and engaging. I love the ability to see what's going on in the world visually and have the power to take beautiful pictures.

What was the most important thing you learned in school? 

When I was younger, I was often intimidated by people who just seemed to be naturally talented at things, like the kids who excelled in academics or were really great designers.  But as I've grown up I've learned that talent and success are really just the product of hard work.  You don't see it, but behind the scenes the best people spend years perfecting their craft, and that's often the real secret to success.

What has been your biggest failure? 

There have been times when my team members have come to me with really big, outrageously creative ideas and I've shot them down too early. One of my strengths is my pragmatism, but sometimes I have to keep it in check (especially when running a design team).

What business or technology person do you admire most? Why?

Angela Ahrendts, CEO of Burberry. Yes, she's grown Burberry by leaps and bounds and that's something to be admired. What's special about her to me is the way she openly talks about the human side of business—the power of authenticity, positive energy, and inspiration. I love that she openly talks about being "50/50", a balance of intuition and feeling with hardcore analysis and how that has contributed to her success. She embraces the people side of business and uses that as a strength to propel the company forward.

What technology sector excites you most? 

I just moved into a new house and engaged with many contractors and other service providers, and I realized there is still a huge gap in access to honest ratings and reputation indicators. I was surprised at how difficult it was to find unfiltered, authentic reviews of companies—from cable to plumbing and so on.

What do you do to live a balanced life? 

The biggest lesson I've learned in this area is that you have to set your own limits. No one else is going to tell you to leave in time to get home for a family dinner. Set the schedule that works for you and others will respect it.

What is one characteristic that every leader should possess? 

Empathy. Great service comes from understanding others' needs. Great management comes from leading through example and inspiring others. Neither can be done by someone who is out of touch.

Join the Conversation
Current Issue
  • Give the gift of Fortune
  • Get the Fortune app
  • Subscribe
Powered by WordPress.com VIP.