21 May Boettcher Scholar, former Facebook exec “driven to build”
As a journalism major at the University of Colorado Boulder, Kelly Graziadei didn’t know she would one day build and lead critical functions from sales to product marketing for the world’s largest media company.
“If you had asked me then about doing work in tech (or what I thought of as working with computers back then), I would have replied ‘absolutely not,’” she said.
The 1993 Boettcher Scholar, however, always felt drawn to places with abundant opportunity where she could create and define her own path. Such was the feeling she encountered as a recipient of the Boettcher Scholarship.
“I knew I had the foundation behind me, believing in me and my ideas. That pushed me to work hard and gave me a vote of confidence to go and do big things,” she said.
After graduating and starting in a leadership development program at a phone company in San Francisco, Kelly saw the opportunity to be a pioneer in the digital sector and made the leap. She worked at numerous companies, including Yahoo, before embarking on a seven-year career at Facebook, where she successfully led monetization strategy and go-to-market functions as the director of global marketing solutions.
Today, Kelly is an entrepreneur-in-residence at Foundation Capital, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm. She’s taking the time to explore opportunities in start-ups and venture capital, a season the fast-paced technology executive called “a true gift.”
For Kelly, making thoughtful decisions and taking action are fundamental to entrepreneurship and leadership. While all people have the potential to be entrepreneurs, Kelly notes it’s not just good ideas that lead to success.
“We all have good ideas. What sets an entrepreneur apart is they are driven to build. They cannot not act. There’s no plan B or option of sitting back.”
In her own right Kelly is a builder and successful entrepreneur, working in companies from three people to 20,000; In her tenure at Facebook, global advertising revenue grew from $3 billion in 2011 to more than $39 billion in 2017. Grounded in her experience, Kelly shared the key qualities she encounters among thriving entrepreneurs, and advice for would-be entrepreneurs:
- Grit: “Know that if you’re going through something difficult, it will help you later.”
- Commitment and passion: “Lean into what you love. You can learn a lot of skills but you can’t manufacture passion.”
- Hustle: “Work really hard and creatively solve problems that others won’t.”
- Leadership: “Communicate a clear and bold vision to enroll the right people.”
- Authenticity: “Truthfully answer the question of which issue you are uniquely positioned to solve.”
For Kelly, part of authenticity is also knowing what opportunities to pass up: “It’s just as important to know when to say no. You need to understand your values and let those inform your decisions and priorities. The opportunity cost for entrepreneurs is really high.”
Knowing how to spend her own time is critical for the relationships she maintains as a mother of two and a mentor. Mentoring young people, especially women in the tech and entrepreneurial sectors, is something she is deeply committed to.
“I love spending time with people looking how they can step up as a leader and take their impact or organization to the next level. Anytime I can be a coach or a sounding board, I do,” she said. “But it’s hard to classify this as giving back, because I gain so much myself.”
In addition to mentoring, Kelly gives talks to groups across the world on numerous topics surrounding leadership and innovation. She was also the speaker at CU Boulder’s 2016 spring commencement, where she live-streamed grads singing the university’s fight song.
In daily life, social media is ubiquitous. Like television in the 1950s, it fundamentally changed the way we connect with each other and consume information. And while social media has opened new doors to participate in each other’s lives and the market, it has also produced troubling isolation and misinformation, especially among young people, she noted.
“My hope is with this mobile transformation, the pendulum swings back a bit towards deeper connection,” said Kelly. “People are hungry for meaningful connection. My wish is we’ll see more entrepreneurs willing to build spaces that better span and connect the physical and digital world from health and wellness to shopping and entertainment and more.”
From building the social media advertising world to paving inroads for her mentees, Kelly is a builder and a thought leader who continues to pay forward the investment of the Boettcher Scholarship. When asked to share advice for scholars building their own paths, Kelly shared a final bit of advice.
”Don’t live someone else’s dream. There’s no replacement for passion – you can’t fake it. Pursue the thing that makes you so excited you can’t imagine doing anything else.”