Smart Leaps with Margaret Stewart


Margaret Stewart has spent her career designing user experiences that change the world in fundamental ways. As the VP of Product Design at Facebook, and formerly at YouTube and Google, Margaret sees design as creativity in the service of others.

In this episode, Margaret opens up about her biggest challenges as a woman leader, breaking down some of the notions that tend to hold us back. Along with her inspiring managerial style, she shares insights on the tricky emotions of ambition and guilt, and her recipe for smart leaps of faith and taking risks that pay off.

Subscribe and listen to the full episode here (you must subscribe to receive latest episode).

Highlighted Excerpt:

Margaret: Naivety can actually serve you well in life. If you overthink the risks or the possible downsides, you’re gonna talk yourself out of almost all of the best experiences in life. Whether it’s a job you’re gonna take, who you fall in love with, all these things.

If you take the safe and easy route, things might turn out okay, but you’re not gonna learn and grow and stretch yourself, and I think that’s where most of the fun and fulfillment in life comes from.

Majo: What would you say has been your biggest challenge as a woman leader?

Margaret: I think this idea of... you know, I’ve always been an ambitious person. I feel like the word ambition gets a really bad rap, especially with women. It’s usually a negative association, which is really unfortunate.

And to balance that with my desire for people to like me? (laughs) That’s a challenge. That’s something I think women are socialized to want more than men. But there is an inherent tension in striving for excellence and wanting to have a big impact, so trying to figure out that balance is challenging.

Majo: Let’s unpack this whole ambition thing, first off, because I think a lot of heroines listening are ambitious. I consider myself to be ambitious. Why do we have an allergy to this word or this concept?

Margaret: Well I think it goes back to that notion of like, “Oh you really think a lot of yourself don’t you? You think you’re gonna have this big impact in the world.” And it’s like... yeah! (laughs) Why wouldn’t I want to do that if I had the chance?!

Show Notes:

  • Margaret shares about growing up as the youngest of 9 kids; an early maker and performer who often wondered what her role in life would be. [2:20]

  • On the bold move she made after college, her first jobs in the early days of the internet, and the pattern that emerged for her around risk-taking. [6:34]]

  • How women are socialized to be more cautious, and Margaret’s experience and wisdom in getting over that. [11:43]

  • Margaret breaks down some of the big risks and leaps of faith she took, plus her thoughts on the value of naivety. [16:35]

  • On ambition and guilt, dealing with negative critique, and Margaret’s biggest challenge. [20:56]

  • Majo and Margaret discuss: Feminine qualities in the workplace, and Margaret’s inspiring management and leadership style. [26:46]

  • What Margaret has reclaimed for herself on her heroine’s journey. [32:28]

Subscribe and listen to the full episode here (you must subscribe to receive latest episode).


Learn more about Margaret

Rebecca Garza-Bortman's podcast Advice from Mom


by Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs

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