March 7, 2017

Celebrating International Women’s Day

By: Hairong Kuang, Beipeng Mu, Aude Hofleitner, Annie Steele

Today is International Women’s day. To celebrate we asked five Facebook women scientists and engineers who participated in a recent Lean In panel what advice they would give to upcoming students and this is what they had to say.

Anitha Kannan, Research Scientist, Facebook AI Research
Be life-long learner and have breadth in knowledge. This includes knowledge outside of your immediate field of interest. Breadth gives you a broader perspective and opens new doors.

Graduate school over advocates individual contributions. Bigger things happen when we work seamlessly as a team with the sole purpose of solving a scientific puzzle, not being ensnared by credit assignment. And when big things happen the entire team wins!

Hairong Kuang, Software Engineer
I was fortunate to be one of the first few developers on the open source project Hadoop, which became widely used in both industry and academia, enabling many innovative research and products in the world.  Taking on this assignment, where it wasn’t immediately clear what its long-term impact would be, gave us the freedom to explore new ideas and push boundaries.

Diversity across team members is super important towards bringing different ideas and perspectives to the table and usually results in unexpected insights. I’m extremely proud that our work place is welcoming to everyone no matter their race, age, or gender and I know we’ve delivered better products because of it.

Beipeng Mu, Research Scientist, Oculus
Jump right in. I came directly to Facebook from my PhD program and even the first project I took on had immediate impact. I wasn’t just programming some code to process datasets and generate figures, I was prototyping technologies, collaborating across research areas, and evaluating technologies to deliver on our bigger vision.

Working on things that you love will give you a great feeling of accomplishment. People work hard at Facebook because they love what they do. I get a feeling of achievement knowing I’m working on significant things that make a difference in people’s lives and how they interact with each other.

Aude Hofleitner, Data Scientist
There are a lot of things I love about my work, but I’m amazed every day by the smart people I’m surrounded by. It is both very humbling and motivating to work with experts in every field from Data Infrastructure, Product Management, Design, Machine Learning, User Experience Research, and so on. It creates a very dynamic and motivating environment in which everyone has something different to bring to the table and is thankful for what others provide. For example, we have state of the art Data Centers and Data Tools (such as Presto which we open sourced) that let me focus on developing and researching models and algorithms, which is where my expertise is, rather than spend time figuring these which I am not good at nor excited about.

Don’t underestimate your contributions, regardless of your background. I come from an applied math background (most of my CS classes were actually stats classes) and didn’t expect my skills to be valued in a Software Engineering Company. I interned during my PhD and realized that the methodologies, critical thinking and research mindset I acquired in my training were crucial when it comes to making well-informed decisions and developing scientifically sound and reliable algorithms that impact billions of people. Most of my colleagues also come from diverse backgrounds such as political science, sociology, math, physics, etc., but our shared values for scientific methodology, accurate and reliable algorithms help us tackle a wide range of problems together and push research boundaries.

Annie Steele, Research Manager
Because Facebook attracts incredibly accomplished researchers, I expected the environment would feel very competitive. I was so grateful to learn instead that Facebook invests in maintaining a supportive and collaborative culture. People here really enjoy working together, celebrating and learning from methodological differences, and elevating one another’s work. I’ve learned so much from people whose research and approaches I didn’t have access to in graduate school. It’s like interdisciplinary work on steroids!

Keep your eyes on the big picture: the kind of career you want to have. Don’t let yourself become so attached to incremental steps or outcomes that you lose sight of what it is you really want out of your research and your degree. Especially when things aren’t going the way you expected – when you’re experiencing setbacks or rejection – don’t get caught up in the idea that any one step or outcome will “make or break” your career. It won’t. Keep learning and building the career you want from the experiences you’re having right now – even the tough ones.

If you want to learn more about a career at Facebook seek out and speak to a Facebook researcher at a conference or visit us our career page.