November 19, 2019

Connecting women in networking at the Fort Worth Data Center

By: Meta Research

At Facebook, we build the systems and infrastructure to allow billions of people all over the world to connect and communicate. In the networking area, Facebook has been a committed partner of N2Women since 2017, through sponsoring its luncheons at major computer networking conferences and the Young Researcher Fellowship awards. On November 12, Facebook and N2Women brought 15 top female PhD students and researchers from 10 universities to Fort Worth, Texas, to visit one of Facebook’s advanced data centers and to have discussions with Facebook’s networking researchers. Facebook visiting professors Phillipa Gill and Neil Spring also joined the group.

The day started with Director of Engineering Omar Baldonado providing an overview of Network Infrastructure at Facebook, the team’s scope, and current challenges and research needs. Engineering Manager Ying Zhang and Software Engineer Vineela Kukkadapu then shared an inside look at their work on Robotron and the F16 and FBOSS platforms, respectively. The day wrapped with a tour of the Facebook Fort Worth Data Center, which showed various Facebook networking systems in production. Following the tour, the group had a Q&A session with Facebook Engineering Manager James Zeng.

The event also included a Women in Networking Engineering and Research panel, moderated by Baldonado, with panelists Zhang, Kukkadapu, Professor Damla Turgut, and Associate Professor Katia Jaffres-Runser. The panelists shared their personal experiences and discussed the choice between academic and industrial career tracks, ways to grow breadth and scope, and how to build a strong support network with mentors and allies.

“I had an amazing time engaging with all the researchers and learning about the breadth of networking research work they are doing,” says Baldonado. “We want to continue fostering a community among female networking researchers and facilitating connections with industry.”

“The data center tour was such a valuable experience for me,” said Grace Liu, a postdoc at Carnegie Mellon University and one of the 2019 N2Women Rising Stars. “I had the opportunity to visit a large-scale data center and discuss production problems with experienced Facebook managers and engineers, and it also connects me to many great female researchers in the field, helping me build a network that will last for the rest of my career.”

“We were extremely proud of getting to know this great new generation of top female researchers in networking,” said Turgut, who is a co-chair of N2Women, along with Jaffres-Runser. Jaffres-Runser agreed, and added, “We’re thrilled to see them thrive and grow in our community, and we hope for a bright future for them either in industry or in academia.”

To learn more about Women in Infra at Facebook, be sure to read our upcoming researcher spotlight with Engineering Manager Ying Zhang. To learn more about diversity at Facebook, visit the Facebook Diversity page.