April 1, 2022

Four Core Data Science research scientists discuss remote, hybrid, and in-person work options at Meta

By: Meta Research

The Core Data Science (CDS) team at Meta collaborates with team members based around the globe. Working closely with cross-functional teams, researchers, and scientists are helping solve dynamic challenges at an unprecedented scale.

Focused on pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, CDS team members embrace exploration and bring a strong desire to learn to everything they do. A curiosity-first mindset served them well when, amid the pandemic, team members needed to quickly adjust to working remotely.

“Finding new ways to do things is a natural aspect of what we do, and I think this helped our team navigate the abrupt shift,” scientist Alex D. says. “While many of us are beginning to return to the office, flexible work choices are enabling us to expand and develop our team in new ways. We’ve broadened our reach and we’re able to round out our expertise like never before. It’s no longer critical for experienced and talented people to live within a commutable distance to one of our offices. I’m excited to see how this flexible work will empower us.”

From returning to the office or selecting a hybrid schedule to choosing to be fully remote, Alex and three of his team members highlight the different work choices available to them within CDS. Here’s what their experiences have been like, what they’ve learned along the way, and what they’re looking forward to doing next.

Fully remote from the start

CDS Research Scientist Elizabeth S. joined Meta almost a year ago after working on economic and statistical algorithms at a data science startup. On the CDS team, she works on experimentation and commerce-related projects for the Ads and Market Algorithms. Elizabeth originally planned to work at the Menlo Park, California, office, but began working from home on the East Coast because of the pandemic.

Reflecting on her experience, Elizabeth says that she has come to appreciate the flexibility she has with being a fully remote team member. “I have some quiet time in the morning before our team based on the West Coast is online,” she explains. “Though it’s easy to fall into a pattern of working longer hours with the time difference, I’ve learned to structure my day in a way that works best for me. I begin my day with breakfast and a run with my dog, and around 10 a.m. ET I do focused work on programming or writing before my teammates sign on. I tackle quicker tasks that don’t require as much time in between meetings, and I do more independent work toward the end of the day.”

Elizabeth also highlights having friends and family close by as a major perk to staying in Massachusetts. “I love where I live, and not having to move has been a big benefit of opting to remain fully remote. With offices reopening, I look forward to coordinating visits to Menlo Park with other remote colleagues. It will be valuable for us to come together in person a few times a year and collaborate in a meaningful way.”

Transitioning to full-time remote work

Research Science Director Alex D. has been part of the CDS team for more than nine years. He leads the Computational Social Science team, which studies how people engage with Meta products. Alex started his career at the Menlo Park office and moved to San Diego County during the pandemic to permanently work from home. He plans to visit Menlo Park regularly when Meta returns to the office.

“I always got my steps in when trying to find an open conference room on campus in Menlo Park,” Alex laughs when reflecting on his prepandemic experience at the office. “But all jokes aside, virtual meetings were actually quite common for us because the campus is so vast. While the transition to remote work felt abrupt during the pandemic, we already had tools like the Portal that make collaborating feel seamless.”

Figuring out how to work from home with three small children called for a bit more adjustment, Alex says. “My wife and I were both working from home, and we needed to figure out how to best care for our kids while they were home too. Now that school is back in session, things are much smoother. I love the freedom that working from San Diego has afforded us. We were able to buy a home, and I have the flexibility to pick my kids up, take them to practices and games, and navigate my work day without the stress of a commute.”

Adopting a hybrid schedule

Research Scientist Xu C.has been part of the CDS team for almost one year, including his remote internship with CDS in 2020. He returned to Meta for a full-time position after graduating from Duke University with a PhD in statistics. Though Xu worked remotely during his PhD program and throughout the pandemic, he says he was glad to return to the office at the end of 2021.

“I value the brainstorming, connection, and team bonding that happen in the office, so I started going back for in-person meetings as soon as we were able to,” Xu shares. “My teammates and I have lunch together, and sometimes we take a group fitness class after work. I enjoy building these relationships at the office and appreciate that we also have flexibility to work from home a few days a week.”

Xu works from home on days with fewer meetings so he can have deeper focus time. “On these days, it’s helpful to save time on a commute and have a quiet space to work independently. I plan to continue with a hybrid work schedule, going into the office several days a week for meetings and working from home the rest of the week.”

Returning to the office full-time

Lena K. interned at Meta during school at Brown University and came back for a full-time position after graduating. She joined CDS to work directly with researchers, which she does as an engineering manager on the Adaptive Experimentation team within CDS. Lena focuses on distributed systems and machine learning, and is passionate about contributing to the open source AI research community.

The transition to remote work happened overnight for Lena, who worked in the office full-time before the pandemic. “I was on vacation when the office closed due to COVID and came back to a fully remote work environment,” she explains. Tools like the Portal helped Lena collaborate during virtual meetings, but she found it challenging to bond with her team while they were all remote. “I think we’re a very social group of people, and for me it was difficult to feel connected to my team and, by extension, my work. While working from home, my projects felt more abstract, and I worked longer hours for the first few months. It took some time for me to establish a sense of work/life flexibility.”

Lena went back to Meta’s office in New York City as soon as it opened in 2021 and will work from the office full-time. “I’m happy to collaborate with my teammates in person again. We’ve also returned to eating lunch together and occasional team offsites, which I really enjoy.”