How to Apply Meta's Best Practices in Your Life: Takeaways from a Meta Employee

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Product Minting

(Featured image: That’s how AI sees “network around the globe”)

Apart from forming the Big Five group of tech giants, Meta (formerly known as Facebook) has been known for its unique and widely recognized corporate culture. It’s also often referred to as a “hacker culture”, where, as an employee, you are encouraged to be creative and innovative, break things, and learn from your mistakes. The company’s famous motto, “Break Things and Move Fast,” reflects Meta’s key values, which are willingness to take risks and make bold changes.

According to Meta’s current employee, adapting its best practices to improve your personal and professional life brings tremendous positive changes: it enhances your communication skills, broadens your mind, trains the ability to see beyond stereotypes and titles, demonstrates the power of feedback, and emphasizes the importance of prioritization and self-care amidst intense workdays and deadlines.

Here is his first-person account of how practicing Meta’s cultural values creates a favorable environment for productive results both inside and outside of work by Vlad Slepukhin, a current Meta Production Engineer.

Embracing Bootcamp-like Approach to Personal Development

My key takeaways from the Meta boot camp would be setting aside time for learning and skill-building, choosing your own path, and the value of mentorship and guidance in your career and daily life.

Until the very recent past, a new Meta employee, or Metamate, spent the first 6–8 weeks in the boot camp: onboarding and a team selection process, which are designed to ensure the Metamate’s successful career at Meta. The time is dedicated to attending hard-skills workshops and lectures, executing the first entry-level tasks according to your role, and learning about Meta’s corporate culture.

Between the fifth and eighth weeks, a boot camper is supposed to find a team/project unless they have been hired to execute a particular role on a particular team. An average software engineer can apply to and/or receive reach-outs from dozens of teams via an internal Jobs portal. Personally, I had to pick one out of three teams, and with each of them, I spent a full week. As a team member, I attended meetings, executed basic tasks, and learned about the scope of the projects and the team culture. Eventually, you pick your team and graduate from the bootcamp. In some cases, this process can take up to twelve weeks!

Another huge benefit is getting assigned a mentor, whose main responsibility is to guide you and ensure that all the questions are answered in the shortest time possible: How can I use service X? What is the meta-analogue for [name some publicly available technology]? Where can I get a charger cable? What is the culture of stand-ups and team calls in your organisation or team?

Personally, as well as the majority of Metamates, I consider the bootcamp weeks and specifically the team selection mechanism to be one of the best onboarding experiences that the company can provide (currently, it’s on pause due to the particular company-wide organisational changes, but we are hoping for it to come back). The bootcamp allowed me to spend quality time with the team, which I might not have even considered had I been given a choice before the boot camp and matched with the best team according to my skills and preferences. This is something I transferred to my life: the importance of choosing my path and with whom to walk it.

I got to learn about how other Meta departments work, and in the process, I educated myself and began recognising a dozen more familiar faces on our campus. When you start a new life in a new country, like I did, with not many local acquaintances, such a benefit is extremely valuable.

Appreciating the Power of Team Culture and Feedback

The team selection process I described above from the beginning demonstrates the importance of team culture and collaboration with diverse teams; they are the backbone of not only the company’s growth but yours too. The culture of open communication and being direct and respectful of your colleagues taught me how much time can be saved if the team is organised, the discussions are to the point, and there is no sugar-coating in the language of communication.

Open communication is not possible without being open-minded and perceptive to colleagues’ backgrounds and perspectives. I truly believe that by virtue of working at Meta with a diverse team from all parts of the world and embracing an open, respectful culture, I became a more tolerant person myself, and I’m still improving on this journey to accept different points of view and opinions with the ability to respectfully challenge them.

Team culture and collaboration at Meta include the opportunity to give and receive feedback. As Metamates like to say, “Feedback is a gift”. There is a common fear of receiving feedback and being vulnerable and sensitive to criticism. But you see how important it is for everyone to not withdraw into themselves and be available for constructive criticism. To say the least, it fosters an atmosphere of safe and genuine connection at the workplace.

The feedback you receive has a significant impact on your performance review results, and bootcamp participants even learn how to give it. I find it extremely valuable to have the option to share my thoughts in a respectful way about how some things are going or how a particular team member or colleague is participating in the project that we execute together. The feedback is given via either formal feedback forms during the performance review cycle or during 1-on-1 meetings, which happen on a weekly, fortnightly, or monthly basis, depending on the needs of each particular employee.

Despite its scale, Meta is still not a top-down company, where, to a decent extent, feedback is a two-way street and leaders tend to, if not immediately act, at least listen to the thoughts of their fellow employees. It is remarkably visible through the phrasing that leaders and managers are supporting and not managing or supervising their reports.

Embracing Different Perspectives through Diversity and Inclusivity

Speaking of being open-minded and respecting your colleagues, one of the greatest things that Meta, along with other companies of such scale, possesses is a variety of people from all walks of life who have cleared the undoubtedly high bar of getting in here and matched the culture.

I believe that this approach actually brings fruitful results due to behavioral interviews. It is the only non-hard-skills interview in the main loop, which is required for all the candidates, and one of the most uncertain yet valuable rounds as it helps us to bar the candidates that are surely incompatible with the Meta culture of inclusivity and efficient collaboration. I can see this in my own interactions with the outside world, which sometimes end up with the eyebrow-raising realization that people can expose their worst traits and not even flinch or consider themselves to be bigoted and unjust.

However, ensuring the protection of the said values does not end at the interview stage. The company supports diverse and underrepresented communities across the globe, both internally and externally, ensuring that the employees can focus on solving one of the industry’s hardest tasks instead of contemplating their peers’ reactions to their identity or being concerned about their own well-being in the office. This does require some onboarding and annual training. However, I have observed the opposite in the past within smaller US companies or as the standard attitude towards not-so-common people in the ex-USSR software engineering field, which is predominantly male, white, and straight.

Do not get me wrong; it is hardly possible to get several tens of thousands of people working in the same way, and there are particular approaches between different teams and organizations; their priorities and modes of operations do differ, and we often do not unanimously agree on things. However, this is our greatest strength: by being an open-minded, inclusive, and diverse organization, we allow the best ideas to thrive and result in bigger wins for the whole of Meta.

Seeing Beyond Titles and Specialisations

I believe that at Meta, it’s essential to work with people who share the company’s values and are ready to work in a fast-paced collaborative environment. If you want to define your place contribution by holding a fancy title only, Meta is not the place.

I have encountered a lot of professionals who were very specific in their duties and responsibilities: “I’m a Java engineer; I do not care about the production environment”. Such an attitude is the absolute opposite of our workflow (especially in Production Engineering) - it’s counterproductive and even harmful for the employee and the team.

It is as important to take responsibility for what you can and get your ideas across as excellent technical skills. One will be grateful to apply the ability to focus on problem-solving and adapt to different situations to daily life. Here is an example:

An engineer with a vast background in product management and system architecture joined our team, which is quite far away from the user-facing area, and it was just the wrong fit for them. In addition to that, the person really wanted to be an architect and drew cool diagrams. But they failed both to synchronise their vision with the team and execute the hardest parts of their great ideas on their own, getting carried away with some side quests. They left the company voluntarily.

As a company, Meta demonstrates that seeing beyond titles, reducing the hierarchical structure to the minimum, and embracing a wider outlook helps bring out everyone’s potential for the company’s ultimate success. Tyrannical alternatives to Architecture Committees and boards of senior engineers can lead a company into a dismal state. As Sir Winston Churchill once said, “​​No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time”, which I fully agree with, and Meta shows that such an inclusive approach brings the greatest possible results.

The Importance of Balance and Self-care

In the world of Meta, within Production Engineering particularly, it is crucial to pace oneself - recognize that it is a marathon and not a sprint. Ensuring the reliability, scalability, and efficiency of the company’s infrastructure is a monumental and continuous task. At work, it is paramount to set realistic goals and timelines and maintain a consistent work pace to avoid stress, anxiety, burnout, and loss of motivation.

Balancing the marathon at Meta with taking time for self-care is not a luxury but a necessity. You need to have strength, mental clarity, and maintain resilience and endurance in the face of challenges, whether you meet them at work or outside of it.

To conclude, I highly encourage professionals from all fields and industries to explore Meta’s core cultural values, such as communication, learning, and inclusivity, in all their endeavours. Adopting such practices holds the potential for personal growth and success, as does acquiring the ability to create a healthy, friendly, and encouraging atmosphere wherever you go.

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