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Behind the Scenes With an AR/VR Engineering Manager

Engineering managers are builders at heart. Their teams are protecting our community, creating the future of AR/VR experiences, and revolutionizing the way people connect, communicate, and collaborate at work. In our series, ‘Behind the Scenes with an Engineering Manager,’ we’ll introduce you to inspiring Facebook team members and give you an inside look at the work they’re doing and the impact their teams are having around the world.
Meet Hannes V., an engineering manager on the AR/VR team in London

A world class team

“I moved to London from Belgium,” Hannes shares. “It’s not very far, but it felt like a big jump for me and my family. But as soon as we arrived, I realized a lot of other people here have been through a similar experience. London is a mix of many cultures.”
Hannes and his family on holiday in Yosemite in 2019
Hannes quickly adapted to his new surroundings, and his teammates made the transition even easier. “We all have the unique opportunity to work with world class engineers, designers, and product managers. This is what attracted me to Facebook,” he says.
Hannes is an engineering manager on the Spark AR team within AR/VR at Facebook. He manages a team of software engineers from a variety of backgrounds. Many have experience working with mobile, including iOS and Android. Some engineers on his team are product generalists while others are more specialized in areas such as graphics, 3D, or virtual reality. “It’s ideal to have a mix of strengths, skills, and experience on the team,” Hannes notes. “It provides us all with more opportunities to learn and grow.”
Diverse interests are important too. “Some engineers enjoy focusing on deep tech. Others are more product specialists, with a deep understanding of our target audience, and some thrive working cross functionally with other teams. It gives us the ability to work on a wide scope of projects, and we get a lot of work done.”

A day in the life

Hannes uses early mornings as quiet time to catch up with other teams and to write, before the day becomes busy with meetings and collaborative work. He spends a lot of his time on team development. “I meet with each person I support at least once a week,” he explains. “I not only share feedback on projects and performance, but we talk more broadly about how they’re doing. We discuss how they’re trending against their goals, what we want to achieve together as a team, and their career path.”
Hannes recognizes the need to be adaptable, as every person has different needs and expectations. “I consider each individual,” he explains. “Some people like public recognition, others hate it. Some want unfiltered feedback, others prefer it to be more subtle. And some engineers want to discuss a technical problem and the approach to solving it, while others focus more on the end goal.”
Overall, the team has the autonomy and ownership to drive things forward.
As managers, we align on the high level goals, but we give people the freedom they need to achieve it.”
Hannes groups his one-on-one meetings over the course of two days. He uses Mondays to plan out projects for the rest of the week, and Fridays are reserved for wrap-up meetings with the wider team. Wednesdays are no meeting days for the team, reserved for project work. “It’s a productivity day, a day to review technical documents or product proposals, and to think about longer term process improvements,” he offers.
Growing his team is a top priority for Hannes. “As managers, we’re expected to contribute not only to the team, but to the wider organization. This might mean working with interns or running mentorship programs, but for me, it’s mostly interviewing.” Almost a quarter of his role is focused on recruiting, and as a former iOS engineer, a majority of Hannes’ interviews are within the iOS pipeline.
With the rest of his time, Hannes is focused on planning and strategy. He talks with engineers, product managers and designers about what to build next. He also loves to participate in Facebook’s hackathons a few times a year, and encourages his team to do the same. “Hackathons are a great opportunity to take a break from your day-to-day work and do something completely different. It might even be the start of an entire new feature or product. There is no better way to get other people excited about your ideas.”

Staying connected anytime and anywhere

At Facebook, we’re focused on bringing the world closer together. Hannes says that the AR/VR team really takes this to heart.“We want to give people the tools to stay connected, anytime, anywhere,” Hannes shares.“And we want to make sure human connection is at the core of the next generation of computing.”
Hannes and teammates take a trip across campus in Menlo Park
By building creative tools like Spark AR Studio, Hannes’ team is empowering people to create AR experiences. “You don’t need to be a software engineer or a 3D graphics expert to use our tools,” he says. “We want to help people express themselves without high barriers.”
Face Filters on Instagram are just one example of the kind of content that is being created with these tools. While Spark AR effect publishing was originally only available on Facebook, the team quickly realized it could have a greater impact by expanding its platform to Instagram last year. “Now Spark AR effects are used by hundreds of millions of people every month,” Hannes remarks. “It’s been amazing to watch different generations using these experiences in Instagram Stories or Messenger calls.”
Having a diverse team and different perspectives is key to building the future of AR/VR for people around the world. According to Hannes, his team in London is a safe space to experiment, prototype, try new things, and make mistakes. “We’re all part of what we build and how we build it. Not everything is going to work, but we want to embrace taking risks.”
Learn more about Hannes and the team here:

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ARTICLE PUBLISHED ON May 20, 2020

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