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 Philip S., an engineering manager on the Infrastructure team at Facebook in London.
A day in the life
“As a manager, I spend my day looking for and then working through challenges that might affect the team’s ability to live their best engineering lives. I believe my role is to empower them to do what they're best at,” Philip shares. “My team is made up of junior and senior engineers who split work on iOS, Android, and the backend infrastructure. When we started the team, making sure these separate capabilities were well integrated was something we knew would affect our long term success. Implementing cross-cutting projects that need skills from each area that we then discuss at our weekly team meetings has helped avoid creating those silos. It’s been wonderful to see these multidisciplinary collaborations come to life.”
Philip had 15 years of management experience, but it wasn’t until he joined Facebook that he applied an entirely new outlook on leadership. “I didn't appreciate just how different the manager role would be at Facebook. In my previous roles, I was an engineer and a manager, which called for managerial duties as well as technical coding. At Facebook, the majority of my time is spent actually helping my team grow, and that is so much more fulfilling” he says.
Philip finds developing plans that are catered to each of his team members’ professional development extremely rewarding.
“ It feels natural to spend my time thinking about what I can do for each individual engineer to help them succeed.”
As a manager, I have a different style for everyone based on what they need and where they’re going.”
Philip working and managing from home.
Tackling challenges and making an impact
Infrastructure teams build the core components of Facebook and their mission is to provide the tools and services that make the Facebook apps run reliably and quickly. While there are many infrastructure organizations within Facebook, Philip works on the Client Foundation team. His team is responsible for delivering every image and photo you see on the Facebook platform, serving millions of requests per second. “Imagine scrolling through your timeline and finding broken links without any images. That would be a disaster! Delivering images reliably is a huge responsibility—it’s how many of us absorb information most easily,” Philip says.
When he joined the team, Philip had to get up to speed to understand how his team could work cross-functionally. “We’re a group of engineers that rely on other teams for insight on how we can improve user experience,” Philip shares. “Performance was a big priority for my team last year, and we worked directly with data scientists and engineers to see how quickly images were being delivered. We found that out of the 1,100-1,200 images a day a person sees, if just a fraction of these take more than a second to load, their perception of the app decreased.”
Finding performance wins out of such a large number of images was a big challenge for Philip and his team. “Almost any other industry would find moving a metric by .01 percent completely meaningless,” he notes. “However, for us, there was a strong correlation between slow images and poor perception. Understanding what that meant, how to measure it and improve that number, and then get a clear signal from the users that it had improved their impression of the app was complicated to execute but worth it—everything comes back to the people using our apps, how can we make things better for them every day,” he shares.
When sharing what makes the London office special to him, Philip appreciates that it sits at the very heart of the city center. “On my first day, I went to the rooftop garden where you can see all the places that make London unique. We are right here in the middle of all this activity of the capital. To me, this reinforces the role London plays in Facebook’s global engineering effort.”
Philip and his entire team are based in London and, like many in London, the team is growing. They’re looking for engineers who are willing to be flexible with their experience and put people first. “At Facebook, and in the London teams in particular, people have different backgrounds, and for many introducing their own perspective into our office culture can be intimidating. I remind my team of the unique qualities they have that make their contributions valuable and valued, and to be true to themselves by putting their growth as an engineer first.”
Philip embraced this mentality during his time at Facebook bootcamp. “When people are faced with the option to either work all night to complete a task or rest to feel more fresh tomorrow, I recommend they take care of themselves instead of overdoing it and burning out,” he says. “As managers, we devote a lot of time to ensuring our teams take time for themselves, to have clear daylight between work and home.”
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