In our series, “Five Minutes With,” we’ll introduce you to inspiring team members at Facebook with five questions/answers. Today, we’re talking with Caitlin K., Director of VR Hardware in the AR/VR org at Facebook. Keep reading to learn about how she's making an impact in an emerging field, developing as a leader, and helping others do the same.
What sparked your interest in AR/VR?
I hadn’t worked in AR/VR before I joined the Oculus team five years ago. I was working on Facebook’s Infrastructure team when we acquired Oculus, and I was shown an initial Rift prototype. It blew my mind to be able to be somewhere else through this technology, and I was instantly excited about it. AR/VR is an incredible connectivity medium that’s designed for people, regardless of age and gender, who live anywhere in the world.
How would you describe the culture of your AR/VR team?
I spend most days with the hardware team, the only division at Facebook that ships physical devices for consumers, like Oculus’ virtual reality headsets and our video calling devices called Portal. Software products can be shipped in three months, but Hardware requires longer-term planning, up to three years to develop the right VR product. We’re a curious group and ask a lot of questions. Everyone on the team is at the top of their game, but we’re also fun and social people you’d want to hang out with. Our friendships help drive how things get done, and we’re valued because we’re different, not in spite of it.
How is Facebook poised to lead the industry in AR/VR?
I like to call VR an empathy machine. There are many different ways to have empathy, but I think the most powerful is feeling close to friends and family. AR/VR is inherently social and connective. I believe Facebook is the ideal company to lead the AR/VR industry because Facebook is a social platform first. We already care deeply about helping people find communities, so it's natural for us to help people do that using innovative technology on these new platforms.
Even though we’re still in the early stages of exploring this new ground, our products are already helping people connect. For example, people use Portal to talk to their loved ones more frequently—even when they're far away. In games like Echo Arena, people have formed teams to connect with other players and help newbies. There are even more benefits when you link your Oculus ID to your Facebook account, your 360-degree photos are automatically available in VR, like the ones I shared with my friends from a recent trip to Africa. I was able to immediately access these photos in VR, and it was amazing and powerful to look around and remember what I had experienced on that trip.
How have you been supported by mentorship/leadership at Facebook?
Facebook develops leaders through resources like classes and executive coaching, but we also get direct feedback from peers and other leaders. My managers check my blind spots, listen to questions, and address my concerns. I can’t think of a better place than Facebook to learn, grow, and develop as a leader.
How do you stay motivated and innovative?
I used to say that simply making things for other people to use and love helped me stay innovative, but over the last two years I’ve realized that I also like to help others build things themselves. I love seeing them do what they thought they couldn’t do. It’s motivating to help people grow and create impact, too.