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Dec 01 2020

Passion First, the Rest Will Follow: Production Engineering Q&A

By Facebook Careers
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Several years ago, Sean C. noticed a Facebook post about a pup that was left abandoned on the side of the road in Blaina, South Wales. He started following the story and eventually came to adopt the sweet Whippet mix now known as Louie, affectionately named after a favorite game character. He shared this story with us when we sat down to talk with him about his journey to the Facebook company. In his words: “This is just one example of the ways Facebook is making an impact in people’s lives around the world.”
"A dog dressed in a sweater laying on a crocheted blanket"
Louie, one of Sean’s three dogs, is now thriving under the loving care of Sean and his partner Janet.
Sean's path to the Facebook company started in 2018, when he was working in tech at a large American bank but had ambitions to work at a large scale web company. Now a production engineering manager in our London office, he helps to ensure that Facebook platforms are reliable, responsive and scalable.

From physics to production engineering

“I’ve always been interested in technology and how things work. As a young child, I enjoyed messing with computers but ultimately, my studies led me down a different path. I earned a Physics PhD and worked in research during the initial years of my career, but further down the line I was drawn back to what I loved most: computers.
I transitioned into the tech field, initially working on the infrastructure side at a large European bank and then subsequently in other roles in finance and telecoms. I really enjoyed these experiences, but still had ambitions to work at a fast-paced technology company centered around connection. My passion for large scale infrastructure, and drive to work for a company that interested me, led me to my current position at Facebook.”
“This is why I always encourage people to work on things they’re passionate about. Even if you don’t initially have a lot of experience in the area, having a fierce commitment and excitement about the work you’re doing will ultimately lead to the best end result.”

Solving complex problems at scale

“Production engineers love a problem, whether it’s solving complex challenges at Facebook or personal projects at home. Give us any problem and we’ll want to work with it.
At Facebook, production engineers are passionate about making things work and comfortable with unpredictable difficulties. Given the scale at which we work, we often need to solve problems in ways that no one has ever thought of before. And we need to do so while keeping Facebook’s apps and technologies up and running.
My team provides the compute power for a large proportion of Facebook’s services. During the COVID-19 pandemic our role has become more important than ever. More and more people are using Facebook around the clock and my team is one of those at the center of enabling it to function smoothly.”

Leading through the global pandemic

"Sean smiling while sitting in front of a computer monitor"
Sean fondly remembers this year’s virtual Production Engineering Summit.
“At Facebook, we don’t manage people, we support people. And this has been even more evident during the pandemic. My team has been much busier during the pandemic as it has caused such a massive increase in people using our apps. I view showing care as core to being a leader in general and in particular during this time. I try to lead with empathy and compassion.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, I’ve also increased my efforts to ensure that my team feels supported and heard. Production engineers are a tight bunch and we’re used to being physically close to one another, so I doubled up on my weekly remote one-on-ones to check in on each person and see how they were doing. I also hold a daily morning “coffee time” meeting where we talk about interesting and fun things outside of work. Not everyone is comfortable sharing their personal stories, and I thought people might have trouble opening up, so I kicked it off by sharing what was happening with me. We now often share fun personal stories while talking about the projects we’re working on. This has really resonated with my team and has helped deepen our bonds while we’re working from home.
Facebook as a company has also been incredible in providing ways to cope with what’s happening in the world. We’ve done a lot of video chat socializing, gaming nights, social discovery games, and quizzes. We even managed to hold our annual Production Engineering Summit virtually during November! The team has gotten really creative in staying connected.”

It’s all about the people

“I’ve been most surprised by the environment in the London office. I’m learning and working in a very different environment than I’m used to, but it’s been the best change.
I came to Facebook for the challenges, which is what I expected to be most excited by, but it’s been interacting with so many different people that I’ve enjoyed most. Getting to know my team, as well as other teams, and learning more about both our similarities and our differences has been enlightening and humbling. Facebook really scours the globe to find the right people. I really love the vast diversity of backgrounds of everyone in the London office and I’m excited by the fact that on most days I learn some new, non-technical, fact.”

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