The Facebook company’s Zurich office is home to a team of engineers who focus on building technologies that shape the company’s augmented and virtual reality products. It’s a highly specialized site with many opportunities to work on new technologies that are paving the way for the future of human interaction.
We interviewed Facebook Zurich site lead and Software Engineering Manager Rasmus D., to learn more about the work coming out of Facebook Zurich, the office culture, and opportunities for engineers.
1. What is your role as site lead of Facebook Zurich and what led you here?
My role is to manage and grow the Zurich office and ensure teams have what they need to drive our roadmap forward. I’ve been at the Facebook company for three years. I relocated a few months ago from Menlo Park to oversee the Zurich office. It is an incredibly exciting and rewarding opportunity, and I’m looking forward to building the team here.
Prior to joining the Facebook team, I spent many years at a mobile technology company. I was part of the team working on building mobile phones. I remember working on them for a while and then, all of a sudden, they were everywhere.
At one point, I was driving through Africa and saw a woman carrying one child on her back and another on her hip. She was talking on a phone that was developed by my company. It was amazing to see someone across the globe, in an area where technology is much less ubiquitous, using something that I built.
Bringing accessibility to people around the world is something I’m passionate about, and it’s why I chose to join the team at Facebook. Having the opportunity to build a product that consumers really want and that will bring people together in a new way inspires me. Facebook gives me the opportunity to do it.
2. What is the team focused on in Zurich? How does this work contribute to the Facebook company's mission of building community and bringing the world closer together?
We are focused on building computer vision and machine learning technologies with the goal of advancing the state of virtual and augmented reality devices. The work we do is all centered around machine perception—working to ensure the technologies inside VR headsets can understand the environment around them. It’s exciting because we are developing a core technology that will serve as the basis for some of Facebook’s future products. There are very few places in the world that are working on building the future of computer perception.
We believe augmented and virtual reality is the key to building new and more immersive ways of bringing people closer together. Imagine being able to have a 3D in-person virtual meeting with people across the globe.
We are developing the technology blocks that are needed to bring this technology to life and bridge distances between people.
3. Tell us what it's like to work out of Facebook's Zurich office.
One of the great things about the Zurich office is that it feels like a startup. Many of the engineers at Facebook Zurich came from Zurich Eye
—a joint program from ETH University and University of Zurich that researched self-navigating systems. As a result, everyone knows each other, there’s a lot of flexibility, and people are encouraged to follow their own convictions when it comes to the work they are doing. If you have the conviction to do something that maps to our vision, Facebook will give you the means to pursue it and change direction if needed. It’s one of the things I love most about our culture.
From a lifestyle perspective, my relocation was a very easy and low-friction experience. Zurich is relatively small, but it still has that big city vibe. The public transportation and infrastructure here is great, and it’s easy to get to work without having to deal with a hectic commute. Not to mention we have close access to some of the most beautiful nature in all of Europe. With several universities in the area, there is always something happening. It’s an energizing environment with lots to do and explore.
4. What are the opportunities for growth in Facebook Zurich?
Engineers here have the opportunity to build technology and products that have never been built before. One of the biggest challenges is developing something from a research state into a product that is valuable to people. It’s a huge opportunity to learn what it means to to bring new technologies to a vast consumer audience. Even more, we have a team of world class experts in computer vision and perception. Engineers have the opportunity to learn from some of the best minds in the industry, and apply their research-driven backgrounds to build products that are poised to shape the future of human interaction.
5. What advice do you have for people who are considering joining the team?
Come in with an open mind. We have a bottom-up culture here, and it’s very non-hierarchical. You’re expected to formulate your own opinions and bring your own principles to work. People want to hear your perspective, and it’s up to you to get mindshare from your coworkers if you want to pursue something new—whether you’re a manager or an individual contributor. It’s a unique dynamic that will not only enrich your work, but also your interactions in your personal life.