Up close and personal, the Amplified Unscripted event series brings together Black leaders at the Facebook company who are influencing company culture, product decision, and community direction. With these virtual and interactive events, we provide a platform for honest dialogue about issues that are deeply relevant and impactful to the Black community.
Ime A., Vice President and Head of New Product Experimentation, moderated our ‘Built For Us, By Us: Black Leaders on Product Innovation’ event. With leaders including Alex-Handrah A., Director of Network Investments - Emerging Markets; Rachad A., Director of Engineering, Artificial Intelligence; and Maryanna Q., Product Manager, New Product Experimentation, Ime led an inspiring conversation about how product innovation can bring the world closer together, and support racial inclusion and equity.
Building Products that Drive Equality and Inclusion
The New Product Experimentation team at the Facebook company was created with the mission to spur more consumer product and industry innovation. Under Ime’s leadership, the team builds and launches products that meaningfully improve people’s lives.
“Unfortunately, the tech industry has a track record of leaving certain populations of people and communities behind,” says Ime. “I often say that innovating from within is ultimately how Facebook will continue to build meaningful products that are touching people's lives. That’s what makes our work on the New Product Experimentation team so rewarding.”
Maryanna says, “I spent many years on our Ads team and it was a great experience. Through my interest in diversity, equity, and inclusion, I had the opportunity to join the New Product Experimentation org. Now, I lead a team focused on equity and activism, and leveraging technology to drive more innovation. We put our call to action across the company, so there’s a lot of work streams happening to accelerate the path to equity in the United States and globally.”
Alex-Handrah leads the Network Investments - Emerging Markets team. She explains, “Our mission is to bring more people online. Over 3.5 billion people around the world aren’t connected to the Internet, including many in my homeland of Haiti. Closing the digital divide is critical to ensuring equity. We are incredibly excited about the 2Africa submarine cable we announced in May. It will interconnect 23 countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Europe, and it will provide nearly three times the total network capacity of all subsidence cables serving Africa today.”
Alex-Handrah A., Director of Network Investments - Emerging Markets
She adds, “This is the innovation and risk-taking that Facebook is willing to take. We're trying to get the next billion people connected, and that involves solving a number of challenges, which we’re prepared to do.”
Rachad lights up when talking about the potential for artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) technologies: “AI systems are extremely powerful, and their ability to transform experiences for people is enormous. We’re leveraging AI for issues like eliminating hate speech before people using our products even see it. We also have tools and brilliant researchers who are dedicated to helping us measure and detect any biases across our AI systems. It’s a journey, but we’re investing in making all of our systems more equitable.”
Rachad A., Director of Engineering, Artificial Intelligence
He adds, “We view AI and VR as a path to deliver the next communication frontier. Our mission is to bring the world closer together and have people form meaningful connections, and these technologies will bring that dream closer to reality.”
“Through our diverse experiences and backgrounds across the African diaspora, we have the opportunity to bring a unique perspective to leading in tech. Recently, I’ve been inspired by professional athletes walking off their respective courts to send a message about social injustice. But I think our actions within the tech industry need to be different. We have to step onto the court to make sure the products we’re building, the voices we have, and the leadership we bring to the table helps move the world in the right direction,” says Ime.
Ime A., Vice President and Head of New Product Experimentation
“Being a Black leader at Facebook can be challenging during times of social strife. Many of the debates that are happening externally are also happening internally. For many of my colleagues, the last few months have been an awakening—they learned that systematic racism exists. But as a Black woman who grew up in Brooklyn and splits my time between Oakland and Los Angeles, the presence and fear of police are never far removed. I don't have the luxury of putting these conversations to the side and just doing my job,” says Alex-Handrah.
Maryanna shares, “I grew up being the only Black person in the room, and have been the only one through much of my career. Facebook does a great job with being transparent about our diversity efforts. But the numbers won’t get better if we don’t show up as leaders. We are late as an industry, and we have to move faster to get where we ought to be.”
Maryanna Q., Product Manager, New Product Experimentation
“It’s hard to distance ourselves from the reality that we live in every day. But taking a step back, I feel privileged to be a leader at Facebook. More often than not, I’m the only Black person in the room. But I see myself in a position to be part of the solution, and bring a diverse perspective to the challenges we’re trying to solve,” says Rachad.
Alex-Handrah adds, “I joined Facebook because it gave me a platform to empower the Black community. But I can't do that if I'm silent or complicit, so I have to call it as I see it. I'm committed to doing my part by engaging in the issues and moving the needle forward. That’s what I'm here to do.”
Owning Your Voice and Driving Change
“We have some great programs in place that serve underrepresented communities, such as the Rotational Engineering program, which gives people opportunities to work on different engineering teams. We also have the Engineering Residence, which is focused on building rigorous computer science communities and curriculum, specifically at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). We have Facebook University, which goes beyond just engineering and amplifies the many ways to be involved in technology. And I’m also encouraged by our remote working initiative, which will expand our pool of candidates to people in more diverse cities, like Atlanta and Dallas,” Alex-Handrah says.
She continues, “It’s important we don't just focus on the pipeline, but the leadership level, too. We can't wait several years for our pipeline to translate into directors and VPs. We need them to be at the table right now. I'm excited that Facebook committed to increasing people of color in leadership by 30 percent by 2025. I don't want there to be a small circle of Black talent that moves from one tech company to another, like a game of musical chairs. That's not progress. We need to broaden outreach and the landscape of people that we put into leadership positions. I'm excited that Facebook is prepared to do that.”
Maryanna adds, “If you want to work on diversity and inclusion at whatever company you are in, including Facebook, I recommend talking with your manager about it. I like to say that racial equity is not my problem—it’s our country's problem, and it’s also our company’s problem. I see my role as helping us get to better solutions faster.”
The Facebook company’s Amplified Unscripted
events celebrate both the intersectionality and the diverse cultural richness of multiple communities. Through the amplification of diverse voices, we can celebrate our unique perspectives and help bring the world closer together.