In our recurring series, “Five Minutes With,” we ask inspiring team members across the Facebook company five questions about what they’re working on and how they’re driving impact. Today, we’re talking with Florian H., a product design leader on the Collaboration Tools team, to learn more about what it means to be a product designer working on Facebook’s infrastructure, how his work has shifted in today’s climate, and the opportunity to drive impact.
1. What excites you about your role and what you’re working on right now?
Working in Infrastructure is exciting for me because we create products that empower everyone at Facebook to connect the world. We are looking after the experience of all our co-workers who are using our internal tools. The Collaboration Tools team specifically is responsible for building technology that scales our collaborative culture inside Facebook and keeps us moving fast. The intersection of hardware and software excites me a lot. I remember walking into Facebook’s office in London last year when I was interviewing and being completely amazed by the amount of hardware and software the company has built internally to help our teams work better and smarter.
Right now, obviously everything is shifting. With nearly the entire company working from home, remote presence for employees is a huge priority. Many teams are supporting each other and we are helping out on a few bigger initiatives. Helping to build tech that is not only impacting our company, but the entire workforce across the globe, is really exciting.
2. How does your role differ from traditional product designers?
What’s great about working in Product Design within Infrastructure at Facebook is that the scope of our work is much more ambiguous. A lot of our problems we are working on have never been solved before at this scale. Some of our teams don’t have product management support yet, so designers can step up and guide teams with their product thinking. People in our organization tend to be involved on the system and strategy level, but the design craft is incredibly important to us. We value good communicators who know how to move things forward—prototyping for example is our way of designing and communicating, not just a deliverable at the end.
3. How has the current climate shifted your priorities and your work?
Right now, we’re living in a world where people are unable to collaborate face-to-face. While we’ve built a variety of tools to help with presence and to make video collaboration easier, we’re just getting started. There are still a lot of challenges with virtual meetings. For example, showing reactions or getting someone’s attention when you’re in a big meeting on video is tough. People have come up with various simple methods of coping with challenges like this, but I believe technology can solve these problems in more immersive ways.
I truly believe we could enable experiences with this. Maybe remote meetings can extend and guide meetings when we are sitting across from each other in one physical room. As we work toward a future in which remote work will be increasingly common, our team is identifying and helping to build solutions that will pave a path for this new way of collaboration.
4. What type of skills do you need to thrive in this role?
The most successful product designers on our team are those who have the ability to take broad concepts and convert them into actionable steps to build new products. Designers who thrive in ambiguity and enjoy driving a vision even if that means many iterations fare well here. Our team is composed of people who are confident working at the intersection of software and hardware, and who aren’t afraid to voice their opinions. There is no need to be a visionary, but having an opinion is important, and sometimes that means to be willing to put your foot down for it. And above all, there needs to be a passion to solve problems that are real.
5. What keeps you in this role?
Over time, we are building a larger team of infrastructure designers in London and I am quite excited to see how that will come together and what I will be able to learn along the way. The company is working at the forefront of technology to bring people closer together and I want to support designers who have impact, especially in today’s changing environment. It always sounds superficial when I talk to candidates about this, but I actually never saw this kind of autonomy before, in no other company I worked in. Product teams control their own destiny here by choosing the problems they want to solve in their space—and then have the engineering power to actually make it happen.