Engineering Director Surupa B has spent over 5 years of her career at Facebook. She was inspired by her father, who bought his first Apple computer in the 80s. Find out more about what keeps her busy at Facebook, and why she says she is continually challenged in her role.
What is your role at Facebook?
I am an engineering director in developer infrastructure. I support a group of teams who are building a new reactive computing platform for products at Facebook - the languages, frameworks, and distributed systems that will let us deliver data to people at the right time, as the social graph morphs and grows.
What does it take to be an engineering leader at Facebook?
Several things. First of all, empathy - being kind and caring. Having the passion to help people grow is also important. And it sounds basic, but it's super important that engineering managers be able to build teams that work together like good bands - diverse groups of people working together on ideas they're passionate about, that move us towards realizing our company mission. And lastly, managers must be able to stay focused on the big picture, and synthesize data from different sources to help decide where to invest.
How did you get interested in engineering?
Becoming an engineer came naturally to me. My father is a mechanical engineer. He bought his first Apple computer in the 80s in Germany. My father was curious, constantly learning new things and teaching them to me. When he first moved to Germany he could hardly understand a word of German. He not only learned the language, he went on to get his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at a German university. He was splendid at math and physics and my role model growing up. He inspired me and helped make math my favorite subject throughout my schooling.
How does your team work together?
Our teams are spread across Seattle, London, Boston, and Menlo Park. We're continuously learning and improving how we work across offices and time zones. We encourage everyone to travel to other offices, and we have meetings over video conference every week. That is all helpful but it's not enough. We also invest heavily in writing things down - in group posts (on Facebook), documents, diffs, code comments, and so on - to ensure we don't get blocked on teammates in other time zones. We work primarily with other engineering teams at Facebook. We partner with teams like Newsfeed, Videos, Instagram, and Oculus, as well as other infrastructure teams.
What does your typical day look like?
There aren't a lot of typical days, but there are usually quite a few meetings. Some days are full of meetings with team members, partners or customers we work with. Other days I might be interviewing candidates, attending issue reviews, product reviews, or catching up on code changes and tasks. But I also take care to be available for informal, impromptu chats and conversations - they're a really rich source of information (in both directions) and inspiration, and it's easy for them to get squeezed out by a packed schedule. So it takes effort, but I think they're really important.
How do you know you're making impact in your work?
We're a part of the developer infrastructure team at Facebook. Our work enables Facebook product developers to build engaging experiences for people around the world. We are working on ways to build these experiences while improving the efficiency of our data centers.
What do you love most about working at Facebook?
The wealth of opportunities to do meaningful work that serves billions of people around the world. In my four years here I've worked on a v1 product, a couple of v1 infrastructure projects, and on HHVM, our flagship virtual machine for running Hack code. The work is fun and challenging, and I feel like I am learning every day.
What piece of advice would you give an engineering leader who is interviewing at Facebook?
Reflect on your past experiences and why things may have played out the way they did. We want to know you have the technical chops, and also that you've reflected on and learned from your past experiences.