Mar 15 2023

How a Machine Learning Engineer found passion in unexpected places

By Meta Careers
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Chris L., a machine learning engineer, grew up as a competitive dancer who had never heard of computer science. “Never mind artificial intelligence!” he adds.
For years, Chris’ life was headed in a different direction. His world revolved around dance — spending 30 hours a week training in classical ballet, contemporary jazz and hip hop. In college, he took classes Monday through Thursday and toured the country performing in different cities every weekend.
“Dance was the first thing to teach me that when you’re genuinely passionate about something, the energy and investment you feel is so worthwhile,” he says.

A new direction

Then, Chris experienced what he calls “the inflection point.” Attending a tech-centric university, he was encouraged to enroll in an introductory computer science class.
“I never thought I’d be able to understand this stuff,” he says. “So my first realization in the class was, ‘Oh, I’m good at this.’ Then came, ‘And I enjoy it, and I can build something valuable. This is what I’m meant to do.’”
That spark inspired Chris to pursue computer science for his undergraduate and graduate degrees, before joining Meta as a machine learning engineer on the Instagram team. Here, his right- and left-brain thinking came together.
“I specifically wanted to work on Instagram because it’s a platform that supports creatives, which resonated with me as a dancer,” he says. “I was also amazed by the fact that I could write code and build products that touch a billion people at 21 years old. That scale is unbeatable!”
"Chris with his arms folded laughing in front of a mint green wall"
Chris was drawn to working on Instagram because it resonated with his creative side.
Chris and his team aim to help people see meaningful and engaging content that fuels their creative interests and aspirations. “We work on content recommendation algorithms that power Reels,” he explains. “Our goal is for everyone to walk away from the app having a good experience.”
Some of Chris’ favorite projects, however, have come from unexpected places. “I’m encouraged to build new things or make improvements, even if it’s in a different code base or beyond my team’s role,” he shares. “I’ve taken on projects to improve my development process or make my edge tooling easier to navigate. If you see potential, you can make an impact.”

Community as strength

This outside-the-box thinking is what led Chris to join the Pride@Bay Area Employee Resource Group (ERG). While he’s proud of his identity, he never saw it as an asset. “Getting involved in Pride@ showed me that being part of the LGBTQ+ community can actually be used as a strength in the workplace.”
Now a co-lead of the Pride@Bay Area ERG, Chris leads the professional development pillar where he helps others unlock their hidden talents and dreams. Whether hosting internal events for LGBTQ+ people at Meta, collaborating with university recruiting or partnering with Out & Equal, a global workforce advocacy nonprofit, Chris is always looking for new ways to reach people.
“When many of us were remote, we had to create new ways to connect,” he says. “That’s how Queer Career Stories was born. Our internal employee spotlight series highlights LGBTQ+ people across Meta to increase visibility and inspire community.”
As Chris continues to explore his interests, he feels certain that he’s in the right place and with the right people. “It’s been so fulfilling to evolve alongside my team, in my role and as a person,” he smiles. “I’m looking forward to finding new ways to build community within LGBTQ+ spaces. Anytime I share an idea, my team says, ‘Go for it!’ And I can promise you I will.”

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