Apr 14 2023
How a non-traditional background led to cutting-edge XR tech
By Meta Careers
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“I lived in seven countries across Europe and Asia by the time I was 18,” shares Isabel, a data scientist and self-described “diplomat kid.” “Moving every few years meant getting to know different cultures and new perspectives. I became fascinated with understanding how people experience the world, what’s important to them and what makes them feel happy and fulfilled.”

This early interest in “what makes people tick” propelled Isabel along a non-traditional path — to Meta and in life. From each unique step in her journey, she grew a unique point of view that she uses as a data scientist on the Reality Labs team at Meta, where her curiosity continues to bring her to uncharted places.

Embracing curiosity to chart her path

Isabel’s global upbringing filled her with questions early on, which she looked to answer by studying psychology and philosophy during undergrad in the US. “Understanding that people have different mindsets is foundational to my work today,” she shares. “Psychology taught me that if you want to build for the future, you can’t make assumptions about what other people think. You need to include diverse perspectives.”

Leaning into her curiosity, Isabel embraced life as a digital nomad and joined a startup in Estonia as a marketing lead. Her experience in the tech-forward country inspired her to return to the US for grad school, where she studied business analytics. Master’s degree in hand, Isabel dove deeper into the technical side, completing a machine learning fellowship and software engineering bootcamp. There, she worked on projects with computer vision and augmented reality that brought new passions to life.

“I’ve done a lot of self-reflection about who I am and what my values and strengths are. Being authentic has guided me where I’m meant to go.”

Isabel’s newfound interests led her to a Women in Tech conference, where she met a team member from Meta Quest. “I was intimidated because I thought that team was game-centered and I’m not a gamer,” she remembers. “But I had such warm, friendly conversations with everyone. I knew these were people I wanted to work with.” And with no further hesitation, she applied.

Evolving in her career at Meta

Since joining Meta, Isabel has continued to gather new experiences — some in unexpected places. “We have a guiding principle at Meta that ‘nothing is someone else’s problem,’” she shares. “You have agency to explore teams, projects and hobbies beyond your core work. Some of the most fun and rewarding things I've done were side projects that came from making connections across teams.”

“At Meta, you’re not siloed to one focus area. I’m encouraged to bring new ideas and creative problem-solving — skills I’ve gained through different life experiences.”

Isabel’s first role at Meta was on the Meta Quest core tech team in Menlo Park, CA, which focuses on human-centered AI models that power eye, hand and face tacking on the headsets. Here, she brought her social science and technical sides together to work on inclusive AI. “We had to make sure the models worked well for people with all physical characteristics — no matter if you have different hand sizes, wear glasses or sport a beard.”

After falling in love with VR, Isabel moved to London to join the metaverse avatars team as its first data scientist. Today, she’s focused on understanding how people use avatars across Meta Quest and Meta technologies and programs. “Data science is the voice of the customer,” she explains. “We use data to understand what people want to do on the platforms and identify issues they’re running into. With that insight, we can build the best possible experience.”

Bringing the magic of the metaverse to life with Reality Labs

Isabel was drawn to the metaverse for the opportunity to build “truly cutting-edge tech.” “Even experts are new to this field,” she says. “That's what’s exciting — everyone is learning about this space together, which means there is incredible room to grow, innovate and drive impact.”

Representation is currently a top priority for Isabel and her team. They are focused on building an avatar editor that people can use to create avatars that represent them, from appearance to clothing. “There’s a lot of complex problems when it comes to representation, like how light appears on different skin tones. It’s important to solve for those details, so people can really engage and connect with their avatars.”

“When I think of the metaverse and what this technology could offer, I think about being able to salsa dance with my friends in Estonia while I’m in London.”

To get representation right, Isabel collaborates with other teams to see the whole picture. She works closely with the user research team to bring qualitative and quantitative research together. She also partners with design and engineering to build the best possible experience, testing new features to make sure people love them. “This cross-functional teamwork brings the magic of the metaverse to life,” Isabel smiles.

Just as she’s embraced curiosity and creativity in her own life, Isabel’s work will empower people to experience new ways to express themselves and connect in brand-new, deeply immersive ways. “We aren’t building the metaverse alone, and the metaverse won’t replace real life,” she says. “Instead, we want to make it more fun and enjoyable for everyone to explore their interests and connect with people and things they love in new ways.”

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