Feb 21 2023

How Avatars are empowering digital inclusivity

By Meta Careers
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If you've played Beat Saber or worn a Meta Quest headset, chances are you've customized an avatar to represent yourself.

“As VR changes the way we work and live together, we need our avatars to represent us in front of our friends, family, coworkers, partners and clients,” says Chris H., engineering director, Avatar & Identity, on the future of digital representation. From the moment you sit down with Chris, his passion for avatars is both clear and contagious. Making people feel seen and included is core to his role — and his personal mission — whether it’s in the VR landscape or on his teams.
“From the moment I interviewed at Meta, I was excited by the opportunity to solve hard problems with talented, thoughtful teams in a well-supported environment,” he remembers. “I saw every ingredient needed for innovation, and it was pretty clear the team was in a place to take a real shot at building real representation online.”
Now an engineering director, Chris supports both the experiences team, which focuses on making and using avatars across the Meta technologies, and the marketplace team, which helps people find outfits and apparel to express themselves. Whether he’s removing barriers or solving problems, Chris sees himself as an enabler of his teams — a low-ego approach that has also shaped his growth as a leader over the course of his career.

Building digital representation for the future

Chris’ top priority is helping people feel represented on the internet and in the metaverse. “I’ve always been fascinated by how people choose to appear online, and now I have the opportunity to help everyone bring their own self-images to life.” To help people represent themselves accurately, Chris knew he needed to look beyond his personal experience. “My team collaborates with internal groups across Meta and we’ve invested in research to understand how people use avatars around the world,” he shares. “We’ve partnered with experts to render things like hair and skin in 2D and 3D, so people can really see themselves in the options we offer.”
According to Chris, his team knows they’re making an impact when people choose to express themselves with their avatars. “We want people to not only feel represented by their avatars, but also comfortable expressing themselves through simple things like stickers or a profile picture,” he shares. “We know the system’s working, quite simply, when that representation inspires them to use it.”
“We spend a lot of time thinking about how to build an inclusive experience. We’re helping people find digital representation online through their avatars.”

Empowering diverse teams to build inclusive experiences

To represent people from all over the world, the Avatars & Identity team ensures there are always diverse voices in the room. “Creating an inclusive environment is critical to building products people around the world will use and love,” says Chris. “In my role, I work to empower everyone to feel comfortable voicing their perspectives and taking risks.”
“A well-supported, diverse team will outperform a non-diverse team every day.”
Chris embraces the bottoms-up approach at Meta. “We know that leaders don’t have all the answers and good ideas can come from anywhere,” he explains. At every level, engineers and individual contributors (ICs) are empowered to make decisions and change direction.” Chris is especially intentional about creating inclusive, hybrid environments for his cross-border remote teams, which span London, Europe and California. “Whether people are in person or on a video call, in the same time zone or across the world, it’s critical that they feel both valued and heard.”
"Chris in a field with his family"

Harnessing internal mobility to grow as a leader

When Chris joined his first team at Meta in 2020, he was working remotely in New York City — a new experience that taught him how to be a virtual leader. “I had to accept that the first time you try something, you’re going to be bad at it,” he smiles. “Over time, if you’re introspective, you can build a set of principles that works for you.” For Chris, communication is the cornerstone. “At Meta, we’re driven by impact, so it’s important to set clear expectations about what that looks like with your team. By eliminating surprises down the road, you can actually enable your team to be more flexible.”
“Joining Meta fully remote — learning to communicate and bond with people virtually — prepared me to support international teams today.”
After transferring to the Avatar & Identity team in London in 2021, Chris gained a newfound appreciation for the opportunity to follow his passions within Meta. “Once you’re well-established in a role, you’re free to move around the company, work on different challenges and discover what inspires you,” he reflects. “People do way better work when they’re passionate about it — and for me, that’s certainly digital representation.” While Chris embraces a low-ego approach to leadership, it’s clear he brings a high level of energy and heart to everything he does, as a manager, team member and believer in the future of VR.

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