Apr 28 2023
How textile design is helping a researcher build the metaverse
By Meta Careers
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When you ask Harini C., a UX researcher, about her career, she describes herself as a “dot connector” with a passion for finding patterns. Beginning as a textile designer in India where she grew up, her early affinity for art led her to a new interest: understanding the people and psychology behind the fabrics. “Regardless of my role, I’m always thinking about how to identify patterns big and small and getting as detailed as the threads whenever I need to,” she smiles.

Today, Harini brings her creative connectivity to AR and the metaverse, where she’s helping create immersive experiences for people around the world. While each step in Harini’s path was driven by her interests, even she didn’t predict the rich tapestry they would be woven into.

An unexpected path to Meta

Harini’s deepening interest in creative problem-solving led her to teach design research, which opened up a world of diverse global experiences. After completing a fellowship in Sweden, Harini participated in a design experiment sponsored by the Italian government at the Polytechnic Institute in Milan. After that project ended, she started her own multidisciplinary agency alongside other designers with equally diverse backgrounds.

Harini’s next global move was for another reason: love. She relocated to the U.S to be with her husband, inspiring her to reimagine the next step in her career. After completing her master’s degree in global marketing communications at Emerson College, Harini joined a small startup founded by two Harvard Business School graduates and traveled the world to help global clients. “I basically lived out of a suitcase for four years,” she jokes. “I loved that role because it combined design, marketing and research.” Once Harini had her first child, she joined Nordstrom’s Innovation team for a change of pace that kept her closer to home.

When Harini had twins a couple years later, she connected with a recruiter from Meta who wanted to learn more about her unique background. “Tech wasn’t even on my radar,” she shares. “But everything else I’d done in my life had been different from the last thing, so I felt confident exploring the opportunity. The timing and the opportunity were the right fit at the right time.”

Connecting dots to build the best possible experience for people around the world

Harini joined Meta in a technical role that challenged her to dive headfirst into a different space. Soon, she saw the opportunity to bring her pattern-identifying talents to the team and projects she works on. “I couldn’t have imagined just how well my past experience would transfer to this work,” she explains. “But just like with examining textiles, I’m connecting the dots between stories here. We work together to identify gaps and create compelling narratives, helping build the best possible experience for people using Meta technologies.”

After a year, Harini felt the “heart tug” to do something consumer-facing, so she moved to the horizontal research and strategy team in the metaverse. Now, she collaborates with stakeholders to shape the strategy for user experience research in Reality Labs. “My job as a horizontal/pathfinding user researcher is to make connections between teams to see our product from the lens of the people who use it and how we can truly solve for their needs,” she shares.

In both of her roles at Meta, Harini has learned how to navigate ambiguity and develop versatile skills to solve complexity in the future. “Problems at Meta are one of plenty,” she smiles. “There’s always an abundance of exciting challenges to work on, and things are constantly changing. It’s important we think strategically about how we can solve problems in a really durable way.”

“I love embracing the gray areas and helping teams move from chaos to something concrete — even in the smallest of ways. When we can find patterns and break something down into small actionable steps, it doesn’t feel overwhelming anymore.”

Shaping the future

A mom to three children under five, Harini credits her family for inspiring forward-looking work. “Growing up in India, there were limited career paths, and anyone who went outside the norm was an outlier,” she explains. “When I think about the world my kids are growing up in, the kinds of interactions they will be able to have — and how they’ll learn — is evolving quickly. I want to be able to help shape the future in a positive way.”

“Products like Meta Quest already spark curiosity and trigger an unlimited world of possibilities, which is incredibly exciting.”

Harini believes next-generation technology like AR and the metaverse have the power to make learning more tangible and less abstract. “I love to see glimpses of what learning and innovation could look like if our vision is realized as we imagine it could be,” she shares. “There’s potential to shift human behavior in a really impactful way in the coming years.”

When asked to reflect on her incredible career journey and the excitement she feels about helping build the metaverse, Harini comes back to the power of letting your interests lead you. “The metaverse is new, and working in tech and filing patents isn’t something I could’ve imagined for myself,” she explains. “With your career, you might start in one place and end up somewhere completely different! Finding work that excites you and leaves you feeling fulfilled is all about balancing your knowledge and leveraging your strengths. When each person brings their unique experience, perspective and passions to the table, we can do amazing things together.”

Stay connected.

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