Jan 25 2022

What it means to lead in design as an Individual Contributor

By Meta Careers
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When you think about leadership at work, what comes to mind first? For many people, it’s management. At Meta, we believe that everyone, regardless of whether or not they’re a manager, can demonstrate strong leadership and have a positive influence on the people around them.
We recently spoke with two senior-level individual contributors within the Design organization, Liv T. in London and Ronit K., in Tel Aviv, to hear about their roles and the impact they make. Read on to learn how they help shape the long-term vision for projects and products, along with the team building and mentorship opportunities they have each day.

Full autonomy and ownership over products and projects

Liv says that while she was happy doing freelance design work before she joined Meta, it was only a few months into her short-term contract before she began considering a full-time role.
“I never thought I’d work long-term for a global company like Meta,” she admits. “As a freelancer, I had a lot of flexibility with choosing my projects and creating my schedule every day. I was surprised to find that I could have this at Meta too. No two days are the same and while I try to keep things fairly consistent, I appreciate the flexibility I have to organize my schedule and life in a way that empowers me to do my best work.”
"Liv standing in front of a graffiti wall with her arms crossed"
Liv, a product designer at Meta
Ronit, a former co-founder of a design school in Tel Aviv, says her experience as a senior-level individual contributor felt a lot like building a company did. “I love the autonomy and freedom I have with strategy, giving direction and managing projects,” she shares. “The sense of ownership I feel over my work drives me, and I love collaborating with such a talented and incredibly smart team.”
"Ronit sits in a chair with a laptop on her knee"
Ronit, a Meta product designer

A strong hand in shaping long-term, strategic vision

Though Liv and Ronit do design work, they spend the majority of their time focusing on the long-term vision for the products they work on and the teams they work with.
“I spend about 50 percent of my time on strategy,” Liv explains. “For example, I worked on a cross-functional team sprint where we reimagined the flow for creating ads. I collaborated with partners within the Facebook app and Instagram to address inconsistencies in the experience and build new tools. We spent five full weeks focusing on the project, not knowing what the end result would be. Two months later, 100 team members from around the world flew to London so we could work together and figure out how to bring our new vision to life.”
In Tel Aviv, Ronit initiates and owns projects while working with teams across the globe. “Most of my time goes to planning, thinking and strategy,” she says. “When I focus on that and collaborate closely with my team, solutions come more easily and we can execute faster together.”
“Growing as an individual contributor means taking on more responsibility,” she continues. “You can lead a larger scope of a project or product. You see the bigger picture, and you get the opportunity to work with different global teams, which include designers, content strategists, engineers, data scientists and product managers.”

Making an impact through mentorship

Ronit says she’s witnessed how Meta’s parallel tracks for managers and individual contributors help foster strong leadership across the company. “I think it should be like this everywhere,” she notes. “Management isn’t the only way to have influence or make an impact on others. Having the opportunity to share what I’ve learned is important to me, and being an individual contributor is the best of both worlds. You get to work on amazing products and mentor other people.”
“The management structure at Meta is great,” Liv agrees. “I’ve consistently had incredible managers, and there’s huge opportunity for growth on both tracks. We’re regularly presented with challenges, and things are always changing. I choose not to be a manager myself, but over the last three years, I’ve come to see that I can help our team develop, grow and make an impact in a number of ways. I’m hands-on with recruiting, interviewing and design mentoring.”
“There are endless opportunities to design your own path here,” she concludes. “We have directors who chose to become individual contributors, and others who have switched back and forth to management. I truly appreciate Meta’s focus on personal growth.”

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