Editor’s Note: As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, so must we. Staying connected with family members, friends and businesses has taken on new meaning. Teams at Meta are involved in efforts to keep people informed and safe as we build the programs, products and services our communities rely on. In this story, we share learnings and advice from four engineering leaders at Meta who are navigating change with their teams.
Change is essential for growing, thriving organizations, but a dramatic shift in the way we work has challenged leaders to find new ways to motivate, inspire and collaborate with their teams.
We asked four members of Meta’s engineering leadership team to share their collective experiences on how they navigate change during the coronavirus pandemic. From leading with empathy and supporting work-life flexibility to sharing productivity tips, here’s how they’re guiding and empowering teams during this time.
1. Embracing empathy and communication to navigate change
According to Jerome Pesenti, VP of AI, being mindful of what teams are experiencing is the key to staying calm, offering guidance and showing support. “As leaders, we need to show a lot of empathy for what people are going through and give everybody the opportunity to have as much of a normal life as possible, given the circumstances,” he says.
Mudit Goel, Director of Engineering for Real-Time Communications Infrastructure (RTC), agrees. “It’s important to remember that different people have different situations,” he says. “I’ve seen kids pop into the middle of a meeting to hug their parents. I’ve seen fire alarms come through, and I’ve seen fire ants attack a person I was talking to! We all have to find ways to work with others’ constraints.”
Mudit Goel at home
2. Leading by example
Whether it’s by championing work-life flexibility or simply asking for help, Jerome believes that it’s important for leaders to live by example.
“Many leaders, on my team and across the company, have shown that they need to adjust their regular schedule,” he observes. “We need people to find balance in a new and sustainable way. Find what works for you and makes you most productive.”
Surupa Biswas, an engineering director on Meta’s Developer Infrastructure group, echoes Jerome’s sentiments. “I’ve learned how to ask for help,” she says. “It’s also been fascinating to watch others accept help, from all corners of the company. Even though Meta has grown so much, we really feel like one big team working on all of these critical projects together.”
3. Ruthless prioritization in the face of uncertainty
It’s important to balance being an empathetic and inspirational leader with a focus on business goals and growth. Prioritizing relevant work and connecting it to a core mission can help teams adapt and stay motivated.
Ning Li, VP, AR Input and Interaction of Meta Apps, suggests focusing on what’s most relevant to maintain momentum—even if plans or projects need to be shifted or scrapped. “It’s okay to delay or cancel certain projects,” she says. “It’s more important to stay focused on what’s critical in that moment and address new challenges.”
Even more, she adds, bringing relevant work back to a shared mission can help motivate team members. “For example, our team’s pivot to support small businesses is really important right now. We’ve reprioritized our work so our services run well for the businesses that need them. This stays true to Meta’s mission to help people and bring the world closer together, and we’re doing something meaningful for our society. It’s inspiring to do this work.”
4. Sharing and implementing productivity tips and hacks
While most people are learning how to work in a new environment, many have uncovered new ways to solve problems they hadn’t encountered before. Members of the engineering leadership team have embraced testing and sharing hacks alongside their teams.
“We tell each other about the different things we’re trying while working from home, and we talk about which ones work,” Mudit says. “We also discuss the specific problems we’re facing and share how we’re overcoming them.”
Surupa Biswas and son
For Surupa, building out a new schedule is her top tip. “Now, my husband and I take turns caring for our toddler during the day,” she explains. “I try to have all of my critical meetings between 8:00 am and noon.”
Mudit concludes, “There are some good things coming out of this. Many people are facing similar challenges, and we’re all learning from each other.”
This post, originally published on August 6, 2020, was updated on October 14, 2022, to reflect our shift to Meta and new details about team members, roles and responsibilities.