Nov 23 2023
This software engineer builds to empower teams with data
By Meta Careers
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Mark. W., a software engineer, defines innovation as “seeing an idea from a different angle and sparking interest in something new.” Throughout his 45-year career, he has often found this means making the connections that matter. “If people reject an idea, I’ll go the extra mile to show how it could work,” he shares.

After graduating from the University of Texas with a degree in computer science in 1978, Mark began his software career in the defense industry. As mobile advertising took off in the 2000s, he moved into startups and founded his own by 2010. Around this time, a Meta recruiter reached out to him.

“I told my wife, ‘I think this recruiter made a mistake!’” he laughs. “I loved being part of startups — there’s always so much to do — but the opportunity to tackle equally exciting and challenging things with the support of a company like Meta sounded fun.” Once Mark joined Meta, he moved his new family to Menlo Park, CA. Eight years later, he’s still using his startup mentality to connect the dots.

Connecting passions, people and communities

Transitioning from working on startups to Meta opened Mark’s eyes to a world of possibility. “Here, there are thousands of engineers working on very small pieces of a big picture,” he shares. “It reminds me of what I loved about the University of Texas. Being at a big school or global company like Meta opens the door to find fascinating niches and communities who are interested in many different things you can dive deeper into.”

Mark is part of the autism support group at Meta — just one of several reasons he enjoys coming into the office every day. “I was excited to discover other teammates within my org have kids on the spectrum,” he says. “It’s so gratifying to get together for coffee and share the amazing thing our kids did that day.” As a member of a group dedicated to astrophotography, Mark continues to keep his eye skyward, inspired constantly by what he’s able to see from downtown Menlo Park.

Astrophotograph taken by Mark W. of NGC 6960: Western Veil Nebula)

“My nine-year-old has Asperger’s Syndrome and ADHD, so having the flexibility to meet with his therapists and teachers during the day has been game-changing.”

Over his eight years at Meta, Mark has explored his interests to the fullest. “Early on, I discovered how easy it is to move from one team to another,” he shares. “I’ve been part of the Ads, Portal, AI infra and data infra teams — it has been a blast!” While Mark was a founder and manager earlier in his career, he enjoys being an individual contributor today. “I’m empowered to make an impact and I have the freedom and flexibility to decide how I do it. There’s no single path here — engineers move between organizations and technologies. I may be interested in moving back into management later on and appreciate having the option.”

Bringing data and ideas together to empower engineers

With decades of software experience, Mark pulls from every chapter of his life to fuel innovation at Meta. “I love taking an idea from a completely different field and plugging it into something new — connecting things no one else thought about,” he says.

On the Data Experiences & Intelligence team, Mark helps build tools that data scientists and engineers can use to save time and work more efficiently. “When I first joined the org, I noticed when people needed to solve a problem, they would ask teammates if they had ever done something similar. I wondered: what if we could automate the process of finding existing work to borrow from so engineers have a starting point?”

Inspired to make an impact, Mark set out to build a tool that finds other people’s database queries and notifies engineers if a query they’re starting is similar to an existing one. “I borrowed pattern recognition techniques from my college days, designed and built the tool, and then promoted it and got feedback from potential users through Messenger,” he explains. “I delivered the project in May and we’ve seen great results where people are connecting to build together.”

“Our team doesn’t build the houses — we build the tools that people use to build the houses.”

Looking ahead, Mark imagines future growth for the query project. “Next, I want to tie the tool into generative AI, so people can find good queries and that AI can put together to write the SQL,” he says. “Right now I feel so proud to create innovative tools that help data engineers see things in a new light. Meta is truly a data-driven company, so I love helping people connect with data.”

Stay connected.

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