Laney Z., a software engineer and site lead for the Facebook company’s Boston office, has been at Facebook for eight years. From being an intern during college to joining full-time, relocating to a new city, and having a baby, Laney has experienced several life changes over the years. We caught up with her to learn more about how she managed through the changes, how she found her community, and how she continues to uncover growth opportunities years later.
What led you to Facebook, and how has your role changed over time?
“I interned at Facebook in college, and it was my first internship at a tech company. I was fascinated by how fast things moved here, and I was excited to go from being someone who uses Facebook to being able to directly improve the product. I decided early on that I wanted to go back full-time after graduating. I found the problems interesting and exciting, and I really liked my coworkers.
Over the years, I’ve worked on a variety of teams, from News Feed to GraphQL and Relay (both open source projects), and now, working on the Real-Time Infrastructure team. Being able to change teams, learn new skills, and make an impact in different ways keeps me motivated.”
How has Facebook supported you through some of life’s biggest moments?
“Over the years at Facebook, I went from being a college grad to a new mom, and through every major transition, I’ve felt completely supported.
My first big transition at the company came after I'd been working on News Feed for about a year and a half. I wanted a change from the quick iteration cycles of product work. I initially felt guilty about this, and wondered, ‘Do I still belong here?' Spoiler alert: I did and do belong here. After several years and team changes, I understand that a successful engineering organization needs engineers with many different strengths, interests, and values. I thought my desire to slow down meant I wasn’t a good fit for Facebook, but it really meant that my current project was no longer a great fit for me. One of the best things about Facebook’s engineering culture is that finding the right team fit is actively encouraged. After deciding to participate in a Hackamonth (a program at Facebook that allows engineers to work on a completely different team for one month) with Facebook’s Relay team, I transitioned to the team full-time and found it to be a great match.
A couple years later, having lived in the Bay Area since starting college, I realized it wasn’t the right fit long-term. My husband and I wanted to move to the Boston area, and Facebook had a small office in Cambridge that was growing. I started the conversation with my management team in early 2015, and they were supportive of me relocating. I was able to move and keep working on my current team, and I was also given the opportunity to build a new team around my work in Boston. I’m grateful to have been able to make the personal life change I wanted while continuing to work on something I was passionate about.
Today, Boston is still home and I had my first child here. Facebook truly cares about setting new moms up for success. There are so many awesome benefits for parents, and our parental leave policy is very generous. I felt so lucky to have that time with my son, and for the strong support from my team as I ramped back up after returning to work.”
How did you find your community at Facebook?
“Facebook has a lot of groups around shared interests, from board games to coffee drinking, which makes it easy to meet people that aren’t on your team. I’m part of the Life@ Facebook running club, which has been a lot of fun. The Women@ Facebook employee resource group has also been an amazing way to connect with others and make friends.”
How has Facebook helped facilitate your growth?
“At Facebook, you’re completely in control of your career. I believe that working on different teams is critical to growth, and I’ve had so many learning opportunities as a result of my career trajectory. I plan to stay on the individual contributor track, but that doesn’t stop me from growing and leading. As an experienced engineer, I have the opportunity to mentor junior team members, which has been incredibly rewarding.
Aside from my role as a software engineer, I’m also the site lead for Facebook’s Boston office. When I moved to Boston, the office was growing at a rapid pace, so there were lots of opportunities to jump in and shape the culture and our local presence in the community. I helped organize events, became the intern director for our first intern class, and ran the Bootcamp program for new engineers before taking my current role. I love being able to use a completely different set of skills to help the Boston office continue to grow and thrive. This work really keeps me energized.”
Do you have any advice for others on what it means to be successful at Facebook?
“One key skill is knowing when and how to ask for help. The most successful people are the ones who realize they don’t have to know or do everything on their own, but they’re able to ask for help and work with others to find good solutions.”