Career Advice, Insights, Watercooler

Leadership in Engineering at Facebook

Interview with Brian Rosenthal, Senior Engineering Director at Facebook, with an insight into leadership in the London office.

Tell us a little bit about your career journey at Facebook?

I started as an engineer on the ads engineering team, over time, I became really passionate about how businesses use social media to grow, and I worked on a number of projects at Facebook, around that theme. I had come from the start-up world, so I needed to learn how to be effective at a larger company, and the people I worked with were really helpful with that, there is a strong culture of feedback where people see it as their job to give and ask for feedback a lot. I started managing at Facebook after a few years and really appreciated the leadership development at Facebook, I had a lot of blind spots that people at Facebook helped me through as I learned to manage and lead larger teams. I wound up having the opportunity to move to London to help us grow the office there and have really enjoyed the chance to understand more about leadership within global companies.

What makes leading teams at Facebook different to other places you have worked?

The culture of feedback, and in particular the culture of having honest conversations with each other because we care about each other. We talk a lot about how creating a strong culture doesn’t happen by accident, it takes leaders seeing their job on a regular basis to do things that require courage, giving feedback especially the feedback that requires courage to give, making hard decisions early, talking openly about failure and being authentic.

What management style do you encourage with the managers in your org?

I expect managers in my org to build high-performing teams where people feel like their work is having the largest impact of their career, individually people are experiencing the most meaningful growth of their career, and where people feel a strong sense of belonging. This means showing care by understanding what is most important for each person on the team, supporting people in finding opportunities to grow, setting clear expectations and goals for individuals and for the team as a whole, giving actionable feedback to people on a timely basis, holding people and the team accountable for success, and recognizing people when they have outstanding impact.

What has been the stand out moment for you while working Facebook London?

We’ve grown a lot over the last few years. I think a key stand-out moment was realizing that we needed to be intentional about how we scale our culture as we grow, and working with the leadership team here to make that concrete.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I’d advise myself when I graduated from college to join a large company with a strong mission and a healthy culture. My learning about how to be effective and have impact has been so much faster at Facebook than the seven years I spent in start-ups. In retrospect, this seems obvious, I have more people around me who are strong role models, a strong culture of feedback, access to more varied types of problems, and the chance to understand leadership and impact at a larger scale. If you’re entrepreneurial, choosing to be entrepreneurial at a large company is a wonderful way to grow and learn and have impact.

What’s the best piece of advice you can give someone looking to join the Facebook Engineering team?

You’ll enjoy Facebook Engineering if you’re hard-core about programming, mission-driven in the way you want to make impact, and entrepreneurial.

3 favourite things about Facebook London?

  • The people here are really amazing, they’re talented, passionate about making the world more open and connected, and driven to push each other to grow.
  • Opportunity for impact, this is true in any Facebook office because we reach so many people, but it’s also a very deliberate decision company-wide to staff some of the most strategically important work in the company in London.
  • The opportunity to learn here is quite unique, it’s a company that feels like a start-up and has a healthy culture, but also has opportunities to grow and understand how to be effective at a large company.