What it’s like being a senior researcher at Fb Core Information Science
Facebook’s Core Data Science (CDS) team pushes the limits of what is possible by exploring and solving new challenges in science and technology. Senior researchers bring experience from a variety of disciplines ranging from computer science and statistics to political science and sociology, and use data to drive decision-making in product teams. “Our data supports product development on Facebook, and we see our results come to life as optimizations, new features and programs,” said Shawndra Hill, CDS research scientist and manager.
The unique cross-functional nature of the CDS team and the growth opportunities available for senior researchers are helping Facebook differentiate itself from academic research and other technology companies. Three team members share more about their focus, what a day on the CDS team looks like, and what the best advice they can do to help senior researchers succeed.
Stay curious and use data to make decisions
Ahmed Medhat is a post graduate from Oxford University where he studied collaborative behavior in online networks. He joined Facebook five years ago as a staff data scientist before moving to a scientific position on the CDS team.
“I work as part of Facebook Data for Good and my focus right now is building privacy-safe data sets and tools to address some of the world’s biggest humanitarian problems,” says Ahmed. “As a researcher, I need to find ways to help communities around the world that are both complementary to other resources provided by humanitarian organizations and as scalable and consistent as possible across geographic areas. While in academic research it can take some time to feel the real impact of your own research, at Facebook we have a unique opportunity to see the direct impact of our work on the wider research community faster. For example, we have developed tools that can help organizations respond to the Covid-19 pandemic, for example by examining how the population is responding to physical distancing measures in order to inform researchers and public health experts.
Ahmed and his teams are driven by the opportunity to advance life changing projects and offer something new. “Our work requires a lot of autonomy and personal responsibility,” he says. “It’s important to stay curious and bring in a new perspective. For those interested in joining the CDS team as a Senior Researcher, I recommend demonstrating the unique skills and perspectives you can bring to Facebook. We also love the adaptability and the ability to wear different hats. At this level, you are expected to go beyond the day-to-day details of analyzing and code-writing and focus on work that broadly influences the company’s product direction and advances the state of the art in your research area. “
Drive your research and career path with passion
Shawndra Hill of the CDS team is also a part-time senior marketing lecturer at Columbia University. She holds a PhD in Management Information Systems from NYU Stern School of Business and, prior to joining Facebook, was a Senior Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and Professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. As a manager, Shawndra oversees projects and empowers her team to grow and thrive. Her current research focuses on deriving values from social networks and online behavior for a number of Facebook business applications – particularly advertising applications that bring people closer to the things they want and need.
“At the executive level, having strong project management skills is critical,” says Shawndra of her ability to divide her time between leadership and individual project work. “During the interview process with Facebook, due to the extent of the data science problems, I saw limitless growth opportunities within the company and also concretized my desire to grow into a management position. With the support and the possibilities that are available to me at Facebook Research, I was able to achieve my goals of leading advertising projects on a Facebook scale within one year as a single contributor and becoming a manager within one year. “
Now, says Shawndra, one of her favorite jobs is leading a passionate team of researchers. “We work together in a fast-moving environment. The folks at Facebook want to turn research into product impact in a short amount of time, and for a researcher, this is an exciting opportunity that doesn’t come often in other career paths such as the academic world. To be successful in this area, I suggest identifying the areas you are most interested in and using that knowledge to find projects that are at the intersection of your passion and your business priorities. From there, you’ll be well positioned to develop a relevant specialty for Facebook and prioritize projects for corporate impact. As a lead researcher, your experience and deep understanding of relevant research methodology will add value to teams while helping them balance rigor with task completion. My advice to other veteran scientists is to consistently be excellent, someone others want to go to, the person they know they can count on for high quality results. “
Explore every opportunity to find a focus
Ami Tavory holds a PhD in Information Theory from Tel Aviv University and is a Research Scientist on the CDS team. When he came to Facebook almost four years ago, he was impressed with Facebook’s collaborative structure and found his place working closely with several highly skilled product teams specializing in fraud detection and prevention with machine learning in F2 (Facebook Financial Services) specialized.
“I was always impressed by how conscious the research organization is in setting up and connecting groups,” he said. “I’ve worked with several product teams and was surprised by the collaboration and support. This allows me to find multiple areas and projects that best suit my interests and experience. ”
Ami highlights Facebook autonomy as another unique aspect of being part of the team and says it is an empowering benefit for a senior researcher with deep experience. “Take control of your personal path by exploring every opportunity available to you on Facebook,” he explains. “It’s important to find a combination of something that you enjoy and that also adds value to the team. Once you find that balance, things will work out by themselves. We have people on our team who have successfully switched between a management track and a more technical path and vice versa.
I was blown away by the level of people I work with; Sometimes I would read published studies only to realize that the writers are actually part of the Facebook team and enjoy working together. No two days are alike here, and you will find endless opportunities to work together on solving complex challenges on a large scale. “
Would you like to learn more about the CDS team? Check out the research team’s page.