How our build culture helps Meta grow rapidly and stay innovative

By Atish Banerjea
November 8, 2021

We consider ourselves extreme problem solvers. Several years ago, we were faced with a difficult problem. The company was growing exponentially, but we didn’t have the ideal set of tools to support that rapid growth and help employees stay as productive as possible.

Most companies can purchase productivity tools from third parties. But, in our case, we were quickly outpacing the third-party tools available. We needed to get at the root of this problem so we could continue to adapt and innovate. That’s when we came up with a solution: We would build our own employee productivity tools.

Today, it is this build culture that enables us to develop the exact tools our employees need, exactly when they need them. We can build tools that scale efficiently and ensure continued growth.

My team is at the heart of Meta’s build culture. We listen to Meta employees across the globe, gather input continuously, and build tools for all employees at every level. Through this approach, our build culture achieves three core objectives: scalability, competitive advantage, and productivity. Let’s look more closely at each.

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Scaling for success

To match the rapid pace of our hiring, we need to provide our employees with the software tools they need to be productive. After all, that’s how companies grow faster and succeed. Of course, this software has to work well — but as demand for a tool increases, it puts a strain on the network infrastructure and can cause the software to break. 

For example, we saw a need for better scalability with videoconferencing. Before the pandemic, we facilitated over 50 million videoconferencing minutes per month – a number which has increased by 4X since March 2020. As you can imagine, to meet this massive demand we had to scale up our video collaboration services and capabilities to ensure that neither service quality nor reliability degraded and that people’s productivity didn’t decrease as a result of this new normal. We accomplished this by upgrading internal infrastructure capacity while also fortifying existing videoconference tools with new features. 

Building products that scale isn't easy — but that’s exactly what we do every day to help Meta employees thrive. When we build our own tools, we can scale them quickly and ensure that they are highly effective. For instance, take the tools we built to onboard new employees. In 2010, we had about 2,000 employees. In just 10 years, that number grew to 58,000 employees — and it now stands at more than 63,400. Onboarding that many employees is no simple task.

As our workforce grew, so too did the demand for new laptops, phones, new versions of online software, etc. For most organizations, when these needs for new tools arise, an employee submits a ticket request, but at our size, that is just not a manageable or scalable option. We built an online self-service tool that allows Meta employees to order equipment and devices quickly. Employees can access a wide variety of productivity services and tools through a convenient online portal, just as they use e-commerce sites.

However, building a product like this is just the beginning of iterating and optimizing. During the pandemic, as we all shifted to working remotely, we had to pivot quickly and scale the delivery system to ship equipment to individuals’ homes to help ensure and increase collaboration and productivity. We also automated most of the delivery process, including the management of the supply chain that ensures laptops and phones are delivered exactly when needed. 

And while most of the aforementioned examples are for internal services and experiences, it may surprise some to learn that we also support the Reality Labs team. For every Quest or Portal device sold, we are behind the shop, buy, and use experience for millions of customers. For example, we manage the technology stack of the digital storefront, the supply chain for third-party vendors, and post-sales support experience for agents and customers.

Building an advantage

Not only do we build and distribute cutting-edge tech, but we also build software services that scale and provide us with a competitive advantage. With our continued rapid growth, we realized that most third-party tools and off-the-shelf products simply couldn’t function to meet our demand. 

Take our massive demand for online services, which requires a global footprint of data centers to support. Ensuring that these locations operate efficiently is important to Meta. We build custom tools that enable our data centers to be among the most efficient in the world. Even though usage of Meta products increased by 40 percent during the pandemic, we were able to minimize downtime all while we navigated working remotely. How? Because our team had already implemented several applications to support spare parts planning, inventory maintenance, asset tracking, and parts life cycle management — which collectively continue to help us forecast and ensure that “we have the right spare parts, at the right data center, at the right time,” as my colleague Jingyang Xu explains so well in his post.

Beyond that, we utilize our enterprise collaboration tool, Workplace, which gives us a competitive advantage. Workplace connects everyone in our company, even when they’re working remotely — and enables productivity with features like Groups, Chat, Rooms, and Live video broadcasting to get people talking and working together. My team has helped build features for Workplace, including Safety Check, which started as an internal feature that verifies the safety of employees during a crisis but was later shipped to external companies using Workplace. Additionally, the team built Knowledge Library — a single place to create, store, and share static content — to help people, no matter where they’re located, get up-to-date information on things like HR policies or work-from-home advice. 

Enabling productivity 

To ensure that employees have exactly what they need to make the workplace productive, both in the office and remotely, we build people-centric tools that enable our employees to work flexibly. We build services that empower our workforce to optimize how, when, and where they want to work. We know that even when we return to the office, hybrid work is here to stay. For example, we built a pulse survey to measure employees’ experiences regularly and give our managers actionable data to understand what they are doing well and what can be improved. When COVID-19 first hit, we heard from our employees that they didn’t have a proper office setup at home, which led directly to stipends for employees to set up home offices. Another example is our help desks, which provide anytime tech help service to our employees. We quickly built this service to help our global workforce, who suddenly could no longer walk over to someone at the help desk for technical help.

For our colleagues in recruitment, we built a recruiting tool, enabling them to do automated candidate matching and streamline the recruiting processes. This tool also helps accelerate communication among recruiters, hiring managers, and others involved with interviewing and evaluating candidates.

While our focus is often on building internal services and tools, we know that our colleagues are just like any consumer and increasingly expect the tools to be as easy and intuitive to use. Thinking about the usability of a feature and experience of the employee is essential in ensuring that tools are used properly — and often. This is why my team focuses on hiring the talent pool (engineers, designers, product managers, content strategists, and researchers) that would typically help with customer products, and innovate internal infrastructure with the same quality and focus. Anyone interested in learning more about our team’s roles can visit our careers page.

Ten years ago, help desks at Meta had the same responsibilities as every other IT group at large scale businesses. We had to take a hard look at what worked and what couldn’t keep pace with our speed and scale. Today, we function as a strategic partner to many Meta teams; we are on the front lines of virtually every major technology initiative at the company. We threw out the rulebook and got creative so we could solve for our employees’ needs. The result is an enterprise engineering organization that functions much like a consumer product engineering team at any other company.

All of this was made possible by our shift from third-party tools to a build culture of our own. It has worked exceptionally well for us, and now we’re taking it a step further, beyond Meta. Now, we’re the third party. We’re making our products available to companies outside of Meta through Workplace — and bringing the unique impact of our build culture to the world.