CIO Atish Banerjea on building the future of work, one system at a time

"I have this saying: 'What Meta is to the world, Enterprise Engineering is to Meta.'"

October 20, 2022

Atish Banerjea

Job Title: Chief Information Officer

Years at Meta: 6

Education: Master of Science Computer Information Systems, Temple University; Bachelor of Commerce, Delhi University.

Hometown: New Delhi, India

Tell us about your role as Chief Information Officer at Meta.

Atish Banerjea: I run our Enterprise Engineering team. We’re responsible for building the internal products that enable everyone at Meta to work as effectively and efficiently as possible. We also run the corporate infrastructure and security teams across Meta — scaling and securing all the computing, storage, and networking infrastructure that goes into connecting our campuses worldwide. We manage technology operations like enterprise supply chain and IT help desks to provide our employees with the equipment and support they need, as well as run video collaboration and event production for Meta. So our stakeholder base is literally the entire company.

That must keep your hands full.

AB: It does, yes, but it means we get to do a lot of interesting things. Since we facilitate all the events for Meta, we spend a lot of time in our studios in Los Angeles and New York, working with celebrities and movie stars to create Facebook Live events. And there are several areas where the tools we build directly touch external customers, such as our Workplace enterprise collaboration platform. A lot of the infrastructure used by the Reality Labs team, which creates our metaverse products, is built and managed by Enterprise Engineering. And we build a lot of the supply chain and commerce systems that then get those products, like Meta Portal, Ray-Ban Stories, and Meta Quest headsets, into the hands of consumers.

Can you share how your career journey led you to Meta?

AB: Before I started in tech, I was a professor at the University of Wisconsin. I loved teaching but wanted to gain more practical experience in the industry, which is what led me down this path and ultimately to Meta. I was a hands-on engineer for several years across many areas of technology — systems administration, network management, application development, and software engineering — before I moved on to tech management. This brought me the opportunity to lead companies through times of enormous digital transformation, from the worlds of education to media, from digital publishing to live digital streaming, helping create a step-change for these industries.

Before joining Facebook in 2016, you served as CIO of a couple of major publishing companies. You also were global CIO at NBC Universal. Aside from the scope of the work, how is Meta different from these other large companies?

AB: We do things very differently here at Meta, and that’s a big part of what compelled me to leave my roots on the East Coast and move my family to California. Most companies tend to bring in third-party software, and when you do that, the business has to adapt to what the software is capable of. We build our tools from the ground up, which means that we’re able to make software that is absolutely custom-tailored to what the business really needs. It’s the difference between going to a store and buying a glove versus getting a custom-stitched glove that fits you perfectly. The result is that the effectiveness of business teams at Meta is significantly higher than at many other companies.

Can you give us an example?

AB: A good example is videoconferencing. Meta now uses more than 250 million videoconferencing minutes a month, which makes us one of the largest videoconferencing users in the world. There is no third-party tool you can buy that could scale digital infrastructure and computing power to that volume, so we built our own. It’s only possible with tools that we custom-build ourselves. We have a very build-centric culture. We also support employees, managers, HR professionals, and recruiters by providing people products that streamline feedback, support performance management, and help employees learn new skills with data-driven recommendations. This is the perfect environment for somebody who wants to work in the enterprise world and be a really top-level engineer.

So much of the work your team does is behind the scenes — the kind of things few people in the outside world will ever see.

AB: I have this saying: “What Meta is to the world, Enterprise Engineering is to Meta.” Meta brings all these wonderful platforms to consumers that allow them to connect and have really meaningful experiences that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. EE does the same for Meta — we build the things that allow the people here to do work that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to do. There’s a real satisfaction in that.

How did the experience of the pandemic change the way you think about enterprise work?

AB: One thing we’ve learned over the last few years is that democratizing work is going to be critical for the future of the company. Some people will be working full-time in the office, some will be working full-time at home, and others will be hybrid, somewhere in the middle. The tools and technologies that we had prior to the pandemic don’t really work effectively in this environment, so developing and building and deploying tools that make hybrid work effective is essential. This shift to hybrid work is the biggest thing for us right now. All the tooling across the entire company has to work in a physical, virtual, and hybrid environment. Managing a distributed organization is very different from being physically in the same office with them. So all the tools across the company, for all our business groups, are changing to be able to accommodate this kind of hybrid work.

How does the metaverse factor into your vision for the future of work?

AB: It is going to be critical. In-person meetings, and the physical spaces that allow for them, will continue to be important. But at the same time, if you’re meeting in Horizon Workrooms, you can come much closer to the experience of meeting in person than you can in a typical video conference. As avatars improve, with more and better facial expressions, my sense is that it will become extremely close to, if not nearly the same as, a physical meeting. And it’s not just meetings: Think about all the learning, training, and development work that we do for our employees. If you can take those training courses and bring them into a virtual experience that can be deployed in VR, that can become so much more powerful than the two-dimensional way that we use today. There are so many applications of things in the enterprise space that can be done better or differently in the metaverse.

How long until we get to that point?

AB: It’s going to be a journey. But I can tell you that even today, a meeting in Workrooms is much closer to face-to-face than, say, a video call. I remember when we had our first staff meeting in VR. We were about a year and a half into the pandemic. For the first time in months, I felt like I was back in the room with my team. It was a very rich experience — a very emotional experience, actually — for all of us.

The way you describe it, it’s as though your team is almost a kind of laboratory for what work might look like in the future.

AB: It’s always been that way for us. So many of the pioneering things in the enterprise space relate back to that problem of our scale. The unique challenges that we’re trying to solve here at Meta encourage our team to do cutting-edge work. If you're an engineer or product manager or designer and you want to work on things that have never been done before in the enterprise space, we are one of the very few companies in the world where you can do this kind of work.

How do you see the role of the CIO evolving as the workplace continues to evolve?

AB: It’s evolving in a couple of ways. I think that when the pandemic happened, we became as much business leaders as technology leaders, because there were so many things technology had to do to allow the workforce to continue to be productive. We really had to put on our business leader hats and become much more interdisciplinary. The second thing, I think, is empathy. That was important before, but suddenly we need to have a lot of empathy for people in a huge range of circumstances and situations. Flexibility has become key. We are never going to go back to working the way we did before. The world is changing so fast, and we need to be able to change with it, as opposed to having a fixed, 12-month roadmap. Having that dynamic ability to change is going to continue to be important.