How Meta’s customer experience chief Jimena Almendares manages complexity and change

"The problems we face are some of the most technologically complex problems of the internet today — and we need to solve them at scale."

December 6, 2022

Jimena Almendares

Job Title: Head of Support and Customer Experience

Years at Meta: 2-1/2

Education: BA International Relations, MA International Business, Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris; MBA, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Hometown: Mexico City, Mexico

Tell us about your role at Meta.

Jimena Almendares: I’m the head of Cross-Meta Support. This means I have a pretty unique GM-like role leading the teams that oversee the customer experience of the nearly 4 billion people who use our products, including creators, advertisers, and businesses across Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger.

What led to your current role?

JA: I’ve had an array of roles. I grew up in Mexico City, studied international relations in France, and thought I would be a diplomat. However, I developed a keen interest in international business, so I spent the first 10 years of my career doing operations analytics and then strategy consulting. During that time, I had the chance to work in 16 countries and specialize in technology.

Recognizing that the tech ecosystem was booming in the United States, I moved here as an MBA student to restart my career. I actually interned at Facebook 13 years ago. From there, I launched my tech career in product management, moving up until I became the Chief Product Officer at OkCupid, leading the company through its IPO as part of the Match Group. I then moved into general manager roles, owning a P&L while managing different functions: engineering, design, operations, and customer support. I started at Meta as an Executive in Residence, and this role became a key priority for the company. What captured my interest was the need to build a team from scratch — hundreds of people in less than a year — and lead best-in-class product and engineering teams across a mix of technology and operations teams around the world. Most importantly, the problems we needed to solve from day one are some of the internet’s most complex issues today.

Obviously, so much has changed since you were an intern. Now that you’re here as a leader, what kinds of things have remained the same?

JA: The caliber of the people has always been so impressive — people who are really good at their jobs but also really nice human beings. Also, I really enjoy how international the culture is. I have teams based in London, Menlo Park, and Singapore, with people from all walks of life. It’s a joy not just to work together but also to enjoy spending time together after work.

You’ve worked at some very successful, innovative tech companies. What’s different about Meta?

JA: The scale and complexity of the problems that we manage. Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger are some of the most important platforms on the internet. The types of problems we face are some of the most technologically complex problems of the internet today, and we need to have the ability to solve them at scale. They’re some of the most complex problems that technology companies have ever faced. And the space that we occupy in people’s lives is very unique.

As a leader, how do you think about issues of diversity and representation?

JA: Although we still have a long journey ahead of us when it comes to diversity, many teams — for instance, my Customer Experience team — profit by having people from a wide range of backgrounds. In addition to coming from diverse geographic backgrounds, the people on my team have worked in customer support roles in tech and non-tech industries, including as waiters. Each person brings a different understanding of how people use our products and a different sense of empathy regarding the issues that users might be facing. I really like to work with people who don’t have traditional backgrounds and help them transition into roles where they can teach us things from their previous careers.

In terms of representation, I started a group at Meta called the Career Exploration Program. We realized that we have a lot of diversity around the company, but less so in product management. So we post information about the interview process and how to get prepared. And we invite product managers to post their own stories about what they had been doing before or how they transitioned into product management. We also offer mentorships to more than 100 people, where we pair them with product managers who can help them. Sometimes the biggest hurdles are just transparency and access. We can create better bridges because there are so many people who want to help.

What qualities do you most admire in a leader?

JA: The ability to learn fast and use previous experiences to inform the path ahead. Specifically, the ability to see patterns that you can apply a framework to in order to drive effective decision-making and get people to act by bringing different functions together. Also, knowing how to navigate a world that is highly ambiguous and evolving very rapidly.

One source of that ambiguity is the emergence of the metaverse. How are you beginning to plan for that?

JA: In terms of customer experience, it starts with something as basic as how people set up their accounts. They will access the metaverse via different products and for different purposes. It might be a mobile device, a phone, a Meta Quest headset, or a computer. So we need to understand how that single person might have different uses of the metaverse and how to solve any problems they may encounter. We also need to determine how people will communicate and receive support within the metaverse. For example, instead of typing a question, will they receive support in 3D? What types of infrastructure do we need to offer these types of solutions? A lot of this is a work in progress, as none of us knows what the future is going to look like.

Finally, what advice would you give your younger self?

JA: In thinking about your life or career, there is never a straight line. It’s a fallacy to think that at 22 years old, you will know exactly what you’re going to do and that you’ll just incrementally move up the ladder until you retire. There are so many pathways to success. My best advice would be to follow your interests because, ultimately, the more experiences you go through, the larger set of tools you will have. The more things you’ve seen, the more you can react to change. And the future is going to be all about managing complexity and change.

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