Exclusive: These Facebook Interns of Color Share Their Experience

Exclusive: These Facebook Interns of Color Share Their Experience

An internship at Facebook is a coveted experience for many young people. For young people of color, it is a door opened into the world of Silicon Valley. Black Enterprise caught up with several of Facebook’s interns to find out what it’s like working for the tech media giant.

Cierra Robson, IP Operations Intern at Facebook

Cierra Robson (Image: Christophe Wu/Facebook)

What’s it like interning at Facebook?

Facebook is a great place to work for a number of reasons. Between the unbeatable intern benefits package, the amazingly talented full-time employees, and the groundbreaking work that the company does each day, I was hard-pressed to find a better opportunity for the summer. Most important for me, however, is Facebook’s support system.

After working here last year, I learned just how supportive the entire company is. As someone with very niche interests at the intersection of Critical Race Theory and technology, I have found that my team is interested not only in understanding my academic work but also in translating it into the work I do each day at Facebook.

All of my team members are willing to sit with me over coffee to discuss my work and why it’s important. During one such meeting with my manager, I mentioned that I will be writing my senior thesis on historic practices of surveillance in Black communities around the U.S. She immediately offered me articles and insights which I had never considered before, and helped me to develop my Facebook project to include facets which encouraged diversity and inclusion on our team. Facebook knows that passion drives people to do their best work, so everyone here works hard to encourage employees to be their most passionate selves.

What did you get out of it?

Working at Facebook has given me one of the best opportunities to learn. There are certain things that you can only learn about tech from the inside, like how each company considers the impact, where they determine need, and how they define their ethical pedagogies. Each day, I gain insights into the tech world, which helps me better understand the work that Facebook and others in the industry do. This learning opportunity combined with the company’s candor about things it needs to do better has helped to shape my ideas about my career path. In understanding these gaps, I have been inspired to fix them.

What did you learn about the tech industry that you didn’t know going into it?

Tech companies are a place to create real change. Before entering the industry, I believed that tech companies operated with a strategy of superficiality to drive their own revenues without considering how their products affect the world. Since getting involved in the tech industry, I have learned that these companies can be used to promote social good. Not only has the platform and others like it encouraged a democratization of knowledge and given voice to those who tend not to have it, it is also deeply concerned with making the world more equitable by helping even to those who do not have the ability to use their products. Projects like Internet.org  inspire me and show me that tech is more than just coding for revenue.

Obinna Igbe, Security Engineer Intern at Facebook

Obinna Igbe (Image: Christophe Wu/Facebook)

Why did you choose the Facebook internship?

Apart from the company being recognized as the No. 1 Best Place to Work on Glassdoor’s 2018 Employees’ Choice awards, the four main reasons that motivated me to work for Facebook include:

1. The opportunity to collaborate with brilliant minds, work on projects or products that will have an impact on 2.2 billion of users, and the flexibility in the kinds of projects you can work on.

2. The success the company has achieved connecting 2.2 billion people across the globe.

3. The diversity of people that work at the company, especially underrepresented groups and minorities.

4. The fact that their benefits are designed around convenience so that employees don’t have to worry about transportation and healthcare.

What was your takeaway?

Working at Facebook has made me rethink my answer to the question “Will it scale?” Now, I have learned to think about scaling from the initial design stages of any tool or product. At Facebook, I have had the opportunity to work with very experienced professionals in the security domain and collaborated with multiple teams here at Facebook. These experiences have helped me increase my skill set.

How do you see the tech you are building being useful on a large scale?

I believe one of the things I learned would be the many ways that technology can be applied to solve the normal day-to-day problems people face, especially with the introduction of machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Aniea Essien, Product Design Intern at Facebook

Aniea Essien (Image: Christophe Wu/Facebook)

Why did you choose the Facebook internship?

I chose Facebook because I find the rapid rise and growth of social networks fascinating. They have transformed and expanded the notion of community in such a short amount of time. I find it cool that I have friends from all around the world, and at the drop of a hat I can instantly connect to and learn about places and experiences different than my own. At the same time, tech is evolving so quickly that we are facing challenges that we’ve never really had to deal with before, and are unearthing opportunities that, years ago, existed only in our wildest dreams. There’s a lot to discover, a lot to explore, and I find that exciting. When I received my offer, I knew I was in for an adventure, and I didn’t really have to think twice before accepting.

What were some of the skill sets that you picked up but didn’t expect to?

Working at such a global company, I quickly realized that I would be creating tools built to connect people who are living lives vastly different than my own. As a result, I have had to develop my ability to empathize with diverse audiences, recognizing that diversity extends much further than gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. I’ve come to realize that it touches everything, from regionality to culture to physical and mental abilities. Through my work, I have learned to design with a broader and more deliberate sense of empathy. I’ve found that when you do this, you bring formerly silenced voices into the conversation, and that is so incredibly powerful. When I leave Facebook, I will do so with a greater awareness of diversity and the skills necessary to amplify these voices.

Any key takeaways?

I learned that the tech industry consists of much more than just engineers. Successful products need support from a huge network of people, including designers, strategists, business negotiators, analysts, and so on. I’ve found that products thrive when they are built in environments facilitating diversity of thought. The industry is still struggling to represent diverse voices in these conversations, which is why I find it important to stress that “tech” is not only for technical people. When a company’s workforce is as diverse as the people who rely upon its products, their ideas are more diverse and their products are better suited to the audiences they serve. In my experience, Facebook recognizes this and is working hard to cultivate a diverse dynamic workplace. With that said, if you have cool ideas and the passion to see them through, then there is an opportunity for you in tech.

Chevy Minto, Software Engineering Intern at Facebook

Chevy Minto (Image: Christophe Wu/Facebook)

Why did you choose the Facebook internship?

Well, truth be told I never chose Facebook, I just kind of fell into it! My friends were telling me about how great Silicon Valley was and how amazing Facebook would be to work at. They told me, “It would be great for you to work there!” I responded, “If you say so, then let’s do it!” I applied to an internship at Facebook and a couple months later I started Facebook University, which is an eight-week training program for students from underrepresented groups. This summer, I’m back as a 12-week intern.

What did you get out of it?

Aside from all the great benefits? I’d have to say new skills and experiences. Being here, I can feel my skill set getting better as I continue working on my project and learning from the people around me. The work is challenging but rewarding in that way. After that, I would say I’ve met great people and I got a chance to scope out a place I could see myself working at in the near future.

What is your takeaway when it comes to diversity in the tech space?

This, for me, would be the push for diversity. I was born in Jamaica and lived most of my life in Baltimore. I’ve lived most of my life around black people. When I started down this path, I never thought I would see so little of other people that look like me here. Learning this, I really want to help make a change in the tech landscape. I want to see more people like me here.