Shupin Mao is a senior software engineer at Facebook. During her last four years at the company, Shupin helped several teams and gained experience across Instagram and Facebook, including the Instagram Well-being team. Here she shares what got her into engineering, favorite moments, lessons learned, and more.
How did you become an engineer?
When working on course projects during my undergrad and grad study, I felt the passion for solving coding problems, which was the main motivation to apply for an engineering position after graduation. After joining Facebook, I was still motivated to solve practical problems every day and learn new skills/knowledge, which affirmed my career choice.
What was your first coding language?
C was my first coding language back to school days. Objective-C was my first coding language at my full-time work at Facebook.
What do you listen to while you work?
All kinds of piano songs which can help me keep focused. For example, Ghibli’s relaxing piano pieces are good.
What do you do when you get stuck on a problem?
I will usually take a short walk to the nearest snack kitchen and look for some snacks. I feel walking and eating can help me think better.
Tell us about your favorite project at Instagram?
- My favorite project at Instagram was the work we did to combat drug and firearms sales, together with the Facebook Community Integrity team. It was one of our first projects collaborating with this team. The project itself was exciting: we adopted a new machine learning model technology, and we shipped several models to production.
- The part I valued most was the amazing collaboration experience across different teams, including cross-functional partners such as privacy, policy, and legal.
What makes working at Instagram unique?
- Instagram has fewer engineers compared to Facebook (the app), while being responsible for a product as important as other FB products. So it’s quite common for Instagram engineers to be responsible for large scope of work.
- Instagram has a flatter management structure. There are more opportunities to communicate or present directly to org leads. Bigger scope and more direct/transparent communication make me feel stronger ownership and fulfillment of my projects and work.
How would you describe the engineering culture at Instagram?
- We valued user experience and user privacy highly. We treated all users’ experience very seriously. A lot of projects were driven by user reports or feedback. We also worked very closely with legal, policy, and privacy. Every project or product change needs to be extremely carefully discussed and reviewed by these experts.
- On our team, we leave 20% of our time to deal with ad-hoc or unexpected issues.
- A very respectful and supportive work environment. We value the culture of “Be the Ally” very much in our org. I personally benefit a lot and also contribute to this valuable culture in my daily work.
- A Data-driven approach. We valued data analysis highly in Instagram. Most of the projects have very analytical goals. We tracked metrics closely in our daily work.
- Fun and optimistic and positive working atmosphere. People here are very good at bringing fun into work. You can hear a lot of fun stories or jokes during Q&A or meetings. Even during the intense times, you can still see people making fun with each other and encouraging each other (work was still completed with high efficiency and quality).
What makes you excited about coming into work every day?
Exciting projects and brilliant colleagues.
Your favorite place to eat in the city?
A lot of Chinese restaurants 🙂
What is your favorite thing to eat at the office?
Pocky in strawberry flavor
What’s your favorite Instagram account?
@kuviabear, I like following the sweet daily life of cute Kuvia!
Tell us about your happiest day at Instagram.
- To be honest, it’s hard to choose which was the happiest day at Instagram. I still remember the first day I walked into our building and sat with my team. I was so impressed by all the decorations inside the building, also the sweet corner views from my desk.
- I also remember all the relaxing casual conversations that happened in micro-kitchen during or after happy hours, so many fun jokes and laughs.
- And there are also intense but exciting days near deadlines, when everyone was fighting for the same goal within such a short amount of time. I remember how thrilled and excited the whole team was when we hit our goal or launched the projects.
What is one of the best things you learned while working at Instagram?
I gained a lot of valuable experience in coordination and collaborations across teams/roles in Instagram. I would say Instagram may provide the best example on how engineers and cross-function team members, such as product, legal, privacy expert, work together among the whole company. And my team has many cross team partners, most of them are located remotely. The projects I worked on provided me a lot of great opportunities to learn how to work with different teams and people closely and smoothly.
What does your desk setup look like?
One monitor and one Apple Mac Pro (I got it for iOS development and I probably should return it now ?).
What was your favorite offsite?
Well-being Team Offsite at Clay By The Bay. We had a great day on learning and practicing working with clay. And my favorite part was that we received our “work” as the outcome :P.
10 Questions with Shupin Mao, Well-being tech lead was originally published in Instagram Engineering on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.