Mary Pimenova is a recent grad and software engineer on the Site Performance team. Read on to learn how her team keeps the site reliable, how she got her start, and her advice for people breaking into software engineering.
Q: What problems are you most excited about solving here?
A: At Facebook, we like to write and ship code quickly – “Move Fast and Break Things” is a poster we have around the office. However, when you have more than 800 million people using your site daily to share their lives with each other, it becomes important to maintain a high level of reliability. I work on Site Performance, a team that focuses on automatically finding problems with site speed and reliability.
We do this by collecting page load information (like how long a page took to query the cache, or what log messages were emitted) from our servers and using computers to find trends and make sense of that data. We use machine learning to figure out exactly what the problem is, as quickly as possible, and then trace it back to the engineer who caused it. Automatically finding patterns in data is a cool problem; I’ve learned a ton about Facebook’s infrastructure as a result. Plus, doing this job well helps millions of people have a better experience on Facebook.
Q: What got you into engineering in the first place? Who/what inspires you?
A: Throughout my childhood, my parents encouraged me to be creative, question the world around me, and find solutions to problems on my own. I spent my days building with Legos, solving logic puzzles, and learning about math. I’m thankful that they never pitched doing math problems as a “chore” and instead made learning enjoyable. I was actually pretty late to start using computers, but my enthusiasm to build and solve problems transferred over easily.
Q: Why do you love being an engineer?
A: My favorite thing about engineering, especially at Facebook, is the relaxed culture around it. I do most of my work from the couch in the microkitchen while eating snacks, and that’s totally fine because that’s how I’m most productive. We try really hard to avoid pointless bureaucracy and instead focus intensely on getting things done. Overall, this is a pretty great work environment to have.
Q: What advice do you have for engineers who are just starting out?
A: If you’re in college, I would highly recommend taking an intro to computer science class. It’s a great way to get a better understanding of what computing is about and to experience a different way of thinking about problems, which is valuable even if you don’t ultimately pursue a CS degree.
Otherwise, doing a small project on your own is also a great way to get started. Just pick something you’re excited about and go for it—I started out writing games and small web pages. It really helps if you have a friend who you can ask for help if you get stuck, but there are plenty of online forums that serve the same purpose.
Mary’s favorite piece of graffiti in the office, which she passes every day on her way to lunch.