During the summer of 2020, I had an incredible opportunity to work on the Social Discovery team at Facebook Reality Labs to bring Messenger into VR. While I’m unable to share the exact details of what I worked on, below are some learnings and thoughts on my internship experience. Please reach out to me if you're interested in learning more!
How might we help people communicate more efficiently in VR?
Collaborate with user researchers to digest research findings on how people coordinate and communicate in VR
Identify VR specific needs in Messenger and create new components
Build a new design system for Messenger in VR by leveraging both Messenger and Oculus design systems
Test components in the headset and conduct usability testing
My first task was to familiarize myself with past products my team has worked on and propose potential improvements on some of the existing features. I brainstormed and sketched my ideas and received feedback from designers, engineers, and product managers on my team.
I collaborated with two other designers to build a design system for Messenger in VR by leveraging the existing design systems and creating new components to meet VR-specific needs. I created mini flows and interactive prototypes with these new components to show how they would piece together in the bigger picture. The components I designed were used by other designers on the team working on more complicated flows and helped them present their designs more efficiently. To learn more about Messenger in VR and other social experiences in Oculus check out this blog post!
Throughout my internship I was constantly faced with ambiguity and was expected to rescope my project based on my team's needs. Even towards the end of my internship my team had a week of an intense design sprint to refocus and align the project with leadership's feedback. Because there were so many moving parts, I had to adapt to changes quickly, learn to be comfortable with not knowing, and to keep an open mind while setting realistic expectations and priorities to push my project forward.
One of the most valuable lessons I learned this summer was that getting diverse perspectives on my designs is crucial to revealing blindspots and unlocking possibilities. I participated in weekly design team crits, smaller group feedback sessions and 1-1's with cross functional partners to receive and give feedback. As much as I valued getting feedback, everyone on the team was eager to hear my opinions and I tried to provide thoughtful feedback and think about what direction I can push the team towards.
Sometimes when my cross-functional partners provided conflicting feedback it was challenging to find a balance and bring my designs to an agreement, but I learned to understand and empathize with their positions. A product manager might advocate for designs that align more closely with the product roadmap while an engineer might prefer designs that can be implemented effectively. Understanding different internal goals and trying to bridge the gap was a fun challenge.
I wanted to maximize my time at Facebook and took on a few side projects which made my internship experience more enriching. I worked with another intern to publish an article on our team's commitment to create socially just VR. I led a team workshop on brainstorming ways to improve the virtual onboarding experience for new members. I also participated in the annual hackathon as the lead designer on a project that was chosen to be presented to leadership.
My summer at Facebook reaffirmed my passion for design. I realized how extremely lucky I was to be able to do something I love as my job and to learn from amazing mentors who exemplified the kind of designer and teammate I want to be. Although the lack of in-person interactions and back-to-back Zoom meetings were challenging at first, I was able to build strong relationships with my teammates through virtual coffee chats, happy hours and VR hangouts. Every 1-1 was an opportunity for me to grow professionally and personally and I will always be grateful for the invaluable lessons and advice I received 💙