Ensuring That AI Improves the World for Everyone: From an Engineering Lead and Mother

Sponsored by Meta

Mary W.

Photo courtesy of Meta.

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Using AI to make the world better for everyone is a current priority at Meta. The company is actively building what’s never been built before, and included in this is truly meaningful AI work that connects people and brings them closer together, as well as shaping the future of technology to better reflect and serve the people who rely on it. To make AI benefit everyone and improve accessibility, Meta focuses on the projects that they believe will have the most positive impact on people and society.

As an example, take Mary W., the North America Research Engineering Lead for Meta Fundamental AI Research (FAIR). Mary’s journey to AI at Meta is certainly a unique one. “Meta hired me approximately two-to-five days before I gave birth to my first child,” she tells us. “Interviewing at eight-to-nine months pregnant, I never had any issues due to the pregnancy.” 

And, prior to Meta, Mary was the CTO at an acquired startup. As one of the few people in her lab with an entrepreneurial background, she’s able to use her unique skills to delineate requirements, keep an eye on big-picture goals, and navigate barriers, she explains. Mary has found a supportive environment at Meta, which has a focus on creating career opportunities  and development paths for people who take the road less traveled (like through their pathway programs). 

As for her work at FAIR Labs, Mary tells us that this, “literally allows me to contribute to inventing the future!” For example, “we do work on research that has transformed Meta’s capacity to understand content of all modalities: text, image and video,” Mary explains. “This improves the experience and connection users can make.”

Want to learn more? Mary took the time to tell us more about her role, her advice for working mothers and women in tech, and how Meta has supported her along the way.

Could you briefly describe what your role at Meta involves. How do you find this work meaningful?

FAIR’s job is to push the state of the art in AI research. Our core values are open science — open sourcing much of what we do — and, where possible, productionizing our work for Meta’s products. 

In my role, I oversee all the research engineering across North America for FAIR Labs. This role involves research and engineering strategy for our seven research domain areas, including computer vision, natural language processing, speech, embodied AI and reinforcement learning.

What is your best advice for other women leaders in tech?

Build deep technical expertise. Push yourself to experience new situations that may stretch or intimidate you. Don’t be afraid to speak up and advocate for yourself.

Could you tell us how flexible benefits at Meta support your responsibilities outside of work?

With young kids, I may need to go to a child’s doctor’s appointment occasionally or even provide backup childcare. Because I can choose my work hours within some range and have generous time off, I can accommodate my family’s needs without sacrificing my career

I really appreciate the flexibility of working hours and remote work policy at Meta. Flexibility is the most valuable aspect of my role.

That’s amazing! Mind telling us more about why Meta is a great place to be for working mothers like you?

It’s a great place for working mothers due to the flexibility provided and the generous maternity leave. The general expectation at Meta is that taking significant maternity leave is the status quo, and there is a great precedent for teams functioning relatively seamlessly when people are on any kind of leave.

What advice do you have for women who are at the intersection of career ambition and motherhood?

Find a company like Meta that gives you flexibility and career growth potential at the same time!

If Mary's story sparked an interest in learning more about AI/ML at Meta, click here.

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