Interview with Elise Fu: Product Designer at Facebook

Elise Fu is a Product Designer at Facebook. Previously, she interned with Google’s Gmail team during summer 2018, while she was pursuing her Masters in Information Experience design at Pratt Institute. I wanted to interview Elise since she comes from a tech reporter background and I was curious as to how she got involved in product development.

q. Could you tell me more about how you change your career path from Tech reporting to Product designer?

Elise comes from a Tech Reporter background and then she got into Digital Marketing, she spoke about how she was mainly interested in social media marketing, email marketing and product advertisement, while she was working on these things she realised the user experience is what matter at the end of any project thus she started learning design tools and took up a lot of user experience related course online which helped her in building her portfolio. She then applied at Pratt for the course Masters in Information Experience Design, then she realised that her portfolio needs to have real-world clients, so she started targeting startups in New York and told them she could give them a case study as to how they could improve their user experience this helped her crack an internship at Google’s Gmail team where she solved problems people faced while using Gmail. After completing the course at Pratt she applied at Facebook for the role of product designer and didn’t choose to work with google because there isn’t a product designer role at google, the roles at google are very specific and don’t give you a lot of freedom this is the reason she chose to apply at Facebook.

q. Could you elaborate on how a typical day looks for you at Facebook?

As a product designer at Facebook, she has complete freedom as to what to work on, she makes her own team and works with product managers at the same time so that there is an equal understanding amongst everyone. Her typical day consists of a lot of meetings with different sets of people where they ideate and work on enhancing the user experience. These meetings take place in person or could be attended using a video conference depending on the person. She hardly gets her hands-on design tools such as sketch and framer maybe an hour or two in a day. She has complete product ownership when she works on any project and this is her favourite part of the job she gets to decide what changes could or should be brought.

q. What is the best part of working at Facebook?

People are very open-minded at Facebook, she could seek help from anyone at Facebook. There is internal Facebook for people who work there and you could post the project you’re working on and interested people could comment or schedule a meeting and help you out at any point in time, this makes it easy for her when she is looking for advice while making some critical decisions. The office premises are very “Photo-Friendly” there are fancy chairs, bean bags, beds, artwork, coffee shops and a huge garden. She finds a lot of people clicking pictures around the office or some fun events happening at the same time.

q. What is the work culture at Facebook?

The work culture at Facebook is extremely fun. When it comes to applying for leaves, facebook gives her all the freedom to take it any time of the month. Facebook just wants the work to be done with respect to the yearly plan which is decided in December. Employees at Facebook don’t have to necessarily be in the office every single day, they could take work from home and attend meetings on video or audio conferences. At Facebook, you have enough freedom to control your personal and work life.

q. What is your least favourite thing about working at Facebook?

Elise mentions the bi-annual performance review — it’s incredibly detailed and takes too much of time, in my opinion. I’m also not fond of how many meetings we need to be a part of. Both these things are necessary though, and I certainly understand the role they play. But I also believe there could be a more efficient way for these processes.

q. How did you get introduced to Sketch and other design tools?

Elise talks about how design has always been her thing since high school, where she made posters for the broadcasting station of the school. That’s when she knew she likes visualizing information. Further, she studied advertising design in college, to learn more about visual languages and design strategy. Luckily, she also got an opportunity of being a technology reporter intern for almost a year, which made me appreciate product design and strategy. Topics about why each company decided to release a feature or how products compete with each other interested her a lot and thus that’s when she decided on taking a few courses online to understand more about user experience design.

q. How long do you think you will stay at Facebook?

Facebook has lots of room for growth, and there’s a lot of support and encouragement to try different things. I’m having a lot of fun with my current team and don’t have plans to switch anything anytime soon, but maybe someday!

q. What advice would you offer to those starting out in your field?

Elise talks about how everyone needs to look forward and aim for the company they would like to work for, this gives them a push every single time there is a failure. She also mentions how learning is a process and everyone needs to be a part of this process – Learn, Unlearn and Relearn. Elise takes failure very seriously, when she first interviewed at Facebook she got rejected and then she analysed the whole interview and figured out where she went wrong and built a better and stronger portfolio and tried after a year, she aced it then. Her main tip in life would be people should look for a unique skill they are really good at and sell it to people in the most ethical way is one way of succeeding in life.