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Leadership at Meta: Loredana Crisan

"I didn't really choose tech. It chose me."

Loredana Crisan
Job Title: Head of Messenger
Years at Meta: 6
Education: Composition, Musicology, and Musical Pedagogy, Universitatea de Muzica din Bucuresti, Bucharest
Hometown: Bucharest, Romania

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Tell us about your role at Meta.

Loredana Crisan: I’ve been working on the Messenger app ever since I came to Meta, and I currently lead the product, engineering, data, design, and research teams for Messenger. The product’s evolution has kept things interesting, but more important than that, the people we serve (over a billion!) genuinely count on us. Everything that happens in people’s life happens over Messenger — and I’m proud to be a little part of that for people all over the world.

How did you wind up in tech?

LC: I didn’t really choose tech. It chose me.

I didn’t study STEM or design in school. My background is in classical music — I studied piano and music composition at the National Music University in Bucharest. This led me to a short stint in music production, but after a few years of working in studios, I was ready to do something different. I joined a startup as a sound engineer, where I discovered design as a creative medium. I was hooked. 

Ready to move on from music, I went back to school to study psychology. It would have been easy for people to brush me off and assume I wasn’t qualified for a career in tech. But my background in music composition coupled with my intrinsic interest in people and human behavior turned out to be the right combination for UX design and more. It’s also worth noting that the old adage “practice makes perfect” is core to the heart of a musician. Due to my intense training in music, I was never afraid of tackling big problems and iterating until I found the perfect solution. Practicing, iterating, and learning from successes and mistakes have helped me grow and to forge the path I’ve taken in tech and at Meta.

What advice would you give others who are looking for a position like yours at Meta or elsewhere?

LC: As a product team leader, when recruiting, I seek out qualities like resourcefulness, creativity, and other traits that don’t necessarily jump off the page when reading a résumé or browsing a LinkedIn profile. I’d encourage all product leaders to be more open-minded throughout the recruitment process. Just because a candidate’s background differs from the conventional doesn’t mean they aren’t qualified. I worked with an executive assistant at one of my previous companies who had an interest in and passion for design. I gave her an opportunity to join my design team at Indiegogo, and she is now one of our top designers at Messenger.

What qualities do you think are critical for today’s leaders to help them stay relevant and effective?

LC: First — it’s not just about you. It’s about the team.

The beauty of an orchestra’s performance lies in hearing very different instruments come together to create one harmonious and complex piece of music. Whether you’re performing in front of an audience, developing hardware, or creating a new user interface, putting together an effective team means thinking about the complete score, not just everyone’s individual parts. For example, if you were to hire only cellists, the resulting music would be limited to the sound of the cello. It would miss the rhythmic beat of the percussion section, the timbre of the brass section, and so much more. Similarly, if you have a team made up of designers, your product may have a beautiful UI but clunky functionality supporting it. It’s only when you have the right mix of skills, along with a supportive and transparent culture, that all the necessary elements can come together.

Second, I try to be mindful of the mix of experiences and styles needed to achieve the right balance for culture and for delivering great products. Specialists bring a high level of expertise from their fields, while generalists can give your team more flexibility. The most effective teams are often a mix of specialists and generalists that bring a variety of skills and perspectives. When we’re working, I like to tell my team to “mind the gap,” meaning the gap between what they do — whether that’s engineering, design, or business strategy — and what their teammates do. This is where the real opportunity lies for teams to be creative, push boundaries, and deliver innovations to users.

Finally, I encourage leaders to trust. If you put your team first, then you should trust them to do what you hired them to do. Stay close, stay supportive, but know when to step back.

Outside of work, what are you passionate about?

LC: I honestly wish the world were a lot less gendered. Biases exist, of course, but looking at my tween kids, they’re starting to reject these constructs and it’s so much freer for them. Having worked in male-dominated industries quite a bit, I have a deep belief that regardless of gender, if you overcome imposter feelings, you learn, develop, and grow. That’s why I love how we prioritize expression tools and features in Messenger so anyone and everyone can be their authentic selves.

For example, this Women’s History Month, we’re releasing a set of new word effects to show how an emoji can give new meaning to a word commonly associated with biases. When you send the word “boss” to someone, a 👠 emoji will rain across the screen. A flex emoji 💪 will appear for “girl power” or “go girl” and the 🦸‍♀️ emoji reinforces that “mom” is superhuman/hero. We’ve also launched a new sticker pack created by illustrator and bias-breaker Lucie Louxor, that encourages conversation around female empowerment, progress, and sisterhood, with custom sticker illustrations like “know your worth,” “manifesting,” and “I got your back.”

We’re always adding more of these great features so people can express how they feel through many ways — like an AR effect, a camera sticker, or a 360-degree immersive background.

How do you think you will need to lead differently post-pandemic?

LC: Well, I think everyone has been leading differently since the reality of the pandemic set in. I know I’ve learned a lot over the past two years, and many of the values, approaches, and practices that we put in place during this time will likely stick around, or iterate to best serve a hybrid in-person/remote work environment.

What’s great about working on a product like Messenger is that we put people first — this applies to both our customers and our teams. Prioritizing people became especially critical during the pandemic, and it’s definitely a practice I’ll continue with. Whether it’s giving people the space to walk away and practice self-care, or creating moments in the day where they’re seen as people first and employees second, I believe this level of humanity should be the foundation for the workplace. It will be an exciting time for companies to take advantage of this unique opportunity to encourage employees to truly be themselves at work, without reprisal. 

Do you still play music?

LC: Music will always be a part of my life. I continue to play piano, practicing duets with our 12-year-old, who plays piano, flute, and bass. Recently, we bought a digital controller, too, and we’re starting to lay down beats and make full songs together. It’s so fun to make something out of nothing, and I’m ecstatic I can share all of this with them.  

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