In Conversation with a Meta Software Engineer: Career Journey and Tips to Break into FAANG

published on 12 June 2022

Working at FAANG and big tech companies is a dream for most software engineers! 🤩 If you're a job seeker applying to FAANG companies, we're sure you must already have given your LinkedIn a makeover and optimized your resume. But would you like to learn more about the life and career progression of a FAANG Software Engineer and their tips on breaking into a FAANG+ company? You've landed on the right blog! ✔️

In this blog, we interviewed Revanth Bhattaram, who currently works as a Staff Software Engineer at WhatsApp (Meta). He has previously worked with Facebook (while at Meta) for four years after graduating from Carnegie Mellon University and interned with Amazon India while pursuing his undergrad from IIT Guwahati. To help you gain more insights into the life of a Meta (Facebook/WhatsApp) Software Engineer and bring you a step closer to your dream FAANG job, we asked Revanth some questions about his journey and the tips that set him up for success. 

Revanth Bhattaram’s LinkedIn Profile
Revanth Bhattaram’s LinkedIn Profile

Let's get started to find out more about his experiences! 🚀

1. Can You Tell Us About Your Career Progression in the Tech Industry So Far?

Building on my Bachelors' and Masters' degrees from IIT Guwahati and Carnegie Mellon, I joined Facebook as a full-time software engineer in 2016. I spent four years at Facebook Integrity building engineering systems to measure, detect and enforce against abuse on the platform before transferring to WhatsApp in 2020 to work on the Business Integrity Team, where I've been since.

In terms of career growth, I quickly climbed up the ladder to become a Senior Software Engineer within a year and am currently at a Staff Engineering level that places me in the top 10% of engineering at Meta.

2. Can You Tell Us More About Your Work at WhatsApp as an Engineer in the Field of Integrity?

I currently lead the engineering team that focuses on the problem of Business Quality, where our goal is to ensure that users have high-quality interactions with businesses on WhatsApp. Operating in an end-to-end encrypted world, we hold businesses accountable for creating high-quality experiences and develop the next generation of controls that help users manage their conversations on WhatsApp.

In my current role, I:

  • Lead the team's technical direction, scope work to be executed by teams of engineers, and typically drive implementation on the most complex parts of a project.
  • Collaborate with a cross-functional team to synthesize multi-year strategies on various problem spaces.
  • Support engineering management in building out teams by identifying personnel to hire and outlining career growth plans for existing engineers on the team.

3. How Did You Land Your Internship at Amazon in India and Facebook in the US?

Amazon visited the IIT Guwahati campus, where they had a recruitment session to hire future interns. This boiled to:

  • An initial written test on various programming, data structure, and algorithm questions that they used as an initial "filter."
  • A couple of coding interviews where I was asked questions to solve and code up within a certain time.

I cleared the test and did well enough in the coding interviews to warrant an offer. This entire process took place within a day!

Also Read: Amazon Software Engineer Interview Guide

With Facebook, I initially got into their pipeline by attending a job fair and striking up a conversation with one of the engineers at their booth. We had an interesting conversation about reinforcement learning and some of the work I was doing in CMU that led to him "starring" my resume and recommending me for an interview!

I then had an initial interview in Pittsburgh (CMU) before they flew me to Menlo Park (the Meta headquarters) for a second (and final interview) before extending an offer a few weeks later! The entire process took about two months.

4. What Do You Think Helped You Stand Out From Others When Interviewing With Both of These FAANG Companies?

When I was a new grad, the most challenging part of getting into a FAANG company was getting past the initial screening and being given a chance to interview. Once you're at that stage (of interviewing), it's more or less in your hands and is down to the preparation you put in.

Getting to that point is a bit uncertain, though, and I did a few things to increase my chances of getting selected for an interview:

  • Standing out by highlighting "unique project work" that I had taken up on my own in favor of course projects like most other students at university. Showcasing initiative and skills of being self-driven are very attractive to most employers (as I can tell from the other side)
  • Building a cohesive story in my resume so that my projects, education, and work experience showcase links and a sense of purpose about them.

5. What Were Your Key Learnings From Both of Your Internships? How Did They Help You When You Joined Facebook Full-Time?

Amazon was the first time I got to work in the industry, and it taught me so much. I spent the first few weeks just reading documentation, asking my teammates loads of questions, and not being as awesome as them. It took me a decent amount of time before I felt "comfortable" and could kick on to do some good work. That ended up being a key learning from this internship - knowing that it is okay to not be completely productive from the get-go, and that ramping up is a natural part of any new job.

Facebook was similar with regard to ramping up, but exposed me to a very different engineering culture where you "focus on impact." It was pretty enlightening and something I continue to practice even today - knowing that my end goal is to solve real-life problems and that cool tech is a means to an end.

6. How Did You Prepare for Your Full-Time SWE Role Interview at Facebook?

Each intern at Facebook has a chance of getting a full-time return offer at the end of their internship, depending on how that goes. All interns are evaluated on various dimensions that essentially boil down to driving high-quality execution on their project and showcasing strong independence.

Revanth at the Facebook Integrity Week Talk
Revanth at the Facebook Integrity Week Talk

I spent my summer with the Ads Integrity team, where I worked on a feature extraction project that would go into the "bad ads" detection system. To deliver a successful project, I:

  • Implemented feature extraction and had the core of the system available by the middle of my internship.
  • Focused on productionizing my work and built infrastructure to have it execute on every single Ad created on Facebook (scale of millions per day!)
  • Integrated my new features into the team's "detection pipelines" and evaluated their impact on the overall team's goal of fighting bad ads.

My two reviews (mid & final) went well, and I was extended a full-time offer of employment to join upon graduating from CMU!

Also Read: The Ultimate Guide for SWE Interviews at Meta

7. You Got Promoted Twice Within the First Nine Months at Facebook. What Do You Think Helped You Bag These Promotions So Early in Your Career?

First up, I have to acknowledge that I got fortunate to join a team that had the right opportunities (and mentors) to even give me a chance to achieve back-to-back promotions. 

For context, I started my career at Facebook working on Site Integrity (the anti-spam team) and got to work on their budding ML team. In my first year, I:

  • Achieved my first promotion (E3 → E4) by showcasing initiative, independence, and an ability to drive project execution on my own. I had taken up a self-proposed project of building retraining infrastructure for some of our models that greatly benefited the team.
  • Achieved my second promotion (E4 → E5) by leveraging my technical skills and applying them to success in "vague spaces." I was working on Groups Integrity at the time and was able to focus on the right set of investments to significantly reduce the amount of spam on FB Groups. Combined with the other work I had taken up around mentorship and hiring, this extraordinary impact resulted in me being promoted to a "Senior Software Engineer" within a year of starting at Facebook.

8. Since You Started Out as an Exceptional Engineer at Facebook, Were There Times When You Doubted Your Capabilities? How Did You Cope With Those Lows in Your Career?

Absolutely! Shortly after getting my second promotion, I started to feel the pressure of being a "Senior Software Engineer." I ended up overworking in order to continue achieving the highs that got me promoted. However, this resulted in me getting burnt out, and I was evaluated to have "Met Most Expectations" - a rating assigned when you perform ~85% of your job duties.

It created a lot of self-doubt and fear over whether I'd be able to "cut it" in the industry - fears that I could eventually put to rest by working with my manager to identify the right opportunities that got me back on track. In retrospect, I'm able to recognize that I wasn't doing myself any favors by overworking and instead made things far worse than they could've been - it's an anti-pattern that holds true today as well.

Facebook Team Happy Hour
Facebook Team Happy Hour

9. You Also Mentioned You Had Offers From Several Startups in the US Besides Your Facebook Offer Upon Graduating. How Did You Decide You Wanted To Go Ahead With Facebook?

I decided to go with Facebook primarily because:

  • I was a new grad and wanted to "play it safe" to start my career. Starting my career at one of the largest tech companies felt like a very safe bet.
  • I really enjoyed working there as an intern and thrived in the company's engineering culture. This meant that I had reasonable confidence in continuing that success as a full-time employee.

Also Read: Navigating the Job Search as an International Candidate

10. Sine You’ve Been Working at One of the FAANGs for a Long Time, What Are Some Gaps That You See for Job Seekers?

This is hard to answer since it's very subjective and specific to individual cases. But in my experience, the most significant gap that I've seen is that potential candidates don't have a resume that aligns with the qualifications/requirements that the company puts out. In order to address this, I'd recommend:

  • Getting feedback on your resume/portfolio from a connection (or a platform!) that might be able to provide relevant feedback on where the gaps are. A resume review can be a game-changer in such cases.
  • Systematically, work on plugging these gaps and making yourself more attractive to the employer in the future.

11. What Do You Think About Platforms Like FAANGPath That Help Job Seekers Connect to Industry Mentors for Help During Their Job Search?

I think a platform like FAANGPath would be a fantastic resource to have, and something I would've greatly benefited from as a new grad with very little experience of the real world. Having a good mentor makes a huge difference in your career journey - whether it's at the start before breaking into the industry or later on when trying to unlock new levels on the career ladder.

12. As Someone in the Big Tech Industry for Almost a Decade Now, What Are Your Tips for Job Seekers Looking To Break Into FAANG or Top Tech Companies?

In no particular, some points for anyone breaking into top tech companies:

  • Be Bold: Never fear putting yourself out there, making new connections, and working on skills that will advance your career by unlocking opportunities in top companies.
  • Strong Support: It's a long career that lies ahead of most of us, and it's important to have the right support system in place for various periods. Friends, family, peers, and mentors are essential as a part of your support network and will help you on your journey to the top.
  • Persistence Pays Off: Job hunting is an often arduous process, and my message to anyone in this position is that persistence will pay off. Your hard work will bear the fruits of labor, and make sure to carry that hope along the journey.

13. What Are Your Tips About Networking During the Job Search?

Networking is an incredible way of staying on top and continuing to make new connections across the industry. My main advice around networking is to try and make genuine connections with people you'd like to learn from. It's a slippery slope to see a person as a means to an end, and no viable long-term relationship can be built in this way.

Having a warm intro, a tailored reachout, or something personal to the individual you're reaching out to is a great way to initiate conversation and build a relationship.

14. Lastly, What Are Your Tips for Job Seekers on Preparing for Career Fairs? How Do You Think They Can Make the Most of Such Networking Events?

You have it in your question - good preparation is key to making the most out of a career fair. Before an event, I recommend doing the following:

  • Optimizing Your Resume: As is always the case with job hunting, be sure to have a resume that best showcases your abilities, stands out compared to other candidates, and has the right contact information for any follow-up conversations.
  • Perfecting The "Elevator Pitch": A career fair is a unique environment where you have less than a minute or two to sell yourself to a prospective employer. To that extent, be sure to have the right "elevator pitch" up your sleeve that perfectly complements your resume and sells you as an attractive candidate in less than 90 seconds.
  • Narrow Down & Focus On a Few: While it might be tempting to cast a wide net and make it a point to approach every prospective employer, I recommend having a prioritized list of companies that you will definitely want to talk to during your time. Focus on quality, not quantity.
  • Do Your Homework On Companies: Narrowing down your focus also helps you do homework on some of the companies you're interested in and prepare a question or two to ask during your conversation. Going the extra step to research a company and showcasing that extra bit of preparedness makes you very attractive as a potential hire.

Also Read: How to Leverage Career Fairs to land your Dream Job

Wrap Up! 🎯

We hope that learning about Revanth’s industry experience and his advice on acing the job search process will help you prepare better for FAANG job applications. You can reach out to Revanth via LinkedIn and contact us through our website for any help you need for your job search! 🤝

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