In Paresh Rajwat‘s 20-year journey across the tech landscape, he’s held leadership positions at Apple, Criteo, Yahoo!, and Microsoft.
For the past eight years, Rajwat has worked in numerous areas at Meta, overseeing the early days of the Facebook video team, leading monetization of the Facebook app and now as a VP and head of product for virtual reality.
Meta announced Tuesday that Rajwat has been named the newest head of office for the company’s significant hub in the Pacific Northwest.
Rajwat said he’s bullish about the role more than 8,000 employees in the Seattle region will play on Meta’s big bet on the metaverse, the immersive, futuristic internet that the company calls the next evolution in social connection.
“We have an internal saying that the road to the metaverse passes through the Pacific Northwest,” Rajwat said.
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg reportedly told employees last week that the company was reducing headcount for the first time ever as part of a reorganization amid the larger economic downturn. Meta’s stock is down nearly 60% this year.
“We had a growth projection which was pretty steep,” Rajwat said. “And looking at the economic environment and how the market is trending, we will drastically reduce growth.”
Rajwat added that the company is taking another look at its real estate projections, “especially now with remote work.” Meta said last year it would allow anyone to request remote work.
The company has been gobbling up office space across the Seattle area, including several new buildings at Bellevue’s Spring District.
GeekWire caught up with Rajwat to discuss Meta’s growth in the region, his views on hybrid work and more. Keep reading for our Q&A, edited for length and clarity.
GeekWire: What’s the biggest change in your eight years at Meta — for you and the company?
Paresh Rajwat: “When I joined it was still a very small company. The way the company has evolved and grown has been just incredible to see. A large part of the culture is still the same — people thinking creatively, people being very passionate about the projects that they work on. They think big, they move fast, smaller teams, less processes, more coding, more doing. I feel a lot of that sentiment is still there. I feel that we still have the DNA of a really big startup. The flexibility and the mobility you have, moving within the company, is just unbelievable. Like no other place I’ve worked was it so easy and seamless to move from one group to another, even at senior levels. I mean, senior levels usually is like you know, moving becomes harder, and yet it’s very easy.”
What prepared you the most for this role, leading the PNW office?
“It’s mostly about someone who really cares. What we really look for is a leader who really cares about growing the community and investing in people. I care a lot about culture, I care a lot about how our employees are feeling and growing. Whatever the things are we care about — like our mission, vision, all of those things — we want to live them internally. In Menlo Park, we had a sense of community which was very strong. It was good here as well, but we want to push on that further. And externally, how do we engage more? Meta is now such a big presence in the Pacific Northwest. How do we contribute more to the economy here, work with different organizations and agencies? I would love to do more of that.”
What are your thoughts on remote work, hybrid work, return to work?
“We have fully embraced the future of work. Almost 75%-80% of our teams have remote people, so as it is we have to account for a hybrid environment. In terms of my personal [preference], I would say it’s a mix. When it started, working remote was just so exhausting. Two, three years later, it’s actually the opposite in many cases. I think this really works well and why would you want to deal with a commute and all these things? Maybe two or three days I want to come back to the office. Probably not every day. I only live a mile away, by the way, so I shouldn’t have too many excuses, but that’s my personal preference.”
What are some of the challenges pivoting from social media giant Facebook to metaverse-focused Meta?
“It’s a big evolution of where we are going. The social networks, the model was relatively straightforward. You have friends, you post here, you post there, and all those things. I would say the metaverse is actually the next big step in social. It is still connected to social … asynchronous versus really synchronous experiences is a lot of what the metaverse is going to be indexed on. The entire purpose of the metaverse is how can people feel like they are together with other people. You will see an additional dimension, which is harder, right? Because not everyone will be in the same place at the same time.”
What key projects are being developed and led in the Seattle area that excite you or that play into what’s ahead with the metaverse?
“We have an internal saying that the road to the metaverse passes through the Pacific Northwest. We have so much investment related to Reality Labs / metaverse. I work in VR and we have a big team here. Virtual reality is the best way to experience the metaverse, so that’s one aspect. Then you have elements of the metaverse, like your identity, your avatars, how you feel, how you want to show up — that’s a big team here as well. Then you have a huge team around Horizon Worlds. I would say when it really comes to the future of where Meta is going, the Seattle region is going to play a mega, mega role when it comes to the engineering bandwidth we are putting in this region connected to where we are going.”
How do you view Microsoft and Amazon in this region, where they’re such heavyweights? What’s your pitch to prospective employees?
“I would say all of these companies are great companies. I worked at Microsoft a long time ago, and it’s a great company. Amazon is doing amazingly well. It all comes down to what people are most passionate about. If you really want to build consumer products that build a sense of community, I would say Meta is the place for that. If you aspire to work on things that are more hands on, scrappy, really build products fast, I would say this is the place. Meta’s not for everyone, because we do work hard and we work fast and maybe it doesn’t work for some people.”
You’re passionate about diversity and inclusion. How are you channeling that at Meta?
“I care a lot about really making diverse workplaces. I came from India and just having different voices at the table helps you build better products, helps you understand people from different cultures and regions and perspectives. We are increasing our focus more and more on D&I — how do we get more underrepresented communities to be a part of Meta? Remote work and remote hiring is helping a lot. It’s usually hard for underrepresented minorities to get into leadership positions in general. What we started with the Sponsorship program is we grow folks into leadership positions, we connect them with VPs and directors, they get good coaching … and have an opportunity to step up and do some bigger things.”
What’s your favorite thing about living in the Seattle area as opposed to Silicon Valley?
“There are so many things Seattle has to offer. The ski resorts are super close. Me, my wife, my kids, everyone’s into skiing now, we’ll go after work. We also picked up hiking and biking quite a bit. When your family is happy, your wife is happy, your kids are happy … it’s been absolutely amazing.”
How do you not still call the company Facebook?
“Every now and then I still go, ‘Yeah, I work at Facebook.’ It’s been a pretty fast transition. When we initially announced it was like, ‘wow, this is going to be really hard because they’re so Facebook and Mark started Facebook.’ It actually has given every other area a lot more room to be showcased. Facebook is one big offering, Instagram, WhatsApp, and all the things around Reality Labs. Everything kind of fits much better. It’s actually landed really well and people have moved pretty quickly into Meta as a company.”