Facebook's bulking up the team for its mysterious new hardware division, Building 8

Regina DuganFacebookFacebook’s Regina Dugan

Facebook is moving quickly to form its new Building 8 hardware team, the secretive skunkworks division Facebook formed after poaching a high-level Google exec this month.

There is no actual Building 8 structure to serve as the group’s home base on Facebook’s campus yet, but Facebook is already well into a recruiting drive to enlist top talent.

The group, led by Regina Dugan, who worked at the Department of Defence before Google, will focus on developing hardware and software products to advance Facebook’s mission of “connecting the world” and recent job postings give us additional hints about what it’s up to.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said he envisions Facebook investing hundreds of people and hundreds of millions of dollars to Building 8’s ambitious research and development over the next few years. But the company has provided few details about exactly what kind of technology it will focus on, or about the breadth of the product line that it hopes to bring to market.

Mini start-ups

To judge by some of the new job listings though, Facebook has big ambitions that go beyond one or two pet projects. The listing for a Product Hardware Lead, for example, refers to scaling “the organisation to support multiple fast-paced product launches.”

Among the various positions Facebook is trying to fill at Building 8 are a chief operating officer, a head of creative, as well as business and technical people to create products “at the intersection of hardware, software, and content.”

Facebook is also looking to bring multiple “technical project leads” who will basically act as CEOs of mini-startups.

Technical Project Leads “are entrepreneurial engineers, scientists, and product developers, comfortable working with diverse multi-disciplinary teams, and with the demonstrated skill to formulate an effort from inception to product and handle the responsibilities typically associated with a CEO-level position in a technical start up,” the listing says.

That set-up sounds very similar to Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects group, the gig Dugan previously, as well as Google x, the Alphabet-owned labs whose disparate collection of projects include self-driving cars and airborne wind-turbines.

Looking for “slightly impatient” people

Although Building 8’s work won’t directly overlap with what other groups are already doing at Facebook, it will complement the company’s existing efforts in machine learning, artificial intelligence, and Oculus. Facebook plans to partner with external universities and businesses — several of the positions call for experience with Android and iOS smartphones — though it also wants people with experience shipping their own devices at scale.

Its hardware lead should have worked with
micro-electro-mechanical systems, the tiny systems underpinning the accelerometer and gyroscopes which allow smartphones and other gadgets to determine their physical orientation.

Ultimately, Facebook wants people who will be able to hold to its “aggressive” fixed timelines and budgets, as Building 8 follows a “DARPA-style” development method similar to what Google aims for with its Advancaned Technology and Products Group.

While Dugan led Google’s ATAP, she assembled a team that consisted of — in her own words — a “band of pirates trying to do epic shit.” At Facebook, the ideal colleague she’s looking for is defined as a “slightly impatient” individual “willing to face down their fear of failure to accomplish bold things,” according to the job listings.

Building 8’s head of creative, for example, needs to have more than ten years leadership experience at a global consumer product company, and be “comfortable with uncertainty” with a “preferred desire to work in the formative part of product development through product shipment.”

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