Michelle Carr works in Infrastructure Construction Management at Facebook, where her team is responsible for building Facebook’s global physical infrastructure that brings Facebook apps and services to billions of people around the world. Michelle shared with us what her time at College and university was like, the challenges of moving abroad and what a typical day in her life working at Facebook looks like.
Please tell us a bit about yourself, where are you from originally and where did you grow up?
I grew up in Pymble, and went to Abbotsleigh, an independent Anglican school for girls, situated on Upper North Shore of Sydney. I played a lot of basketball growing up so was very keen to continue when I went to university.
Why did you choose to reside at St Andrew’s College?
As I grew up in Sydney, I really wanted a different university experience. The idea of meeting diverse people outside of the degree I was doing really appealed to me. I chose St Andrew’s because it had a great mix of academics, sport opportunities, and social events.
What was your favourite part about being at St Andrew’s?
Without a doubt it was the people, I have so many wonderful and incredibly talented friends from my time at St Andrews. The strong community St Andrew’s created through diverse activities and experiences, like college sport, informals, and other social events, was really unique. I loved living with so many friends and forming deep lifelong relationships, many of whom I am still close friends with today.
Did residing at St Andrew’s College help you achieve your goals?
My time at St Andrew’s taught me how to balance work and life, and get things done efficiently. It also showed me the value of a community and asking for help when you need it. There were many exams or assignments that we all helped each other with, and I’ve taken that value of support and care into my career and life.
Why did you decide to complete a Masters in Project Management?
I knew I didn’t want to be an architect, but I loved the built environment and the impact it has on people’s lives. I preferred the practical and structural aspects of Architecture, and Project Management seemed like the best way to apply my strengths.
Can you tell us a bit more about your Infrastructure Construction Management role at Facebook? What does your role involve?
Our team is responsible for building Facebook’s global physical infrastructure that brings Facebook apps and services to billions of people around the world. My current role manages our long term strategic planning all the way through preconstruction to handover to the construction team on our global sites. I love working on our strategy, collaborating with a range of different teams and setting our projects up for success.
What are some of the best parts and even the worst parts of your job?
Facebook operates on a truly unprecedented scale. A third of the world’s population rely on Facebook products to keep them connected every single day, and our teams work hard to make that possible. Managing at our scale has unique challenges and requires unconventional thinking, which is what I really enjoy about the job. Another great aspect of my role is the people I work with, Facebook hires extremely talented individuals with diverse backgrounds, I am always learning something new.
What does a day in your life look like?
Due to the nature of my role I don’t really have a typical day as I travel a lot for work and work on many different projects, but this is roughly what it looks like: 5.15am – Wake up
6am – Get the Facebook shuttle to work (many tech companies have shuttles that take people from all around the Bay Area to the office campus). I normally respond to emails or prep for my meetings on the shuttle.
7am – Grab breakfast at one of our cafeterias on campus.
7.30am – 4pm – I am normally in back-to-back meetings all day. They vary from meetings planning our future site strategies; to meeting with our internal teams for design changes or utility commitments; to establishing and reviewing budgets, schedules or contracts.
4pm – Get shuttle home. It normally takes about 2hrs to get home, so I’ll take my afternoon meetings or work on the shuttle. 6pm – Exercise. I either go to the gym; pilates; cycling; or play tennis or basketball.
8pm – Have dinner, and catch up with friends or family.
What have you enjoyed most about living in San Francisco? And what do you miss most about Australia?
San Francisco is an incredibly vibrant city, there is always something going on – concerts, festivals, lectures, shows, comedy, films, and it’s really close to incredible national parks, surfing and snow. It’s amazing the amount of people that are working on cool and innovative things, like AI for health applications and VR for education. I miss my family and friends in Australia, and definitely miss the Australian beaches.
What has been your biggest accomplishment so far – career or otherwise?
I had travelled a lot before moving overseas, but I underestimated how challenging moving abroad is, even to an English-speaking country. It required me to navigate complex immigration systems, new healthcare and tax systems, and even smaller things like having to re-sit my drivers test. I knew only one person when I moved to San Francisco, so building new friendships and navigating a similar but different culture was tough. Having to reestablish my career and create new work networks pushed me to challenge myself. The experience has given me a different perspective and appreciation for people; the US and Australia; and even myself.
What do you get up to when you’re not working?
During the COVID quarantine – not much! Usually I go hiking, cycling, skiing, hanging out with friends at the park, anything outdoors really. San Francisco has many great restaurants and bars so I love trying new ones out.
What are you reading/ watching/ listening to at the moment that you would recommend to others?
I just finished listening to the ‘The Eleventh’ an ABC podcast about Whitlam’s dismissal, which was absolutely fascinating. I’ve also watched ‘Tiger King’, because really who hasn’t? I’m currently re-reading ‘Narrow Road to the Deep North’ by Richard Flanagan because it’s a beautiful portrayal of humanity in the most horrific circumstances.
How are you managing at the moment during the COVID-19 pandemic? (We hope you are doing OK!)
I am doing well; I have been locked down since the start of March so it’s been a long time. I am extremely grateful to be able to work remotely, have a house to quarantine in and to be able to easily call family/friends. I’m also volunteering at San Francisco Food Bank and dropping meals off to those who can’t leave their homes, it gives a sense of purpose in an isolating time.
What words of advice would you give to young Androvians?
Just enjoy College, it’s one of the best times and you’ll never get to experience anything like it again. You’ll forget the exams and assignments, but you’ll never forget the friends you made.