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Facebook executive and NT alum speaks to classes

Chris Cox, FB Chief Product Officer, spoke to business and computer science classes

Arjun Thakkar

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After attending the New Trier 2017 Alumni Achievement Awards Dinner, Facebook’s Chief Product Officer, Chris Cox, came to the EPI Center on Friday March 17 to present to business education and computer science classes.

The presentation he gave  primarily focused on the lessons he learned at Facebook for future entrepreneurs to consider, but Cox emphasized how his points were applicable to any work environment.

Cox described how he was studying engineering at Stanford when he went to work with the company in Palo Alto on what was then known as ‘The Facebook’ in 2005.

He noted how Facebook’s office space at the time of his first interview “had donuts and water bottles everywhere” unlike the sleek, organized look presented in the David Fincher’s “The Social Network.”

Cox played an instrumental role in the integration of Facebook’s News Feed, which he described as an example of an obvious, inevitable development in a product.

From the News Feed came another piece of advice, which mentioned the importance of observing a user’s behavior within a service and implementing their desired functions.

Many early Facebook users used the website as a platform for organizing protests and meetings, so the company worked to streamline this process and make it more accessible.

In order to observe the website’s usage, Cox stressed the importance of having concrete data to analyze and use to make decisions. By seeing the one word comments users posted,  Facebook was able to add emoji-esque buttons with icons that most represented these short replies.

Another key point was the need for empathy in the company. Cox described how employees of Facebook had access to 4G networks and high tech smartphones, but users in other countries often had less effective devices on a slower 2G network, such as in Delhi.

To help these users, Facebook applied several measures, including more customer service for different regions and a “2G Tuesday” within the company for employees to see if specific features would work on slower networks.

Finally, Cox brought up the idea of harvesting creativity and pursuing passion projects, even in a highly technical work environment.

He described how Pixar’s president, Edwin Catmull, served as an inspiration with the book “Creativity Inc.” The book, which describes the importance of constructive criticism in the creative process, remains influential in Cox’s creative efforts at Facebook.

As part of the Class of 2000, Cox played the keyboard on the jazz band. In 2014, the Tribune mentioned how he stood out to many of his teachers, including soon-to-be superintendent Paul Sally and Math Department Chair Mary Lappan.         

Cox was unavailable for an interview.

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Facebook executive and NT alum speaks to classes