Breaking tradition can lead to inspired, enterprising paths, especially in business — and for Meta, that takes form in broadening its cache by tapping wholly untraditional talent to diversify and elevate its brand.
It’s apropos that Women’s History Month marks the start of Loredana Crisan, a Romanian-born music scholar gone tech professional, as the first female vice president of messaging experience, for Messenger and Instagram, at Meta. Crisan’s atypical background challenges the status quo of scouting and hiring new talent and encourages a much-needed, redefined perspective on qualification and inclusivity.
And in the spirit of celebrating female high-achievers, this week Meta is launching a suite of customizable expression tools on Messenger in commemoration of the year’s International Women’s Day theme, #BreaktheBias.
Here, Crisan talks to WWD about female-led leadership, her nontraditional candidacy for a career in tech, and empowering women in the space.
WWD: Tell us a bit about your background. What led you into the tech space?
Loredana Crisan: I didn’t make an explicit decision to work in tech, it kind of found me. I grew up in Romania and studied piano and music composition at the National Music University in Bucharest. This led me to a first career in music production, thinking I’d play and make music forever.
After a few years of working in studios, I joined a start-up as a sound engineer. That’s where I discovered design as a creative medium, and I was hooked. This was around the time mobile design was just getting started, so many of us in the industry had different backgrounds. Eventually, I ended up leading design at Indiegogo and then Meta as the head of Messenger’s design, brand and research teams. I was responsible for Messenger’s redesign and rebranding in 2018 and 2020.
I’ve been at Messenger ever since in various roles. Most recently, I led the strategy and launch of a new Messenger experience on Instagram including cross-app communication between the two apps, and the introduction of new expression and safety features in Messenger’s end-to-end encrypted surfaces.
And this March, I’m excited to take on a new role as the first female Head of Messenger.
WWD: How does your background in music inform your leadership strategies?
L.C.: Performing with a group of musicians requires extensive preparation and a desire to create harmony. The same applies to product teams. The most important lesson I’ve learned from my experiences in two very different fields is to focus on the journey — not the destination. A set of skills must be practiced and mastered for them to work in harmony and the end result can be beautiful, whether it’s a song or a messaging app.
WWD: What makes you a nontraditional candidate for heading up Messenger and Instagram at Meta?
L.C.: Because my background is in classical music, and the fact that I didn’t study STEM or design in school, it would have been easy for hiring managers to brush me off and assume I wasn’t qualified for a career in tech.
However, the years spent practicing an instrument helped shape my focus on long-term outcomes and gave me a unique perspective on leadership and problem-solving skills.
That said, studying STEM or other tech-related disciplines is also a great path to the type of career I have today. I just took the scenic route!
WWD: How would you describe your distinctive approach to building a team of experts in a highly competitive field?
L.C.: When hiring, I seek out candidates with different backgrounds, skill sets and experience levels who can bring varied perspectives. The best teams I’ve worked with have consisted of a mix of specialists and generalists with a variety of work experiences. Generalists provide flexibility for your team, while specialists bring the utmost expertise in the field.
Whether you’re performing in front of an audience, developing hardware or creating a new UI, putting together an effective team means thinking in a holistic manner. You wouldn’t limit yourself to hiring only cellists if you were putting together an orchestra, so you shouldn’t limit yourself to only product designers for UI.
WWD: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced throughout your career?
L.C.: My career has not been a straightforward path, and some of it’s not been easy. I had to face the challenge of not being American. I am not trained as a designer. I am a woman. I am a mom. But I’ve tried to remain open to all opportunities and stay focused on demonstrating that my background is an advantage.
I’d encourage all product leaders to be more open-minded throughout the recruitment process. A candidate with a nontraditional background should not be overlooked.
WWD: Is there any advice you would offer to female professionals considering a career in tech?
L.C.: I’ve worked in male-dominated industries and companies for the majority of my career. I’ve found that I’ve received opportunities from people who appreciated the value I was determined to bring, not in spite of my unique experience, but because of it.
So, my advice is pretty simple: embrace your strengths and weaknesses. Be proud and confident in what you know and be OK with what you don’t know. And in all aspects of your life, put yourself first. For women, this is often easier said than done — but I know you can do it.
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